Scotty Hopson and Tobias Harris Celebrate Tennessee's NIT Tipoff Classic Title at Madison Square Garden in New York City after their win over previously 7th-ranked Villanova.
You may not have noticed it, but the Tennessee Volunteers men's basketball team is on the cusp of being in the nation's Top 10—they moved up to No. 11 this week.
However, and much more importantly, the Vols are now No. 2 in the country in the RPI power ranking.
Yes, you read that right, the same RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) that many think the NCAA Tournament selection committee relies upon more than anything else; the one that often determines the seedings for The Big Dance in March.
Only Georgetown is ahead of the Big Orange in the RPI. Ohio State, Duke (ranked No. 1 in the polls) and Connecticut round out the RPI top five.
A quick look at how well UT's opponents have fared in this young season tells you why:
Belmont, whom Tennessee beat on the way to winning the NIT Tipoff Tournament Title in New York City, has only lost to Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
Missouri State, whom the Vols also beat in the NIT, has only lost at Tulsa otherwise.
Another of UT's conquests in that tourney, VCU, has beaten both Wake Forest and UCLA.
Villanova, previously ranked seventh nationally, has lost only to Tennessee so far.
Saturday, the Volunteers travel to play third-ranked Pittsburgh. A win on the road over the Panthers might propel Tennessee to the very top of the RPI. UT's schedule is ranked fourth nationally.
The Vols play Pitt at 3:15 p.m. on ESPN nationally at the Consol Energy Center in the second half of a Big East/SEC Invitational double-header.