KNOXVILLE — Tennessee was left out of the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season.
And the Volunteers might have been one of the first couple of teams to miss the 68-team field.
The bracket was unveiled on Sunday evening, and the final four teams to receive an at-large bid were Boise State, La Salle, Middle Tennessee State and St. Mary's.
Tennessee had more wins against the RPI top 100 than each of those teams. The Vols' three wins against the RPI's top 50 teams were more than MTSU and St. Mary's, who won just one each. Each of those four teams had a higher RPI than Tennessee.
"Tennessee had a lot of conversation, as did all of those last group of teams that we evaluated," NCAA tournament selection committee chairman Mike Bobinski said on CBS after the network released the brackets. "We really worked hard and have a lot of respect for the improvement that Tennessee showed down the stretch of the season. During that time, though, they honestly didn't beat a lot of very powerful teams and, again, struggled to win on the road during the course of the year.
"I think it really came down to that more than anything, and the sweep during the season by Ole Miss of Tennessee was a factor I think also as we evaluated them in the final analysis."
After starting 11-10 and 3-6 in conference, Tennessee won nine of its last 11 games, a stretch that included four road wins and home wins against Kentucky, Missouri and Florida. The Vols were swept by Ole Miss and Georgia and lost two of three games against Alabama. The Crimson Tide beat Tennessee 58-48 on Friday in the SEC tournament quarterfinals.
Only three SEC teams -- regular-season champion Florida, Missouri and tournament champion Ole Miss -- made the NCAA tournament field in a bad year for the league.
Tennessee will learn its draw for the National Invitation Tournament when that field is revealed at 9 p.m. on ESPNU. It's likely the Vols will be a No. 1 seed in the NIT -- as they were last season -- and play a home game either Tuesday or Wednesday night. Thompson-Boling Arena is hosting first- and second-round games for the women's NCAA tournament next weekend, which could affect where the Vols might play their second NIT game should they win the opener.
Vols coach Cuonzo Martin, who maintained publicly he thought his team deserved an NCAA tournament bid after Tennessee beat Florida nearly three weeks ago, will address the media about the postseason after the Vols learn their NIT draw.
For more on this story check back to timesfreepress.com and read Monday’s Times Free Press.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...