Forget the top 10; one national writer thinks the Vols have the potential to begin next basketball season ranked inside the top 5.
Tennessee has already been picked by Sporting News to begin the 2018-19 season inside the top 10. They picked the Vols to begin next year as the No. 8 team in the country, and ESPN did the same, placing the Vols at No. 8 in their way-too-early preseason poll after the NCAA Tournament Final.
We know it’s early, but … pic.twitter.com/7jL6ODcqtG
— ESPN (@espn) April 3, 2018
Now a national writer for CBS Sports thinks the Vols will begin next year ranked even higher than No. 8 in the country.
Gary Parrish of CBS Sports compiled his way-too-early preseason top 25, and he has three SEC teams inside the top 10 for next year. And the Vols are inside his top 5. His reasoning? The Vols return almost everyone off their roster from this season, a season that was one of the most successful in UT basketball history.
“Tennessee, like Auburn, should return most of the important pieces from a team that shared the SEC regular-season title,” Parrish writes. “More specifically, the top six scorers are back — among them SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams. So it’ll come as no surprise when the Vols finish at, or near, the top of the league again.”
The Vols had one of their more successful pre-NCAA Tournament seasons ever this year. Tennessee split the SEC regular season title with Auburn, made it to the SEC Tournament Final, and tied the 1999-2000 team for the third-most overall victories in a season with 26 wins.
And aside from guard James Daniel III, the Vols will likely return every other player off this year’s roster for next year.
Parrish has Auburn ranked slightly ahead of Tennessee at No. 4 on his list, and Kentucky is right behind the Vols at No. 6 in his preseason rankings. Other SEC teams in his top 25 are LSU (20th) and Mississippi State (15th). Kansas topped his list and was followed by Duke and Villanova.
Tennessee has never started a basketball season ranked inside the top 5 of the AP Poll. The highest the Vols have begun a season was No. 7 in the country, and that was prior to the 2007-08 season. Tennessee would go on earn their most wins in a single season that year with 31, and they were No. 1 in the country for a week after defeating No. 1 Memphis on the road.