Vols Picked to Finish in Top 5 of SEC in 2019-20 Season

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    (Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

    Two years ago, Tennessee’s men’s basketball team was picked to finish 13th out of 14 teams in the SEC by SEC media members. The Vols ended up winning a share of the SEC regular season title that year. Last year, the media predicted UT to finish second in the SEC. Due to tiebreakers, the Vols actually placed third in the league after finishing with the same conference record as Kentucky with a 15-3 SEC mark.

    This year, the media isn’t expecting Tennessee to take too big of a drop-off from last season despite the Vols losing a large amount of production from last season’s roster.

    SEC and national members media voted on their predicted order of finish for the SEC in the upcoming 2019-20 men’s basketball season on Tuesday, and the Vols were voted to finish fifth in the conference. Kentucky, unsurprisingly, was predicted to win the SEC. Florida was voted second, and LSU and Auburn were third and fourth, respectively. Tennessee placed just ahead of Alabama and Mississippi State in the top half of the conference. Vanderbilt was voted to finish last.

    Despite losing four key contributors and bringing in a bunch of new players, the SEC media members clearly believe in head coach Rick Barnes’ ability to coach up his team and not fall too far off from the last two years.

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    Two-time SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams, First-Team All-SEC wing Admiral Schofield, Second-Team All-SEC point guard Jordan Bone, and center Kyle Alexander are all in the NBA now, with Williams, Schofield, and Bone getting drafted in the 2019 NBA Draft this past summer.

    The Vols also lost forwards Derrick Walker and DJ Burns to transfer in the offseaosn. All in all, Tennessee only welcomes back five players who saw the court for the team last year. One of those players was voted as a preseason All-SEC player, too.

    Senior point guard Lamonte Turner was selected to the second-team All-SEC squad by the SEC media on Tuesday. The former co-SEC Sixth Man of the Year winner was one of nine players who received votes for preseason SEC Player of the Year. Florida’s Kerry Blackshear, a transfer forward from Virginia Tech whom Tennessee pursued heavily this offseason, was voted the preseason SEC Player of the Year by the media.

    On Monday, Turner was named to the preseason watch list for the Bob Cousy Award, the annual award given to the best point guard in college basketball. The senior enters this season averaging 10 points, 2.8 assists, and 2.8 rebounds a game in his 95 career games at Tennessee thus far. He’s shooting 35.2 percent from three in his UT career, and despite playing hurt all season in 2018-19, Turner still averaged career-highs in points (11.0) and assists (3.8).

    Tennessee begins their 2019-20 season on November 5th in Thompson-Boling Arena when they host UNC-Asheville for a 7:00 PM Eastern tip-off. The Vols also hold an exhibition game against Eastern New Mexico in Knoxville on October 30th. SEC play begins for the Vols on January 4th when they host LSU.

    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.