No. 5 Tennessee eyeing first SEC regular-season title in 6 years

Tue, Mar 5, 2024
NCAAB News (AP)

No. 5 Tennessee eyeing first SEC regular-season title in 6 years

No. 5 Tennessee has a chance to clinch its first Southeastern Conference regular-season championship since sharing the title with Auburn in 2017-18.

The Vols enter the final week of the regular season with a one-game lead over No. 16 Alabama and No. 17 South Carolina, but wrapping up the title won't be easy.

"We've got a lot of these guys that have been with us for a long time and they've been in games like this," Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said after his team beat Alabama 81-74 on Saturday.

The SEC, which has had 10 teams ranked in the AP Top 25 this season, has been a gauntlet all year and Tennessee faces two tough tests this week with games at South Carolina and at home against No. 15 Kentucky.

Win both games, the Vols will have the title outright. Tennessee also can also clinch by beating South Carolina on Wednesday and Alabama losing to Florida on Tuesday.

Split the two games and Tennessee will share the title, but with whom will depend on the other games this week. Lose both and suddenly Kentucky and Auburn are back in the mix, along with the Gamecocks and Tide.

"Every team we play from here on out is going to be an NCAA team and a team that can play deep into March," Barnes said. "But we've just tried to keep our focus on what's ahead, not feel too good about anything."

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Top-ranked Houston has made an impressive inaugural run through the Big 12.

Coming off a last-second win at Oklahoma, the Cougars have put themselves in position to win the regular-season title in their first year in the league.

Houston, No. 1 in the AP Top 25 the past two weeks, enters the final week of the regular season with a one-game lead over No. 6 Iowa State at 13-3. The Cougars can clinch at least a share of the Big 12 title at UCF on Wednesday and win it outright with two wins this week.

The second one won't be easy. On Saturday, Houston hosts No. 14 Kansas, which beat the Cougars by 13 in Lawrence earlier this season.

The Cyclones host No. 20 BYU on Wednesday and are at Kansas State on Saturday in their bid to catch the Cougars.

CHAMPION HUSKIES

UConn has won three national championships since 2006, including last season.

Big East titles have been a different story.

With a 91-61 win over Seton Hall last week, the second-ranked Huskies clinched their first outright Big East title in 25 years. They hadn't even shared the title in 18 years.

UConn plays what could be the best game of the week at No. 8 Marquette on Wednesday and closes the regular season at Providence on Saturday. Win both and have a good run in the Big East tournament, the Huskies should be in a good position to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

DUKE-CAROLINA

One of the sport's best rivalries fires up again on Saturday: Duke-Carolina.

An ACC title could be on the line, too.

The No. 7 Tar Heels have a half-game lead over the Blue Devils at 15-3 and face Notre Dame on Tuesday.

With Duke's 79-64 win against N.C. State, North Carolina needs to beat the Fighting Irish to avoid dropping into a tie for the ACC lead. Win that and beat the Blue Devils, the Tar Heels are ACC champions. Win and lose at Duke, the two rivals will share the regular-season title.

North Carolina won the first meeting 93-84 at the Smith Center.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball

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