NASHVILLE, Tenn.

The intensity was there, the ear-busting noise levels when either the Blue team or Orange team scored, made a great play, got a big stop.

What went on Saturday afternoon in Bridgestone Arena was the kind of ultra-high level college basketball game that is played between two really good teams that are desperately trying to prove who is the best.

It was a game where an 8-point UK lead with a little less than three minutes left just wasn't enough; where Tennessee's experience was significant in the final minutes; where the real value of having Reid Travis in the game, then him fouling out, were magnified times five.

Kentucky's youth showed up down the stretch as well.

"We made mistakes, didn't make certain plays that could've won us the game," Travis said.

That's what we had between Kentucky and Tennessee in the SEC Tournament semifinals. They met for the third time this season, and because they'd split during the regular season, this was a matchup with a ton on the line.

Tennessee ultimately proved it was best, 82-78, in a matchup worthy of an NCAA Tournament Elite Eight.

"They played well," UK coach John Calipari said. "With an eight-point lead, we should win that game. They said, 'You're not winning the game, we're not giving up, we're not stopping.'

"We have the ball, we get a tip-in, they miss a shot. We miss the rebound, they score on that one. Changes the end of the game."

Yes, because Lamonte Turner drained a 3 to put UT up for good, 78-76.

It's fascinating that UK and Tennessee played at such a major level, because the outcome could have much to do with who ends up as one of the last eight teams standing the weekend before the Final Four.

This was viewed heavily as a play-in game for one of the No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.

Virginia was a near lock for No. 1 before it lost to Florida State, with a pretty major traffic jam going for the other 3.

Duke, of course, was in the middle of that discussion after spending much of the season as a No. 1 lock until Zion Williamson was hurt.

North Carolina beat Duke twice, which put the Tar Heels in No. 1 territory. That held up until Duke beat NC in the ACC semifinals Friday night.

Gonzaga was believed to be a lock for No. 1 in the West, because somebody has got to be, even with other top teams getting shipped to the West for regional balance.

So, that's why the basketball masterwork at Bridgestone Arena was recognized by anybody with a pulse as a game where the winner would have a great chance for a top seed in one of the four regions.

It seemed more certain that UK would be a 1 seed if it won, or at least it would stay in the South Region, which will be played at the KFC Yum! Center.

Except the Wildcats couldn't control the last four minutes of the game.

After Travis fouled out, UT closed the game on an 18-7 run. The Vols fed their star, Grant Williams, who scored 20 points, one shy of Admiral Schofield's 21.

The Vols coach, Rick Barnes, went to a 1-3-1 zone defense in the late going, and UK had a tough time scoring.

UK also couldn't stop Tennessee from getting baskets.

All five Wildcat starters scored in double figures, led by PJ Washington's 16 points. Washington sitting 14 minutes on the bench in the first half didn't help, but he more than made up for lost time in the second half.

So, now Kentucky waits to see the brackets, like the rest of us.

Calipari was probably seeing Duke as the top seed in whatever region UK lands in.

"It's not if we're a 1 or 2. It's who is the other team? I have an idea who it will be," Calipari said. "If you're telling me we're the No. 1 two seed, we should play the lowest of the 1 seeds. That's all I'm saying. If you're saying we're the second, we should play the third of the 1 seeds. Maybe it won't happen that way. We'll see."

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