RTI contributor Murphy Carlton is the author of this article
As the start to the college basketball season quickly approaches, the Associated Press has released their preseason top 25 poll. Many teams from many different conferences are scattered throughout the poll, but Tennessee’s men’s basketball team just missed the cut.
The Vols fell outside the top 25, but they received the third-highest amount of votes (78 votes) among the teams that just missed out on making the list. That essentially puts Tennessee at No. 28 in the country. The teams right ahead of the Vols that just missed the cut are Washington (26th) with 164 votes and Colorado (27th) with 152 votes.
The Vols will actually play Washington on November 16th in Thompson-Boiling Arena. That’s just one of several marquee non-conference match-ups for the Vols this upcoming season.
Michigan State comes in as the preseason No. 1 team in the country according to the AP Poll. Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, and Louisville round out the top five. Four teams from the SEC made the top 25 of the AP Poll, starting with Kentucky (2nd), Florida (6th), LSU (22nd), and Auburn (24th). Tennessee’s in-state rival, Memphis, comes in at No. 14 in the preseason poll.
Tennessee’s placement in the AP Poll is at odds with where one of the most well-known college basketball analysts has the Vols in the preseason, though.
Ken Pomeroy, a renowned basketball statistician, has Tennessee at No. 19 in his preseason rankings. Michigan State is No. 1 in his rankings — just like in the AP Poll — and the Vols trail fellow SEC teams Kentucky (2nd) and Florida (12th).
Taking a look at the Vols’ schedule as a whole for the upcoming 2019-20 season, UT currently has eight games against teams that made the preseason AP top 25. The Vols’ first of these games falls on December 14th against Penny Hardaway and the No. 14 Memphis Tigers. Then, the Vols open up SEC play against No. 22 LSU on January 4th. Tennessee will then play the third-ranked Kansas Jayhawks on January 25th in Lawrence, Kansas. The No. 6 Florida Gators then come to town on February 29th in a highly-anticipated game that will be in Knoxville. The final of these games against preseason top 25 teams be a home and road game against both Kentucky and Auburn.
This year’s Vol squad is going to be a very different team than the one Vol Nation watched last season make a trip to the NCAA Tournament with aspirations at a national title. This year’s team is a lot younger and less experienced than it was last year. Senior guards Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden will make up one of the most prolific backcourts in the SEC, but the rest of the lineup is a bit of a question mark at this point.
With his eligibility waiver still hanging in the balance, the 7-foot transfer Uros Plavsic has to wait patiently to see if he will be able to play right away or sit for the season. Yves Pons, Jalen Johnson, and John Fulkerson will more than likely play bigger roles than the ones they had last season, but just how productive and consistent can they be? Josiah-Jordan James was the Vols highest-rated recruit in this past recruiting class, and the former five-star seems ready to play a large role for UT, but how much of an impact will the rest of the freshmen have?
Expect to see some growing pains from the Vols this season. Like mentioned before, this is going to be a much younger team this season. Rick Barnes and his staff will undoubtedly have his team ready to play each game, but more mental mistakes are likely this year.
The Vols 2019-20 season will tip-off for the on November 5th with a match-up against UNC-Asheville at Thompson-Boiling Arena.