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Kentucky moving past Tennessee for a 1 seed

The Cats have left no doubt they deserve a 1 seed over the Vols (right now).

Drew Brown - Sea of Blue

If last week’s domination wasn’t enough, this week proved the Kentucky Wildcats are in better shape for an NCAA Tournament 1 seed than the Tennessee Volunteers.

Kentucky blew then-No. 1 Tennessee in Rupp Arena last week with an 86-69 win that handed the Vols their first SEC loss.

Despite this, Tennessee still was in better shape for the coveted 1 seed than the Cats, as Kentucky suffered a second SEC loss earlier that week to LSU, not to mention they also had losses to Seton Hall and Alabama, while the Vols’ only other loss was to Kansas in overtime.

But this week left little doubt that the Cats should be a 1 seed over the Vols if Selection Sunday were today.

On Tuesday, Tennessee struggled against a Vanderbilt team that is winless in SEC play. The Vols scored just 58 points in a 12-point win over the woeful Commodores.

It wasn’t easy for Kentucky either on Tuesday. Reid Travis went down, and the Cats struggled to close out the Missouri Tigers but found enough in the tank to get an eight-point road win in a game they had dominated prior to Travis’ injury.

Saturday is what put Kentucky over the edge.

The Wildcats dominated a tournament-bound Auburn team ranked 23rd in NET. PJ Washington dropped 24 points, Tyler Herro dropped 17, and Keldon Johnson was the ultimate team player as he grabbed 17 rebounds in a game where his offense was off.

While Kentucky dominated at home, Tennessee took a brutal loss to an LSU team that was without their star point guard Tremont Waters.

The Vols had a chance to close out the Tigers in both regulation and overtime but could not get it done, as the Vols committed a costly foul with one second left to send LSU to the foul line and nail the game-winning free throws.

Losing at LSU isn’t bad, but losing to LSU without Waters, one of the favorites for SEC Player of the Year, is the kind of game a 1 seed shouldn’t lose this late in the season.

With the loss, Tennessee put themselves in the worst place of the three teams tied for first atop the SEC (Kentucky, LSU & Tennessee) as the Vols have now lost to both Kentucky and LSU.

As of today, Kentucky is now ahead of the Vols for a top seed in the eyes of bracketology experts. Both Jerry Palm of CBS Sports and Joe Lunardi of ESPN have moved Kentucky from a 2 seed in the South Region to a 1 seed in the Midwest.

”With Tennessee’s 82-80 overtime loss at LSU and Kentucky’s 80-53 domination of Auburn, we will have our first change in the No. 1 seeds in the bracket since Feb. 3,” said Palm. “Tennessee will drop down to a No. 2 seed and be replaced on the top line by the Wildcats. Kentucky will be the fourth overall No. 1 seed, behind Duke, Virginia and Gonzaga.”

During an appearance on ESPN, Lunardi stated, “ I think it’s impossible to keep Kentucky off the top line now after that dominant performance against Auburn coming on the heels of what they did to Tennessee a week ago. So, Kentucky is a 1. Tennessee still has a very strong 1 seed kind of resume, but we only have four spots. They’ll take the top of the 2 line, and we’ll wait for the rematch.”

Bracket Wag also has Kentucky as a 1 seed in the Midwest with North Carolina as the 2 seed.

To preserve the 1 seed, Kentucky will need to avoid any slip-ups, and of course, get a huge road win over the Vols in Knoxville next Saturday without Reid Travis. But even if Kentucky loses in Knoxville, winning the SEC Tournament would likely ensure they earn a 1 seed as long as they don’t lose to Arkansas, Ole Miss or Florida in the regular season.

Time will tell who gets a one seed and who’s a two seed, but right now Kentucky has to be feeling pretty good about their odds.