College basketball season is back for the 2023-2024 season and Tennessee finds itself at the forefront ranked among the top 10 teams nationwide. With such a strong first positioning comes big expectations. We decided to dive into Tennessee’s college basketball futures odds and a season preview of the best games.
With a new season on the horizon, Tennessee has every chance to subvert expectations to have a deep tournament run. Senior Santiago Vescovi is the talented guard looking to be the catalyst to get this team into a dominant form for the season. As well as the return of Zakai Zeigler, who had an unfortunate ACL tear that ended his season early.
For a motivated Tennessee roster, these dreams of a championship are closer to reality than most might expect.
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Tennessee Basketball Season Preview
Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes is setting the expectations for this team. Having reached the Sweet 16 last season means that getting to that same spot is the floor. This team is expected to at least make it back to that same spot. Making back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances has been accomplished in years past, but it has been more than a decade.
Established team veterans Vescovi, Zeigler and Josiah-James Jordan are the leaders of this roster. Newcomers Dalton Knecht (Northern Colorado) and Jordan Gainey (South Carolina-Upstate) look to step up in a big way to help this Tennessee team return to prominence. Knecht had an impressive 47.9 field goal percentage and an average 20.2 points per game last season and a jaw dropping, posterizing dunk on Michigan States’ Malik Hall during an exhibition game to put the conference on notice.
Zeigler is still recovering from a torn ACL that ended his season way back in February. While Zeigler did not appear in either of Tennessee’s exhibition games, there is still hope for him to be on the court for the season debut against Tennessee Tech. Zeigler has been given his flowers for his defense after averaging two steals a game last season. No doubt that the Volunteers miss his contributions in their defensive game plan, but keeping him healthy should be the priority.
Tennessee has a few games that will test this team at different points in the season.
- Tennessee at North Carolina, Nov. 29
- Illinois at Tennessee, Dec. 9
- Alabama at Tennessee, Jan. 20
- Tennessee at Kentucky, Feb. 3
- Tennessee at Texas A&M, Feb. 10
- Tennessee at Arkansas, Feb. 14
- Kentucky at Tennessee, March 9
The Volunteers will get the first major test of the season when they travel to the Tar Heels late in November. Moreover, Tennessee will have to run the SEC gauntlet starting in late January with Alabama. While the Volunteers will play a couple of SEC teams prior to the Crimson Tide game, most of these teams finished in the bottom seven and haven’t made significant changes to be competitive outside of Arkansas. The Volunteers have a stacked schedule and while it won’t be easy to navigate, it will in fact be entertaining and exciting as the season goes on.
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Tennessee vs. Tennessee Tech (Tennessee -26.5 on DraftKings Sportsbook)
The Volunteers square off against Tennessee Tech for the season debut on Monday, Nov. 6, in Knoxville. Tennessee Tech finished second in the Ohio Valley Conference with a record of 16-17. The Volunteers finished 25-11 last season, and these two teams feel a bit unbalanced in terms of the matchup. A team ranked No. 9 nationally opening the season against a team that didn’t have a winning record but finished second in the conference. The spread is heavily favoring the Vols and for good reason, too. When these two teams last played, Tennessee won 75-43 and a similar result should come around this time as well.
Tennessee Over 12.5 Conference Wins (+116 on FanDuel Sportsbook)
The Volunteers are ranked ninth for a valid reason. The schedule for Tennessee is no cake walk but there are some teams that they should tower over and dominate in the regular season. Tennessee finished last season with a record of 11-7 against conference teams. When looking at who this team added in the offseason — Knecht and Gainey — these two should be able to add to at least another two wins for Tennessee against SEC teams. Looking at this schedule in its entirety, 12.5 wins appears to be a task that this team can accomplish. From January 6-16, Tennessee could pick up four wins against teams in the SEC. The Volunteers have Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Georgia and Florida. All four of these teams finished in the bottom seven of the conference last season.
Tennessee to Win the National Championship (+2400 on Caesars Sportsbook)
It has been quite a considerable amount of time since we have seen the Volunteers in the spotlight of NCAA Basketball. Tennessee has never won a championship, been in the finals, or even to the Final Four. The Vols made it to the Elite Eight once upon a time in 2010. A lot of time has passed and head coach Rick Barnes has his eyes set on accomplishing the ultimate goal.
This team is making strides every year and if this roster is healthy and clicking at the right time, we could be seeing the Volunteers making history. Teams like Indiana, Texas, Kentucky all stand in the way, but this Tennessee team has depth on offense and a defensive mentality. This team is one to keep your eyes on and could be the Cinderella story of March.
Article contributed by Darrell Joyce