Seeding suits UT; Charlotte does not
Posted: Monday, March 14, 2011 4:54 pm
By: By BETH RUCKER, AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE (AP) — Tennessee is happy with it’s No. 9 seed. Traveling to Charlotte, N.C., to open the NCAA Tournament worries the Volunteers a bit more, though.
After a roller-coaster season, the Vols will face No. 8 seed Michigan on Friday in Charlotte, a city that’s been especially unkind to them.
The winner of that game will face Duke, the top seed in the West Region, or No. 16 Hampton.
“It’s a very significant reward for a season that’s had its ups and downs,” coach Bruce Pearl said. “Obviously it had enough ups to be a nine seed.”
Tennessee (19-14) suffered its ugliest loss this season at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, a 49-48 loss to a Charlotte team that finished 13th out of 14 in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
The Vols also lost to Louisville in Charlotte during the 2008 NCAA regional semifinals.
“It will be great for the fans. It hasn’t been a great place for us,” Pearl said.
Still, the Vols are happy for the chance to play after a season that included some big wins and a preseason NIT championship and tough losses and the shadow of an NCAA investigation.
Pearl revealed before the start of the season that he’d misled NCAA investigators during the probe into recruiting and is now accused of unethical conduct and other major violations.
“It’s been a tough season, but I guess you can say this has been one of the bright spots of the season, to see our name up there again,” senior center Brian Williams said.
Talk of the investigation didn’t affect Tennessee as it opened the season with seven consecutive wins, including a victories over tournament teams Belmont, VCU and Villanova to win the NIT Season Tip-Off and a win over Pittsburgh, which received the No. 1 seed in the Southeast Region.
The Vols stumbled from there, dropping contests against Oakland and Southern California, which are both in the field of 68, and going 8-8 in Southeastern Conference play.
Pearl was suspended for half of the SEC season, and he won of five of the eight league games he coached.
Pearl credited the quality wins and tough non-conference schedule for Tennessee earning the nine seed.
The Vols were 9-9 against teams that ended up receiving NCAA Tournament bids.
Tennessee has reached the NCAA Tournament during each of Pearl’s six seasons, and this year’s bid marks the first time the Volunteers have been in the tournament six consecutive times. .
“I’m big on making history,” Pearl said. “To make the tournament six years in a row is what I’m most satisfied with because you graduate a lot of players and you’ve got to play a lot of different styles and systems and manage to be able to be competitive every year and to find a way.”