The conference’s media picked Tennessee basketball to finish third in the SEC this season, the league announced Wednesday morning to begin SEC Media Days.
The Vols are third out of 14 teams, coming in behind No. 1 Kentucky and No. 2 Arkansas and immediately ahead of No. 4 Auburn and No. 5 Alabama.
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— Southeastern Conference (@SEC) October 19, 2022
Tennessee is coming off a strong season in which it tied for second in the SEC regular season before winning the SEC Tournament in Tampa. The Vols totaled 27 wins in Rick Barnes’ seventh season in Knoxville before falling to Michigan in the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament.
More From RTI: Expectations High For The 2022-23 Lady Vols
There’s an abundance of reason for optimism around this season’s Tennessee team. The Vols return four starters from a season ago and their sixth man and All-SEC Freshman Team selection Zakai Zeigler. After being a spark plug off the bench last season, Zeigler will play more minutes than anyone else at point guard this season.
Combining Zeigler with senior leaders Santiago Vescovi and Josiah-Jordan James gives Tennessee an extremely strong returning core on this season’s team.
Combine them with newcomers Julian Phillips and Tyreke Key and it’s easy to see how Tennessee will compete for an SEC regular season championship again this season.
Phillips — a 6-foot-8 wing — was a five-star recruit who picked Tennessee over Auburn. Key grad transferred from Indiana State where he averaged 17.2 points per game in 2020-21 before missing the entirety of last season with a shoulder injury.
Tennessee has finished in the top four of the SEC — which guarantees a double bye in the conference tournament — four of the last five years and the media predicts they’ll make it five-out-of-six this season.
Stay tuned on Twitter @RockyTopInsider all day for updates from SEC Media Days in Birmingham.