Lady Vols Break Top Five In Way-Too-Early Rankings

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    After a strong offseason, Tennessee cracked the top five for ESPN’s way-too-early women’s college basketball rankings.

    The Lady Vols returned to the Sweet 16 for the first time in five years in an up-and-down 2021-22 campaign, and ESPN expects Tennessee to continue its upward trajectory under head coach Kellie Harper.

    Tennessee comes in at No. 4 in the rankings, behind defending national champion South Carolina, UConn and Stanford.

    “Rae Burrell is be gone, but the Lady Vols arguably won the transfer portal sweepstakes with a staked haul of Rickea Jackson (Mississippi State), Jillian Hollingshead (Georgia), Jasmine Powell (Minnesota) and Jasmine Franklin (Missouri State),” ESPN wrote. “Pair that group — plus incoming freshman Justine Pissott, the No. 11-ranked recruit — with Jordan Horston and Tamari Key, and Tennessee has the talent to build upon last season’s promising start, in which the program achieved its best ranking in the Associated Press poll (No. 4) since the first weeks of 2015.”

    The Lady Vols already had a chance to keep progressing by returning stars Tamari Key and Jordan Horston before Kellie Harper and her staff dominated the transfer portal. Tennessee addressed its needs in the portal with four transfers that should help the Lady Vols immediately.

    Mississippi State transfer Rickea Jackson is expected to have the biggest impact of the bunch. Jackson was fantastic in her three seasons in Starkville, averaging 20.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game a season ago.

    Tennessee ranks second of four SEC teams in the way-too-early rankings. The Lady Vols come in behind South Carolina and ahead of LSU (No. 14) and Georgia (No. 25).

    Ryan Schumpert is a senior at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since the moment he stepped on campus. He just completed a three-year stint with the Daily Beacon, the last two of which as the Sports Editor. Ryan also spent last three years at Volquest providing strong Tennessee baseball coverage of Tony Vitello's resurgent program. While the bulk of Ryan's responsibilities involved beat coverage and writing, he also recorded podcasts for both the Beacon and Volquest. Did we leave out the part about Ryan interning for the Smokies? Ryan's work ethic, versatility, and strong writing skills are but three of the reasons why Vol Nation will be hearing from Ryan for years to come.


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