Tennessee basketball has made an appearance in yet another way-too-early college basketball preseason top 25. The latest ranking comes courtesy of NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster, who ranked Tennessee No. 13 in the country on Wednesday morning.
“Last season, one of the biggest issues with Tennessee was a lack of firepower on their perimeter,” Dauster wrote. “This year, they will be adding five-star guards Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer to Josiah Jordan-James and Santiago Vescovi.
“They’ll have weapons, and that’s before you add in John Fulkerson, who was one of the best bigs in the SEC down the stretch of the season. Yves Pons will be the best defender in college basketball. If Vescovi can handle full-time point guard duties better with an offseason under his belt, the Vols are going to compete for an SEC title.”
Dauster also provided a projected starting lineup for the Vols. Despite the additions of Springer, Sacred Heart grad transfer EJ Anosike, and four-star forward signee Corey Walker Jr, Dauster has Johnson as the only newcomer starting. Dauster has Johnson starting alongside Vescovi, James, Pons, and Fulkerson.
Tennessee is one of two SEC teams ranked in Dauster’s top 25. Kentucky comes in at No. 10
The Vols finished eighth in the SEC this past season, but Tennessee was a top-three team in the conference the previous two seasons. UT split the regular season title with Auburn in the 2017-18 season and finished third in the league in the 2018-19 season. Tennessee made it to the SEC Tournament Finals in both seasons.
Tennessee will be deep and talented next season. Not only are Jordan Bowden and Jalen Johnson the only notable departures from the roster this past season, but the Vols also add an important graduate transfer from Sacred Heart in E.J. Anosike and a top five recruiting class.
Barnes’ best recruiting class while in Knoxville is led by Springer and Johnson, a pair of five-star guards. Tennessee also signed Walker Jr. out of Chatham, Virginia as part of the highly-touted recruiting class.
Under Barnes, the Vols are 49-36 in regular season SEC games, going 37-17 in conference play over the last three seasons.