Despite going through a drastic roster overhaul this offseason, it’s clear that Tennessee’s men’s basketball program is still highly thought of by the national media.
In Gary Parrish’s early Top 25 and 1 for CBS Sports, the Vols found their way inside the top 20 in his early rankings, sneaking in at No. 19 on his list. This is despite Tennessee losing three players to the NBA Draft and starting center Kyle Alexander off last year’s squad.
The Vols come in ahead of fellow SEC team LSU at No. 26 but behind conference foes Kentucky (3rd), Florida (9th), and Auburn (16th). Other UT opponents in Parrish’s early top 25 are Kansas (5th), Memphis (7th), Purdue (17th), and VCU (18th). The Vols will play either Purdue or VCU as part of the Emerald Coast Classic in late November.
Despite Parrish’s analysis of Tennessee sounding somewhat pessimistic, it’s clear he believes the Vols still have what it takes to be a solid team in the 2019-20 season.
“The Vols are losing the top three scorers from a team that spent part of last season ranked No. 1,” Parrish writes. “That alone represents 48.8 points per game that must be replaced in some form.”
Tennessee loses a lot from last season, but they do return a duo of senior guards who figure to be the Vols’ leading scoring options this upcoming season. Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden both averaged double figures in scoring last season, and both are dangerous from behind the three-point line. The two have combined to play in 196 games as Vols and have a combined 93 starts in their previous three seasons at UT.
But besides those two and redshirt junior forward John Fulkerson, Tennessee’s roster in 2019-20 is full of inexperience and question marks. That doesn’t mean it’s devoid of talent, though.
The Vols welcomed in a host of new faces to their roster this offseason, headlined by five-star signee Josiah-Jordan James. The five-star guard figures to see a lot of playing time at the point guard spot for Tennessee, and he’ll be expected to contribute right away. Four-star forward Olivier Robinson-Nkamhoua joined James as one of the Vols’ 2019 signees, as did three-star forward Davonte Gaines and three-star forward Drew Pember.
Tennessee also added a couple transfers to their roster this offseason. Arizona State center Uros Plavsic and Oregon guard Victory Bailey Jr. joined the Vols over the offseason. While Bailey will sit out this upcoming season due to NCAA transfer rules, Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes remains hopeful that the seven-foot Plavsic will receive an immediate eligibility waiver for the 2019-20 season.
All in all, the Vols lost their top three scorers from last season and 69.3 percent of their overall scoring with the departures of Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield, Jordan Bone, Kyle Alexander, and Derrick Walker (transfer). Tennessee only returns six scholarship players from last year’s team, and Turner and Bowden easily have the bulk of the playing experience from that group.
Still, Tennessee and Rick Barnes have earned the respect of the college basketball world over the last two seasons, and they aren’t expected to take too large of a step back this upcoming season by Parrish.