Tennessee’s men’s basketball team was a mainstay in the top 25 of the AP Poll last season, going wire-to-wire as a top 10 team and sitting atop the standings at No. 1 for four-straight weeks at one point. But after losing three players to the NBA Draft, another player to graduation, and two other players to transfer, the Vols had too many question marks at the start of the season for many media members to include them in their top 25 ballots. Tennessee began the season just outside the top 25 of the AP Poll, but they still received votes and were largely considered a top 30 team.
Now, the Vols are back inside the top 25.
In the newest AP Poll that was released Monday, Tennessee came in at No. 20, making their debut in the top 25 this season. The Vols are a perfect 3-0 on the year and have won every game by double-digits, including an impressive 13-point victory over then-No. 20 Washington up in Toronto on Saturday. Tennessee led the Huskies for 38 and a half minutes of game time and led by double-digits for most of the game.
The Vols received 402 points in the poll, coming in just behind fellow SEC school Auburn (420) and ahead of VCU (365) — a team Tennessee could face later this month. Other future UT opponents in the top 25 include Kansas (4th), Kentucky (9th), and Memphis (16th). Florida State, a team the Vols will face in the Emerald Coast Classic later this month, received the most votes of any team not in the top 25. Florida and LSU followed right behind FSU.
Over the last two-plus seasons, the Vols have been a frequent name in the top 25. Tennessee was ranked inside the top 25 of the AP Poll for 15 of the 19 weeks the poll was out in the 2017-18 season, and the Vols were ranked for all 20 weeks the poll was released last season. This year, the Vols missed out on the top 25 for the first two weeks of the AP Poll, but they’ve cracked the rankings now.
Tennessee has been led by their senior duo in the backfield and a surprising emergence of junior wing Yves Pons. Senior guard Jordan Bowden leads the team in scoring at 18 points a game and is making 64.3 percent of his threes. Senior point guard Lamonte Turner is averaging 12.7 points, but more importantly, he’s averaging 9.3 assists through three games.
The big shocker has been the contributions of Yves Pons.
The junior wing from France is averaging 16.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks through three games this season. Pons came into this season averaging less than two points a game in his first 59 games as a Vol.
Tennessee returns to the court on Wednesday, November 20th, when they take on Alabama State at 7:00 PM Eastern in Thompson-Boling Arena. The Vols follow that up with a home game against Chattanooga on November 25th before a trip to Florida for the Emerald Coast Classic on November 29th. Tennessee will take on Florida State then will face either Purdue or VCU in the second round.