The hype train has been rolling for Tennessee’s men’s basketball team ever since the 2017-18 season officially ended. And now with a few more roster changes, the Vols’ 2018-19 season looks like it could be one of the best in program history.
And one national writer believes the Vols will begin the season in a historically high position.
Gary Parrish released his way-too-early preseason top 25 in early April, and at the time he had the Vols ranked No. 5 on his list. Now nearly a month and a half later, he’s updated his list. And Tennessee finds themselves in a new spot.
Kansas and Duke remained in the top two spots in Parrish’s updated rankings. But instead of Villanova, the defending national champions, taking the No. 3 spot, Parrish elected to drop them down to No. 7 after losing some early departures to the NBA.
In their place? The Tennessee Volunteers.
Parrish places the Vols at No. 3 on his updated preseason rankings, putting faith in Rick Barnes’ squad to carry the momentum they had last season and build off a surprisingly successful 2017-18 season.
“Tennessee 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.”
Since Parrish’s initial rankings, Tennessee’s roster has undergone a couple changes. Guard Chris Darrington transferred off the team, and the Vols added graduate transfer guard Khwan Fore from Richmond. Tennessee still has a scholarship left to give out for the upcoming season, and they’re pursuing four-star center D.J. Burns to try and fill that last spot.
Kentucky comes in right behind the Vols at No. 4 in Parrish’s rankings, and Auburn slipped from No. 4 in his initial rankings to No. 10 in his updated list. Mississippi State (15th) and LSU (20th) are the only other SEC schools listed in his top 25.
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 to 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.
As Parrish notes, the Vols return their top six scorers off a team that went 26-9 last season. Tennessee won a share of the regular season SEC title, made it to the SEC Tournament Final, and earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament last season.
But Parrish believes next season could be a truly special one for Tennessee, and the accomplishments of last year could pale in comparison to what next season could bring.