The Vols’ basketball team for the upcoming 2017-18 season will be young and full of inexperienced talent. And because of that, Tennessee’s basketball team is hard to get a handle on this offseason in terms of expectations. And that explains why CBS Sports is so low on this year’s team.
CBS Sports recently ranked all 14 SEC basketball teams in their first preseason power rankings, and the Vols came in just one spot ahead of dead last in the conference.
According to CBS Sports, the Vols are the 13th-ranked SEC basketball team this upcoming season. Only LSU was ranked lower. Those are some low expectations for Rick Barnes’ third Tennessee squad.
“Rick Barnes’ team is a mystery because it lacks a discernible leader,” Matt Norlander of CBS Sports wrote. “Sophomores Grant Williams and Lamonte Turner figure to be important.”
The Vols will only have one senior on the roster this season, and that’s grad transfer James Daniel III. Transfer Chris Darrington is a junior, as are Admiral Schofield and Kyle Alexander. The rest of Tennessee’s roster is comprised of redshirt sophomores or younger.
Tennessee’s roster has talent, especially in the form of the newcomers to this year’s team. Darrington had a solid year for Vincennes University in the NJCAA last season, averaging 20.7 points and 5.1 assists while shooting 43.1 percent from behind the three-point line. Daniel led the country in scoring in the 2015-16 season when he averaged 27.1 points per game for Howard University. He averaged 21.5 points in his career with Howard. And incoming freshman Yves Pons from France is the highest-rated prospect Barnes has brought in while at Tennessee. Pons was rated as high as the No. 60 overall player in the country according to 247Sports.
But the talent, for the most part, hasn’t been proven against SEC competition. The Vols return several starters and key players from last year’s team, but almost all of them are sophomores with only a small handful of juniors.
The Vols will have talent heading into this upcoming season. But they lack proven veterans and still don’t have a ton of size to boast inside. But finishing that low in the conference would be a first for Tennessee.
Tennessee has never finished 13th in the SEC since the conference did away with divisions before the 2011-12 season. Tennessee’s worst finish in the SEC in the current format came in Barnes’ first season when the Vols finished 12th in the regular season with a 6-12 conference record. The Vols finished 10th in the conference last season.