The winner of Thursday's game advances to second-round action on Saturday at the same site. The opponent will be the winner between Thursday's other first-round game, No. 3 seed Georgetown (23-10) vs. No. 14 Ohio University (21-14).
Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl said following the 74-45 loss to Kentucky that he expected a 4 or 5 seed. His Vols were projected as a 4 seed by many "bracketologists," including ESPN's Joe Lunardi, whose picks were aired just one hour before the NCAA field was announced at 6 p.m. Eastern Time.
The top four seeds in the Midwest Region are 1-Kansas (32-2), 2-Ohio State (27-7), 3-Georgetown (23-10) and 4-Maryland (23-8). Being in the lower half of the bracket, Tennessee could see Ohio State in the Sweet 16. The Vols would not have to face Kansas - the tourney's overall No. 1 seed - until the Elite Eight. Tennessee handed the Jayhawks one of their two losses on Jan. 10 in Knoxville, prevailing 76-68.
The Big Orange is one of four SEC teams to make the NCAA Tournament field, with all four hailing from the league's Eastern Division.
Kentucky opens play Thursday in New Orleans against 16 seed East Tennessee State (20-14). Vanderbilt debuts Thursday vs. 13 seed Murray State (30-4) at San Jose, Calif. Florida plays its opener vs. 7 seed Brigham Young (29-5) Thursday in Oklahoma City.
SEC Tournament runnerup Mississippi State (23-11) and Ole Miss (21-10) were snubbed by the Selection Committee. MSU suffered a heart-breaking one-point overtime loss to Kentucky earlier Sunday in the finals of the league tourney.
Here are the top four seeds in each region:
MIDWEST: 1-Kansas (32-2), 2-Ohio State (27-7), 3-Georgetown (23-10), 4-Maryland (23-8)
WEST: 1-Syracuse (28-4), 2-Kansas State (26-7), 3-Pittsburgh (24-8), 4-Vanderbilt (24-8)
SOUTH: 1-Duke (29-5), 2-Villanova (24-7), 3-Baylor (25-7), 4-Purdue (27-5)