ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 10: Head coach Bruce Pearl of the Tennessee Volunteers looks on against the Arkansas Razorbacks during the first round of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at the Georgia Dome on March 10, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
9 TENNESSEE vs. 8 MICHIGAN
12:40 p.m. ET, truTV
The most dramatic circumstance surrounding this game happened a couple days ago. Tennessee AD Mike Hamilton said in a radio interview that the jury was out as to whether Bruce Pearl would be back next season as a result of his NCAA violations. Hamilton later backtracked, claiming he was misinterpreted somehow. Pearl, for his part, is deflecting all inquiries about it, preferring to focus on preparing his team.
Putting aside for the moment the issue of whether this could be Pearl's last game at Tennessee, it should be a compelling game. UT has the better talent of the two teams, but the Volunteers have been a picture of inconsistency through the season. Michigan coach John Beilein has a pretty unique offense, one that is more complex than what the Vols typically saw in the SEC. The winner of the game is more likely to get steamrolled by Duke than not in the next round, but that won't matter today.
The Pick: Tennessee 72, Michigan 68
10 GEORGIA vs. 7 WASHINGTON
9:45 p.m. ET, CBS
The Bulldogs have a decided advantage over the Pac-10 Tournament champs, and it's one that would make a Realtor smile: location, location, location. The game is played in Charlotte, a fairly short jaunt up I-85 from Athens as compared to a roughly 3,000-mile sojourn for the Huskies. Distance from campus is not an inconsiderable factor when it comes to NCAA Tournament games, and the Selection Committee did UW no favors in that respect with this particular matchup.
Washington is primarily a guard-driven team, which creates issues and opportunities for Georgia's two best players. Travis Leslie will be going up against Washington's dynamic Isaiah Thomas, one of the best first round guard combos in the bracket. Trey Thompkins will be going up against a UW frontcourt that is big but not nearly as skilled as he is. I'm thinking the real Dawgs will take out one of the field's trendy dark horses before it has a chance to get galloping.
The Pick: Georgia 70, Washington 65