KNOXVILLE — Three out of four ain't bad.
It's what Tennessee seniors Kenny Hall and Skylar McBee are trying to achieve.
Once suitemates as freshmen on the Tennessee basketball team that reached the Elite Eight, the duo now hope to help the Volunteers return to the NCAA tournament after a one-year absence.
Winning the final home game of their careers against Missouri this afternoon would go a long way to making it happen.
"It'd mean a lot to me," Hall said Thursday before Tennessee's practice. "That's where I want to end it. That's where I started it.
"Hopefully we can make some noise. We've definitely got the tools and the pieces. We've been putting it together, so it's just a matter of going out there and doing it."
The two seniors, along with Dwight Miller and Rob Murphy, will be honored during the annual senior day festivities before Tennessee faces the Tigers.
A win against a certain NCAA tournament team would give the Vols' postseason hopes a boost.
"We know this is our last go-round," McBee said, "so you're trying to go out with a bang and make the NCAA and see what happens.
"Hopefully if we play well, we get to do that."
Hall, a 6-foot-9 center who's bounced in and out of the doghouse during his Tennessee career, has done his part the last two games. He scored 10 points in the loss at Georgia, when he was the only Vol besides Jordan McRae to play well offensively. With Jarnell Stokes struggling at the foul line, Hall scored twice on dunks and played the crunch-time minutes at Auburn.
"For me, I hate to say urgency like it's panic mode," Vols coach Cuonzo Martin said. "He's been in this situation before. I've said it all year long: He's a better center than he is a power forward -- when he's a center he can move and make plays.
"He really is a nice guy, and his mom did a good job raising him. Really no character issues with Kenny. Some minor setbacks as a youth growing up, but a good quality young man."
A hard-nosed guard never lacking in effort, McBee sometimes jumped back and forth into the bad graces of Tennessee fans, mostly depending on if his sweet shooting stroke was resulting in made 3-pointers. Even when his shot wasn't falling, McBee wouldn't let it impact his effort, which made him a constant in Martin's rotation. When McBee did make shots, particularly in Thompson-Boling Arena, the crowd seemingly cheered louder for the country-talking former walk-on from nearby Grainger County High School.
One 3 in particular drew the loudest cheers for McBee.
"It seems like a long time ago," he said as he recalled his leaning trey that clinched shorthanded Tennessee's upset of top-ranked Kansas his freshman season. "It's one of those things I definitely will always remember. I think the biggest thing was winning that game and getting to celebrate that with all my teammates.
"Going to the Elite Eight that year and the things we were dealing with at that time in dealing with adversity and pushing through is something I'll take away from that."
Making one final March Madness would provide similarly fond memories.
"I'm trying to help get my team as far as we can go, especially with it being my senior year," Hall said. "We're trying to make it to the NCAA, we're trying to make noise in this SEC tournament and we're just trying to maximize whatever we can do. This has been a wonderful experience, and I'm just trying to end it the right way."
Among other things, the SEC has been unpredictable this season, and the standings reflect what an odd year it's been in the league. The possibility of a five-way tie for second through sixth place remains entering the season's final day. Tennessee could end up seeded anywhere from third to ninth in next week's league tournament in Nashville depending on how the dominoes fall today.
There's currently a four-way tie for second place at 11-7 between Kentucky (vs. Florida, noon), Ole Miss (at LSU, 1:30 p.m.), Missouri (at Tennessee, 4 p.m.) and Alabama (vs. Georgia, 4 p.m.). Tennessee is in sixth at 10-8 ahead of three more teams tied at 9-8: LSU, Georgia and Arkansas, which hosts Texas A&M at 2 p.m.
Tennessee can finish no lower than fifth with a win, but the Vols won't fare well in any head-to-head or multi-team ties involving Ole Miss, Georgia or Arkansas. Many of the 16 scenarios will be out of play by the time the Vols tip off against Missouri.
Here's a breakdown of what seed the Vols' may land and the combinations needed to get there.
For the third seed and a bye to the quarterfinals…
win + Ole Miss win + Alabama and Kentucky lose.
For the fourth seed and a bye to the quarterfinals…
win + Ole Miss, Kentucky and Alabama lose (to create a five-way tie) OR
win + Ole Miss wins + Kentucky OR Alabama win.
For the fifth seed…
win + Ole Miss, Alabama and Kentucky win OR
win + Ole Miss loses + Kentucky and/or Alabama win.
For the sixth seed…
lose + LSU, Arkansas and Georgia lose OR
lose + LSU and Arkansas win + Georgia loses OR
lose + LSU wins + Arkansas and Georgia lose.
For the seventh seed…
lose + LSU and Georgia win + Arkansas loses.
lose + Arkansas OR Georgia wins + LSU loses.
For the eighth seed…
lose + Arkansas and Georgia win + LSU loses.
For the ninth seed…
lose + LSU, Georgia and Arkansas win.
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 ...