The day a college football or basketball season ends means the beginning of one of the ironically great traditions — the way-too-early rankings for the next season.
It’s a particularly flawed concept in college basketball where at least 25% of most teams will change between now and opening day with invention of the transfer portal and increased roster movement.
Still, the 2021-22 college basketball season is officially over and we now turn our sites to the 2022-23 season.
Let’s look at where eight major publications ranked Tennessee basketball in their way too early-top-25.
ESPN (Jeff Borzello)
Tennessee’s ranking: No. 14
What they said about the Vols: “Only one starter is gone, but that’s Kennedy Chandler, one of the best freshmen in the country last season. That will put more pressure on Zakai Zeigler, who emerged as a key player for Rick Barnes’ team. Santiago Vescovi, Josiah-Jordan James and Uros Plavsic are back as starters, while Olivier Nkamhoua should be healthy. Tennessee had some stretches early in the season when the offense disappeared for long periods of time; without Chandler, the Vols will need someone to step up to provide scoring pop.”
Where other SEC teams rank: No. 1 Arkansas, No. 7 Kentucky, No. 15 Alabama, No. 16 Auburn, “Next in Line” Texas A&M
Sports Illustrated (Kevin Sweeney)
Tennessee’s ranking: No. 14
What they said about the Vols: “Early NCAA tournament exit notwithstanding, it was an outstanding 2021–22 for Rick Barnes and Tennessee, winning the SEC tournament and putting together a legitimate top-10 team that should bring back plenty of key pieces. A nucleus that features Zakai Zeigler, Josiah-Jordan James and Santiago Vescovi is a great place to start, particularly after Zeigler burst onto the scene as a freshman. There are a few more questions up front, but there’s no denying the talent the likes of Brandon Huntley-Hatfield and Jonas Aidoo possess.”
Where other SEC teams rank: No. 1 Arkansas, No. 2 Kentucky, No. 12 Alabama, No. 21 Auburn
247sports (Kevin Flaherty)
Tennessee’s ranking: No. 11
What they said about the Vols: “Kennedy Chandler is likely moving on, but there’s a ton to like about a backcourt that features Zakai Zeigler and Santiago Vescovi (who is testing the waters, but should return). Josiah-Jordan James will also be back to do the dirty work, and the Volunteers’ second and third most-used lineups down the stretch included some combination of Jordan-James, Uros Plavsic and Brandon Huntley-Hatfield at the four/five spots.”
Where other SEC teams rank: No. 1 Arkansas, No. 2 Kentucky, No. 13 Alabama, “20 more teams to watch” Mississippi State and Texas A&M.
Fox Sports (Aaron Torres)
Tennessee’s ranking: No. 9
What they said about the Vols: “John Fulkerson is (finally) gone and Kennedy Chandler will seemingly go pro, but just about everyone else should be back. Zakai Zeigler should take the reins from Chandler and become the full-time starter at point guard with Santiago Vescovi (who is currently testing the draft waters) and Josiah Jordan-James providing pop on the wing. The frontcourt should again be loaded with Uros Plavsic, Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, Jonas Aidoo, all returning, and Olivier Nkamhoua coming back from injury.”
Where other SEC teams rank: No. 1 Arkansas, No. 10 Kentucky, No. 14 Auburn, No. 17 Texas A&M, No. 24 Alabama
CBS Sports (Gary Parrish)
Tennessee’s ranking: No. 10
What they said about the Vols: “The Volunteers’ ranking is based on Tennessee returning four of its top five scorers – among them Santiago Vescovi and Josiah-Jordan James. Tennessee will miss presumed one-and-done point guard Kennedy Chandler but should still be a factor near the top of the SEC.”
Where other SEC teams rank: No. 3 Kentucky, No. 6 Arkansas, No. 13 Auburn, No. 17 Texas A&M, No. 22 Alabama
The Athletic (Seth Davis)
Tennessee’s ranking: No. 24
What they said about the Vols: “Chandler is a virtual lock to go in the first round, so he’s likely to leave. Vescovi and James are likely to test the waters, but if they come back that means the Volunteers will only lose one starter from the SEC tourney champs. Edwards is a four-star guard from Knoxville, but he’s the only high school signee as of now, so Rick Barnes will have to have a good run in the portal to keep Tennessee in the SEC race.”
Where other SEC teams rank: No. 2 Kentucky, No. 3 Arkansas, No. 13 Alabama, No. 20 Auburn
(Jon) Rothstein 45
Tennessee’s ranking: No. 13
Where other SEC teams rank: No. 1 Kentucky, No. 5 Arkansas, No. 19 Texas A&M, No. 21 Auburn, No. 29 Alabama
USA Today (Scott Gleason)
Tennessee’s ranking: No. 22
What they said about the Vols: “There’s a strong chance that standout guard Kennedy Chandler goes pro, but coach Rick Barnes should have plenty left to compete in the SEC, including returning starters Santiago Vescovi and Josiah-Jordan James.”
Where other SEC teams rank: No. 4 Kentucky, No. 7 Arkansas, No. 19 Alabama, No. 21 Auburn