Kentucky-Tennessee Round 3 was everything fans could have hoped for.
In an intense, back-and-forth game, the Volunteers rallied from an eight-point deficit late in the second half and secured an 82-78 victory over the Wildcats in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. The teams had split their first two matchups this season.
Tennessee guard Lamonte Turner hit a clutch 3-pointer to put his team ahead with less than 30 seconds to play and it held on from there.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness)
Admiral Schofield finished with 21 points and five assists for Tennessee while Grant Williams chipped in 20 and seven rebounds. PJ Washington scored 16 for Kentucky in the losing effort.
Here are three takeaways from Tennessee’s victory:
The No. 1 seed picture is still unclear
Selection Sunday is one day away, and it is still impossible to guess who will receive the four No. 1 seeds.
Kentucky would have made the selection committee’s life a little easier by earning a victory Saturday. Instead, there are still six schools in contention to be penciled into the top line: Tennessee, Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State and Gonzaga.
The Volunteers seem like the team in that group least likely to receive a top seed. But, they can improve their case with a win over Auburn in the SEC Tournament final. The same can be said about Michigan State if it pulls out a victory in its conference championship matchup against Michigan.
Duke could wrap up a spot on the No. 1 seed line with a victory over Florida State in the ACC title game. Meanwhile, Virginia, North Carolina and Gonzaga have already been eliminated from their respective conference tournaments, but all have resumes worthy of prime position in the bracket.
Kentucky, on the other hand, will almost certainly end up with a two seed.
Tennessee can make a deep run
The Volunteers climbed to the top of the rankings earlier this season but have slipped a little bit recently.
Tennessee, however, has all the pieces to compete for a national title. Williams is one of the best players in the country while Schofield is an All-American candidate, as well. Point guard Jordan Bone is also a solid floor general and secondary scoring option.
Tennessee will end up with a one or two seed in the bracket and it is certainly equipped for a deep March run.
Don’t count out Kentucky, either
The Wildcats will be a tough out in the tournament and should be a popular pick to make it back to the Final Four, despite the loss to Tennessee.
Kentucky has a deep and talented roster with every rotation player capable of contributing. It has a balanced offensive attack — all five starters reached double figures Saturday — as well.
The Wildcats are finally healthy as graduate transfer Reid Travis returned for the SEC Tournament after a five-game absence.