Moments after a third-consecutive slaughtering of a SEC opponent and a fourth-straight victory to close the regular season, few around Thompson-Boling Arena thought of the Tennessee Volunteers as anything other than a NCAA tournament team.

But nobody has to remind the Vols why they need to keep the focus on the court.

"We got a game on Friday next week," a smirking Jordan McRae said to the question of whether the Vols have sealed a spot in the Big Dance.

The Vols will face the winner of Arkansas and either Auburn or South Carolina Friday in Atlanta. In Cuonzo Martin's first two years at the helm, UT lost on the Friday of the conference tourney, which led to two early NIT exits. ​

There's no doubt the Vols have been here before. But it hasn't been any easier for Jarnell Stokes to drown out the noise, with ESPN's Joe Lunardi and others updating UT's spot on the bubble by the hour.

"I try my best to stay away from what Joe Lunardi has been tweeting and saying, but it seems like I just can't avoid it," Stokes said. "I'm always getting screen shots of what he's tweeting. I tell my dad, 'Don't send it to me.' I tell my teammates, 'Stop looking at it.'

"Any friends are always sending me screen shots of it. You can't avoid it."

However, Stokes said he sees the Vols as having locked up their fate of an at-large NCAA bid with an emphatic win on senior day — a 72-45 drubbing of Missouri.

"I feel like this game should definitely put us over the top," Stokes said.

He wasn't the only one exuding confidence as Martin himself agreed UT's resume should put the Vols into the field — all while remaining focused on the upcoming week.

"Oh yes," Martin said, regarding whether his team deserved a spot in the NCAA tournament. "Yes, but you gotta keep going. The most important thing is to try to win a game on Friday. If we're blessed to go to Saturday, we'll go to Saturday."

Opposing coaches have been lauding the Vols as a tourney team at seemingly every stop this season, and that didn't change Saturday. Missouri head coach Frank Haith gave a resounding endorsement of Tennessee while his Tigers appeared to slip off the bubble.

"I've always thought they were an NCAA tournament team," Haith said. "When they played at our place, I thought they looked like an NCAA tournament team. I never thought they weren't.

"They beat the best team in the ACC (Virginia) by 35. So, I don't know what everybody else is seeing, but that's what I see."

The Vols head to Atlanta with their postseason fate still unclear, making it a talking point for players and coaches galore. But don't strike up Antonio Barton as one of those people.

Barton, who has averaged more than four 3-pointers per game in the last three contests, remains fixed on the upcoming SEC tournament.

"NCAA tournament, we aren't even worried about that right now," Barton said. "We're just focused on the conference tournament, and taking it one game at a time."

Even with so much still up for grabs for UT, Stokes doesn't see it as difficult to focus on the upcoming games.

After all, cutting down the nets in Atlanta has been a goal for the Vols all season.

"Our ultimate goal was to win the SEC tournament," Stokes said, "so we just have to take it one game at a time and continue to build off of this. We have to know our history in the SEC tournament is terrible, so we know that.

"We know that we have a drop game coming soon if we don't come out and play with the same energy."