Vols viewed as program best equipped to end title game drought

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    (Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

    Tennessee basketball has never played for a National Championship. In fact, the Vols have never played in a Final Four. The furthest they’ve made it in the NCAA Tournament is the Elite Eight, a 2010 loss to Michigan State.

    Jerry Meyer, a basketball analyst for 247Sports, sees Tennessee’s drought of not playing for a title coming to an end very soon. In an article on 247 discussing which team is most equipped to end their title drought, Meyer chose the Vols.

    “I love the culture that is building at Tennessee under Rick Barnes,” Meyer said. “The Vols play a disciplined, hard nosed and attacking style. The momentum has been building for the Tennessee program and I expect them to be playing for a national title sooner than later.

    Michigan State was selected twice in the article, while Baylor also received a vote of confidence.

    “Just looking at this season, the Vols are bringing in the No. 4 recruiting class with two impact five-star prospects this season,” Meyer said. “Yves Pons and other quality players are returning as well.”

    The Vols return nine scholarship players from last year’s team that went 17-14 in the regular season and 9-9 in SEC play. Jordan Bowden, Lamonte Turner and Jalen Johnson are the only departures. Bowden and Turner graduated, while Johnson ultimately transferred to Wake Forest as a graduate transfer.

    Tennessee returns 67.7 percent of its scoring from a season ago with Pons back in the mix, according to UT basketball SID Tom Satkowiak. The Vols also return 69.7 percent of their rebounding production, 85.6 percent of their blocked shots, 66.1 percent of their steals, 68.7 percent of their minutes played and 71.6 percent of their starts.

    Five-star combo-guard signee Jaden Springer and fellow five-star guard signee Keon Johnson are expected to have a significant impact on the Vols this season. Four-star power forward signee Corey Walker has also impressed since stepping foot on campus.

    Another aspect of Tennessee’s program that caught the eye of Meyer is Barnes’ coaching staff, particularly second-year assistant Kim English. Fellow UT assistants Desmond Oliver and Mike Schwartz were named two of the five best assistants in the SEC on Friday, but it was English that stood out to Meyer because of his recruiting prowess.

    “Kim English has turned into an impact recruiter as an assistant and has the Vols in play for the likes of top 5 prospect Paulo Banchero who is across the country in Seattle, Washington,” Meyer said.

    Tennessee’s 2020-21 season is currently scheduled to begin Nov. 11 when it travels to Wisconsin. The conference schedule has not yet been released, but we do know the Vols will play Cincinatti in Thompson-Boling Arena on Dec. 12 before traveling to Nashville on Dec. 19 to take on arch-rival Memphis at Bridgestone Arena.

    UT also has non-conference games scheduled with Presbyterian, Tennessee Tech, George Washington, USC Upstate and Norfolk State. The game against Presbyterian on Nov. 14 will be the home-opener.

    Ben McKee
    Ben McKee is a graduate from the University of Tennessee and has a degree in Journalism and Electronic Media. He grew up an Army brat and lived in Alabama for a bit, but he bleeds orange. He covers Tennessee football, basketball, baseball, and the Lady Vols for RTI, and he's also a co-host on the RTI Live Show and RTI Podcast. You can also hear Ben on the morning sports radio show "The Swain Event." He's the producer and co-host along with former Vol wide receiver Jayson Swain.