The most significant deviation between my top 25 ballot this week and the poll's actual result is the placement of Gonzaga, which came in at ninth this week. In my ballot, Gonzaga was 16th.
It's the first time this year that the Zags have cracked the top 10. Mark Few's bunch just evened the season series with the West Coast Conference's other power, Saint Mary's, so it makes sense why voters were tempted to boost Gonzaga on their ballots after a week when there were 18 combined losses by teams in the top 25.
What's also clear, however, is that the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee does not hold Gonzaga's 13-1 conference record in particularly high regard.
Deciding how to gauge the legitimacy of mid-major programs is always a challenge as a voter. But the selection committee helped me justify ranking Gonzaga lower than my peers when the committee left the Zags out of of it's bracket preview on Sunday. The bracket preview projected the tournament's top 16 seeds, and Gonzaga was not listed among them.
Tennessee dropped three spots from 15th to 18th in the poll this week and from 11th to 14th in my ballot. The selection committee may not care about margin of victory (or defeat) but it's clear that voters cringed when they saw the 78-50 score of Tennessee's loss at Alabama.
In reality, splitting a pair of challenging road games last week was a respectable result for the Vols. Like I discussed in this radio interview last week, perhaps a loss is not the worst thing for a team dealing with unfamiliar success.
Here's the preview box of tonight's game as it appeared in this morning's Times Free Press:
Previewing tonight's Vols hoops matchup:
-NO. 18 TENNESSEE vs. SOUTH CAROLINA
-THOMPSON-BOLING ARENA, KNOXVILLE
-TONIGHT AT 9
-TV/RADIO: ESPNU/102.3 FM
Tennessee (18-6, 8-4 SEC)
Projected starters: Ht. Pts.
G Jordan Bone 6-3 7.2
G Jordan Bowden 6-5 9.7
F Admiral Schofield 6-5 12.3
F Grant Williams 6-7 15.9
C Kyle Alexander 6-11 6.0
G James Daniel 6-0 6.6
G Lamonte Turner 6-1 10.7
South Carolina (13-12, 4-8)
Projected starters: Ht. Pts.
G Hassani Gravett 6-2 7.0
G Evan Hinson 6-4 3.1
F Justin Minaya 6-5 8.5
F Malik Kotsar 6-10 8.0
F Chris Silva 6-9 14.3
G Wesley Myers 6-1 7.1
G Frank Booker 6-3 11.3
Coach Rick Barnes was critical of Alexander's play in Tennessee's 78-50 loss to Alabama on Saturday. Alexander's 14 minutes and three points in that game were his fewest since Tennessee's 70-63 win over South Carolina on Jan. 20, meaning this game offers a twofold chance at redemption for the junior center.
South Carolina turned heads when it won on the road at Florida on Jan. 24. That win propelled the Gamecocks to 13-7 (4-4 SEC) and the NCAA tournament conversation. Five straight losses have followed, however, plummeting last year's Final Four darlings toward the bottom of the conference standings.
The first time these teams met, Turner scored 25 points for Tennessee and Derrick Walker added 10 off the bench. Reserves scored 39 of the Vols' 70 points in that meeting. The Gamecocks will hone in on Turner this time, and the Vols will need someone else, perhaps Bone or Bowden, to step up.
Lady Vols going to Hall of Fame
Four-time All-American Chamique Holdsclaw and long-time former Tennessee assistant Mickie DeMoss were announced on Monday night as part of the WOmen's Basketball Hall of Fame's 2018 class.
The duo will become the 11th and 12th women with UT ties to join the hall, according to Tennessee. Holdsclaw is the program's all-time leading scorer and rebounder and was part of three national championships (1996-98), whole DeMoss was an assistant coach on six national championship teams.
David Cobb is the Tennessee athletics beat writer for the Times Free Press. He is stationed in Knoxville. Follow him @DavidWCobb on Twitter, or direct your emails to email@example.comOh, and go download the Times Free Press mobile app. It's free.