Famous bracketologist Lunardi to circle Vols in bracket "many times"

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT)-- Joe Lunardi has been analyzing March Madness as a part of ESPN's "Bracketology" since the mid-90s. And fans in Knoxville had a chance to hear from the expert earlier this week.

Lunardi spoke to the Big Orange Tip-Off Club on Wednesday, and he said that the Vols are an interesting team that he's paying a lot of attention to on his bracket.

Despite the Vols recent slide, he still thinks Tennessee is a major threat in March.

"I think they're a team that you would absolutely not want to play because they're experienced," Lunardi said.

"Teams in this situation usually get an extra gear after a little bit of a break. Either it's the conference tournament or after that, depending on when they lose, maybe it's not the worst thing in the world to get a couple extra days off."

Tennessee is coming off an overtime loss at LSU on Saturday, and the schedule isn't getting any easier. They'll host No. 4 Kentucky after a trip to Ole Miss on Wednesday night.

Saturday afternoon's showdown with the Cats represents a big challenge for the Vols. If they win, they'll be in a fight with Kentucky for a number one seed in the SEC and NCAA Tournaments.

If Kentucky sweeps the season series, it'll be hard for the Vols to overcome the Cats in the SEC standings. And Lunardi says that it would also be difficult for Tennessee to get a number one seed if the Vols lose on Saturday.

He still says that Tennessee is capable of a big win over their arch-rivals this weekend.

"If UK were to sweep the season series, it would be pretty hard to imagine Tennessee getting a one seed," Lunardi said. "I've thought going into these two games that each team would win on their home court. Maybe there will be a rubber game in Nashville to decide it."

Even if Tennessee falls on Saturday, Lunardi doesn't think there's any reason to panic about Tennessee's recent trouble against ranked opponents.

He's confident in their ability to right the ship in time for the tournament.

"I plan on circling the Vols in my bracket many times," Lunardi said. "The best case scenario is they're going to be a number one seed. If they win out, that would certainly put them in contention for the number one overall seed."

Earlier this week, Lunardi predicted that eight SEC teams will make the NCAA tournament. Even after the loss at LSU, he's got Tennessee as a number one seed.

This time of year is a busy one for ESPN's senior bracket analyst. Over the years, Lunardi has become one of, if not the most trusted voices when it comes to predicting March Madness.

For him, the work is as fun as the games themselves.

"It's supposed to be fun," he said. "This is the entertainment. And if you don't like March Madness and the NCAA Tournament, you don't like sports.

"It's one of the best sporting events of all time. It delivers every year."