We told you earlier today to embrace the hype of the upcoming 2018-19 season for Tennessee’s men’s basketball team after several media outlets have projected them as a top 5 team heading into the start of the season. But that hype is about to reach all new levels thanks to an early bracketology projection.
According to a way-too-early NCAA Tournament bracket projection by Jerry Palm of CBS Sports, the Vols are one of his favorites to land a No. 1 seed for the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
You read that correctly. The Vols are favorites to be one of the top four seeds in the NCAA Tournament for next season.
Yes, it’s only June, and the 2017-18 season just ended two months ago. But this is the type of hype that Tennessee basketball has never seen before the start of the season. Not even Bruce Pearl’s “best” team in 2007-08 was receiving this kind of attention. That team started the year at No. 7 in the AP Poll, the best preseason starting position in program history for the Vols, and they briefly achieved the No. 1 ranking in the country after downing Memphis on the road. That team earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament and made it to the Sweet Sixteen.
But the Vols have never earned a No. 1 seed in school history. They twice earned two-seeds under Pearl, and last year under Rick Barnes marked the first time the Vols got a three-seed in the tournament. But a No. 1 seed has never been achieved by any UT men’s basketball team.
Palm’s reasoning for putting the Vols in as a top seed goes back to what everyone is saying about Tennessee: They return almost everyone off last year’s roster and look to be older, wiser, and hungrier this season.
“Tennessee would be a newbie to the top line if this comes through for the Volunteers,” Palm writes. “They return every significant contributor from last season’s surprising run to the SEC title and a No. 3 seed in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. The Vols figure to be favored to repeat that championship, although there will be strong challengers.”
Gary Parrish of CBS Sports has the Vols as his No. 3 team in his preseason rankings, and Andy Katz of NCAA.com put the Vols No. 4 in his very early power rankings for next season. And they aren’t the only ones putting those types of expectations on Tennessee.
ESPN has been high on the Vols in their early projections as well, and just about every early preseason poll has Tennessee inside or near the top five.
If Palm’s prediction comes true and the Vols can earn their first No. 1 seed in school history, then March could bring some special memories for Knoxville and a Tennessee fanbase that’s been ravenous for success.