Every year, CBS Sports does a “Candid Coaches” series in college basketball where they survey college basketball coaches about their thoughts on the upcoming basketball season. They poll everyone from head coaches at blue blood programs to assistants at small Division I schools and granted them complete anonymity.
This year, Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander polled over 100 coaches across college basketball about which team is the best team heading into the 2018-19 season. And a handful of those coaches said the Vols will be the best team this year.
Of the more than 100 coaches the two CBS writers polled, nine percent of them said Tennessee is the best team in men’s basketball this season. The Vols received the fifth-highest percentage of the votes and finished ahead of Virginia, Nevada, and reigning national champion Villanova. SEC foe Kentucky received 18 percent of the votes for best team, placing second behind Kansas who received nearly 40 percent of the overall votes.
The two writers didn’t include any comments from any of the coaches about Tennessee, but it’s clear just from the voting numbers that the Vols are being viewed among the elite in college basketball this season by those who know it best.
Tennessee has received plenty of hype and attention from the media this offseason, as several media members and media outlets have included the Vols in their preseason top five teams. But receiving votes of confidence from coaches across the country holds a little more weight than what media members think.
The Vols will be one of the most experienced teams in the country this year. Tennessee returns all five of their starters and most of their bench production from the team that went 26-9 overall and won a share of the SEC regular season title last year.
Reigning SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams, First-Team All-SEC forward Admiral Schofield, Co-SEC Sixth Man of the Year Lamonte Turner, and SEC Coach of the Year Rick Barnes all return for the Vols this season. Tennessee also welcomes in four-star forward/center D.J. Burns to the roster this year.
Tennessee’s basketball schedule hasn’t been released yet, but the Vols will likely begin their 2018-19 season in the second week of November and will have a tough slate of games both in non-conference play and in the SEC.
The Vols will face Gonzaga in Phoenix, play West Virginia as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge, and they’ll likely play either Kansas, Louisville, or Marquette in the NIT Season Tip-Off Tournament from November 21-23. The Vols also have non-conference match-ups with Memphis, Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest this year.
All of that is added onto what expects to be an even better and deeper SEC this year with teams like Kentucky, Auburn, Alabama, Vanderbilt, and others looking just as talented or even more improved than last year.
The hype around UT’s men’s basketball team has never been higher, and even coaches around the country are starting to believe in the Vols.