Rick Barnes and the Tennessee basketball team is ready to take a big step forward this season after several seasons without postseason play. And one national media brand likes the Vols this year.
ESPN.com ranked every team in college basketball for the upcoming 2017-18 season, and Tennessee was put right on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
Tennessee is ranked 49th, right behind San Diego State and Iowa State. The Vols will take on the Iowa State Cyclones in Ames on January 27th.
49th may not sound great, but it’s a much higher estimate than what UT was given at SEC media days. ESPN is projecting the Vols as the seventh best team in the SEC. Media members voted them 13th a few weeks ago.
ESPN’s rankings are more in line with what Ken Pomeroy, noted basketball statistician, predicted for the Vols this season. Pomeroy ranked Tennessee 43rd in his preseason rankings, which put them in very good standing to make the NCAA Tournament based on past projections.
Kentucky, Florida and Texas A&M all checked in with top twenty rankings in the ESPN rankings. After that, the Vols are behind Alabama, Auburn and South Carolina.
ESPN’s ranking also puts the Vols squarely on the bubble for an at large bid to the NCAA Tournament. In a largely improved conference this season, Barnes’ team could be the sixth or seventh team in the SEC to receive a tournament bid if they advance to the Big Dance.
The Vols begin their season with an exhibition game with Carson Newman on Thursday night. Their regular season begins on November 10th against Presbyterian.