Following their 78-68 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs, the Tennessee Volunteers (17-11, 9-7 SEC) will be looking to bounce back on the road against the Auburn Tigers on Wednesday.
The loss to Georgia ended a six-game winning streak, but it also put a damper on Tennessee's NCAA Tournament chances. Junior forward Jordan McRae said that the loss was even more upsetting because so many other bubble teams lost as well.
"I was upset after the loss at Georgia, but it made me more upset seeing Kentucky lose, Alabama lose, Ole Miss lose," McRae said. "If we would've won we would've put ourselves in a better spot (for the SEC and NCAA Tournaments), but it is what it is."
While the loss to Georgia was a tough one, the Vols have already shifted their attention to playing Auburn on the road, where they have struggled all season (3-7). Auburn (9-20, 3-13) is in the cellar of the SEC this year, but head coach Cuonzo Martin said that from watching them on film you can see that they are a very competitive team with some good players.
"I just watched the game when they played against Vandy," Martin said. "They play hard, they compete, they take charges on dribble penetration and they have guys that can make shots. They have (Rob) Chubb in the middle who can make post moves and Frankie Sullivan who can score the basketball."
An upset will be easier to avoid if junior forward Jordan McRae continues playing the way he has been as of late, averaging 26.8 points and six rebounds in the past five games. Martin credits the roll that McRae has been on to his skill with the ball in his hands.
"He's just been really efficient when he gets the ball, making his moves, looking for his shots and being aggressive," Martin said. "I don't think he's really hung shots or taken bad shots, I think he's doing a good job of taking what's given to him. Now he takes some tough shots, but even in the tough shots, in my opinion, his shoulders are still square when he releases the ball. He's done a really good job of scoring in a variety of ways."
McRae's play has put his name into the conversation of who deserves to be named SEC Player of the Year. He said that while it would mean a lot to him to win the award, he is just focused on finishing this season out strong.
"Of course it would mean a lot to me, but at this point of the season I'm not really thinking of anything like that," McRae said. "I'm just trying to win out these next two games."
"I'd vote Jordan McRae, and I'm not just saying that because he's my guy," Martin said.
While most of the focus has been on McRae these past two weeks, the most important player to the team's success is junior guard Trae Golden, who averaged 18.7 points during the Vols' six-game streak, but only scored four points in the loss to Georgia.
Golden will have to play a good game to help the Vols avoid an upset.
"As long as Trae is playing well, I think we have a great chance of winning," McRae said. "Trae is one of the key parts of our team and if he's playing well, we'll be fine."
The Vols will tip off at 9 p.m. from Auburn Arena.