NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Tennessee

No. 15 Kentucky closed the regular season with a thrilling 85-81 win over No. 4 Tennessee on Saturday in Knoxville, Tennessee. After trailing by as many as 14 points in the second half, Tennessee forward Josiah-Jordan James missed what would've been a game-tying 3-pointer with 10 seconds remaining and Kentucky star Rob Dillingham knocked down a free throw seconds later to ensure the win.

Kentucky (23-8, 13-5) could be on a collision course to face the SEC regular-season champion for the third time this season at the conference tournament next week.

The Wildcats ended the regular season by winning seven of their last eight games after losing at home to Gonzaga on Feb. 10. Kentucky earned the No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament after Auburn beat Georgia later Saturday night.

SEC Player of the Year frontrunner Dalton Knecht scored a career-high 40 points in the loss for Tennessee. Knecht has five games with at least 35 points scored this season - the most among all Division l players.  

Reed Sheppard and Antonio Reeves each scored a team-high 27 points for Kentucky. Sheppard came into the weekend shooting over 50% from distance and connected on 7-of-10 attempts from the 3-point line.

Tennessee (24-7, 14-4) won the first meeting at Rupp Arena in February before Kentucky evened the season series in the final game before the SEC Tournament.

The Volunteers clinched the conference title earlier this week with a road win vs. No. 17 South Carolina. The Volunteers had won nine of their last 10 games before the loss - which started by beating Kentucky 103-92 at Rupp Arena.

Kentucky adds key win to résumé

Stop me if you have heard this before: Kentucky has a national championship ceiling. The Wildcats are on a short list of teams that can realistically win six consecutive games in the tournament because of the talent on the roster. Kentucky still has a low floor as a team that could become an early exit in the NCAA Tournament because of the below-average defense. But, if you want to go with the upside that they possess, there aren't many teams in the country better.

The talk of the town around this team is the group of star freshmen - which includes Sheppard, Dillingham, Justin Edwards and DJ Wagner - but Reeves is still not talked about enough. He should finish second (potentially third) behind Knecht and Alabama's Mark Sears in the SEC Player of the Year race.

Reeves is the glue that keeps this team together. Sheppard and Dillingham both have shown flashes of why they will be high picks in the NBA Draft this summer. The bonus over the last month has been the play of Edwards. After a slow start to the season, Edwards has shown why he was one of the highest-ranked recruits coming out of high school.

A projected No. 5 seed heading into the game, according to CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm, It remains uncertain what seed Kentucky will earn in the NCAA Tournament. Kentucky will be a dangerous draw for anyone and if they reach its ceiling, they might still be playing in April.

Is Tennessee still a No. 1 seed?

Three teams are locked into a No. 1 seed barring something drastic transpiring over the next week, according to Palm. Those top seeds would be UConn, Purdue and Houston. The final No. 1 seed (presumably in the West Regional) is up for grabs.

Coming into the weekend, Tennessee was on the No. 1 line and this loss potentially opens the door for a team like Arizona or North Carolina to assume that position.

North Carolina finishes the regular season against Duke. The Tar Heels could clinch the ACC title outright with a win. Arizona already clinched the Pac-12 title with a win over UCLA earlier this week and will play for style points when they face USC in Los Angeles on Saturday night.

The Volunteers still have a strong case to earn a No. 1 seed. Tennessee will enter the SEC Tournament as the top overall seed and could run into Kentucky again in either the semifinals or the championship game. This loss alone won't hurt their seeding drastically, but an early loss in the conference tournament could allow another team to sneak in.