KNOXVILLE — Tennessee claimed a share of the SEC East Division title and is playing its best basketball of the season. Yet, according to freshman guard Scotty Hopson, there's still more to be done.
"We're playing well right now, and guys are playing together and sticking together as a team, but there's always room for improvement," the University Heights graduate said. "There's always room to push forward and get better."
The Vols laid their claim to the East Division title with a win over South Carolina on Tuesday. That doesn't make their meeting with Alabama any less important though.
Tennessee is looking ahead to an NCAA Tournament bid, and Coach Bruce Pearl knows that a win over the Crimson Tide could earn the Vols points with the selection committee.
"These games have tremendous implication for tournament seeding, and the key to advancing is seeding in the tournament. Just ask the four No. 1 seeds last year how important seeding is," Pearl said.
The top seeds all made it to the Final Four last season.
The Vols appeared to be on the verge of crumbling after a loss at Kentucky on Feb. 21. Pearl accused the players of quitting and failing to play together as a team.
But the win over South Carolina marked the first time during the SEC season that Tennessee grabbed three consecutive wins.
And even though Alabama's season has fallen far short of expectations, the Vols aren't anticipating an easy game Sunday.
They expect to have their hands full with senior guard Alonzo Gee, who is averaging 15 points and dominating the offensive boards.
Tennessee has also struggled against the West — the Vols are 2-3 against the division.
"They've got plenty of talent, a lot of talent," junior forward Wayne Chism said. "They'll want to spoil our last home game."