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SEC’s Auburn, Tennessee in top preliminary NCAA tournament rankings

The Tigers and Volunteers would be the No. 2 and No. 4 seeds, respectively.

NCAA Basketball: Auburn at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Two Southeastern Conference teams would receive a top four seed if the NCAA men’s basketball tournament started Sunday, according to a brackets preview released by the selection committee.

Auburn (22-3) was listed as a No. 2 seed, while Tennessee (18-6) was a No. 4 seed. The Tigers were placed the Midwest Region in Omaha and the Volunteers in the South Region in Atlanta.

Auburn hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since 2003, when it fell to Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen as a No. 10 seed. The Tigers deepest run in the tournament came in 1986, when they reached the Eight as a No. 8 seed. Auburn’s highest tournament seed came in 1999 as the No. 1 seed. It would make the Sweet Sixteen, but ultimately fall to No. 4 Ohio State.

Tennessee is on a four-year tournament drought after making six straight, including three Sweet Sixteen appearances, from 2006-2011 under Bruce Pearl, Auburn’s current coach. After Pearl’s depature in 2011, the Vols missed back-to-back tournaments before reaching the Sweet Sixteen in 2014 as a No. 11 seed in the First Four with Cuonzo Martin at the helm. Rick Barnes, the Vols current head coach, is 21-22 in the tournament with three Elite Eights and six Sweet Sixteens under his belt.

Virginia was the top overall seed, with Villanova, Xavier and Purdue earning the other top seeds. The Cavaliers were slated as the South Region’s top seed. Villanova was No. 1 in the East, Xavier No. 1 in Midwest and Purdue No. 1 in the West. The East Regional will be played in Boston and the West Regional in Los Angeles.

The tournament begins March 13 and will conclude with the championship game April 2 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

By region, the brackets would be:

South: 1. Virginia, 2. Cincinnati, 3. Michigan State, 4. Tennessee

East: 1. Villanova, 2. Duke, 3. Texas Tech, 4. Ohio State

Midwest: 1. Xavier, 2. Auburn, 3. Clemson, 4. Oklahoma

West: 1. Purdue, 2. Kansas, 3. North Carolina, 4. Arizona