The hype has never been higher surrounding Tennessee’s men’s basketball team. They’re a consensus No. 6 team in the country in the preseason AP Poll and Coaches Poll, and that’s the highest preseason ranking UT’s men’s team has ever received. And many national analysts are expecting great things from the Vols this season.
Whether it’s one national analyst predicting the Vols to make a run at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Dick Vitale calling the Vols one of his top three teams in the country, or another analyst making a prediction that the Vols make the Final Four, Tennessee has received tons of high praise this offseason.
Now, two more national analysts are predicting Tennessee will be one of the last four teams standing in the NCAA Tournament this season.
Five different writers/analysts weighed in on their Final Four predictions in CBS Sports’ annual preseason prediction panel. And two very prominent college basketball analysts picked the Vols as one of their Final Four teams.
Gary Parrish and Jerry Palm both tabbed the Vols as one of their four Final Four selections. And Parrish especially is high on Tennessee.
“The Vols are a tremendous story in the sense that they last season shared the SEC’s regular-season title despite having zero top-100 high school prospects on the roster,” Parrish writes. “Seriously, has a school in a Power 5 league ever done that in modern history? Or history period? Rest assured, if it’s happened, it’s rare. And now pretty much every important piece from that team — including the top six scorers — is back to compete for another SEC championship and more.”
It’s worth noting that Tennessee still doesn’t have a top-100 player on their roster heading into this season. Freshman D.J. Burns was a four-star forward/center coming out of high school, but he was just outside of the top-100 range according to 247Sports. Per their composite rankings, he was the No. 108 overall player in the country.
Tennessee’s experience and chemistry has made them a popular choice for many college basketball experts this offseason for top five rankings and postseason success. But a Final Four would be uncharted waters for UT’s men’s program.
The Vols have never made the Final Four in their long basketball history. The closest they got was in 2010 when they finished a couple points short of topping Michigan State in the Elite Eight. That’s been UT’s only Elite Eight appearance in school history, and they’ve only made it to the Sweet Sixteen seven times ever (though five of those appearances have come since 2000).
Two of the five analysts picked the Vols to make the Final Four, and that’s one of the higher percentages among the teams picked by the five panelists. Kansas was picked by four of the five analysts, and Kentucky, Duke, and Nevada were picked by three out of the five experts. Virginia, Auburn, Gonzaga, North Carolina, and Kansas State were picked one time apiece.
Tennessee opens up the regular season on Tuesday, November 6th when they host head coach Rick Barnes’ alma mater, Lenoir-Rhyne, in Thompson-Boling Arena.