With Tennessee’s football team looking like they have another rough season ahead of them, many Vol fans have started looking ahead to the men’s basketball season. And one national analyst believes Tennessee’s basketball team could fight for the school’s first No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament this year.
Rob Dauster pf NBC Sports helped put together a preseason top 25 for the upcoming 2018-19 men’s basketball season, and he placed the Vols at No. 7 in his rankings. And according to Dauster, this year’s Tennessee basketball team has the potential to be a top seed in the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
“Tennessee won the SEC last season and returns literally everyone from that team outside of (James) Daniel, who came off the bench,” Dauster writes. “(Grant) Williams was the SEC Player of the Year last year, and Rick Barnes has plenty of perimeter talent and switchable players at his disposal. There are also some young, talented pieces on this roster — Bone, Bowden, Yves Pons, Kyle Alexander — that still have room to develop. I don’t think it’s crazy to think Tennessee could end up making a run at a No. 1 seed.”
Not only do the Vols return all their starters and just about every major piece of their bench production from the team that won a share of the SEC regular season title last season, but Rick Barnes and his staff also welcome in four-star center/power forward D.J. Burns as part of UT’s 2018 signing class.
The Vols have never earned a No. 1 seed in men’s basketball. Tennessee has twice been a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and last season marked the first time the men’s team had earned a No. 3 seed in the tournament.
In NBC Sports’ preseason top 25, the Vols rank behind only Kentucky among SEC teams. The Wildcats come in at No. 2 in the NBC Sports’ preseason top 25. Kansas took the No. 1 spot, and Gonzaga, Duke, and Villanova round out the top five. Nevada placed just ahead of the Vols at No. 6 on the list.
Other SEC teams to make it into the preseason top 25 on NBC Sports are Auburn (10th), LSU (20th), and Mississippi State (21st). Florida made the list of “the seven that just missed” and came in at No. 31. Loyola-Chicago, the team that beat the Vols in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament and ended up making it to the Final Four, came in at No. 26.
The Vols open up the 2018-19 basketball season with an exhibition match-up against Tusculum on October 31st. The regular season begins for Tennessee on November 6th when the Vols take host Rick Barnes’ alma mater, Lenoir-Rhyne, at 7 PM Eastern. Tennessee then hosts Louisiana on November 9th and Georgia Tech on November 13th before they play Louisville in the NIT Season Tip-Off in Brooklyn, New York on November 21st.