Tennessee’s men’s basketball team has been hyped up all offseason by analysts across the country. The Vols have appeared in the top five of various preseason polls, and they’re expected to be one of the favorites to win the SEC this upcoming 2018-19 season. But it’s not just analysts who like the Vols; the computers like Tennessee this upcoming season too.
ESPN put out their early Basketball Power Index rankings this week, and Tennessee came in at No. 3 in the rankings. They trail only Kansas and Gonzaga and are only a tenth of a point behind No. 2 Gonzaga and a tenth of a point ahead of No. 4 Marquette.
The BPI is determined by a number of factors. According to ESPN, it takes into account the amount of experience on the roster, the quality of that experience, recruiting rankings of incoming freshmen with an emphasis on five-stars, and a coach’s past performance.
And according to those metrics, the Vols are the third-best team in all of college basketball heading into the 2018-19 season.
Tennessee has the fifth-best defensive ranking and the eighth-best offensive ranking according to the BPI. The only other team with both the offense and defense ranked inside the top 10 of the BPI is Kansas. The Vols’ overall BPI score of 10.7 is easily the highest among SEC teams with the next-closest SEC school, Florida, coming in at No. 12 with a score of 8.7. Interestingly, Kentucky comes in all the way down at No. 22 in the rankings. Mississippi State (17th), Auburn (18th), and Alabama (20th) are the other SEC schools inside the top 25 of the BPI.
The BPI values returning experience more than highly-rated newcomers, and that’s a big reason Tennessee and Marquette are placed above teams like Duke and Kentucky.
The Vols return all five of their starters and most of their bench production from their roster that went 26-9, won a share of the SEC regular season title, and earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament last year. Tennessee will have reigning SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams, reigning Co-SEC Sixth Man of the Year Lamonte Turner, and reigning SEC Coach of the Year Rick Barnes back with them this season, as well as First Team All-SEC forward Admiral Schofield.
Hype is possibly at an all-time high for Tennessee’s men’s basketball program. The Vols are looking at earning their first ever preseason top five overall ranking when the first AP Poll comes out later this year, and Tennessee is a popular media pick to be one of the best teams in the country.
Football season is almost here in Knoxville, but this year’s basketball team promises to deliver the type of headlines the football team won’t be able to bring for a couple years.