CBSSports‘ Gary Parrish published his college hoops Top 25 yesterday, and he has the Vols slotted in at No. 3. Tennessee’s in lofty company, as Kansas and Duke come in at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. There’s another basketball blueblood on the other side of UT, too, with the SEC rival Kentucky taking up residence at the fourth position.
Gonzaga, Virginia, Villanova (only because of the presumed early departures of a couple of guys to the NBA), Nevada, North Carolina, and Auburn round out the Top 10.
Ever since the hoops season concluded, it hasn’t been unheard of to see Tennessee in next season’s preseason Top 10, but No. 3 is as high as I’ve seen. Why is Parrish that bullish on the Vols?
Tennessee should return most of the important pieces from a team that shared the SEC regular-season title. More specifically, the top six scorers are back — among them SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams. So it’ll come as no surprise when the Vols finish at, or near, the top of the league again.
Sounds reasonable, as everyone expects Admiral Schofield to return despite having been testing the NBA waters himself. Only James Daniel is gone from last year’s team, one that won the right to wear those SEC Championship t-shirts, and Richmond graduate transfer Khwan Fore has committed to the Vols.
It’s not a given that even a team with an identical roster to last year would necessarily be able to duplicate or surpass its success. After all, the circumstances have changed. They’ll now be the hunted, and they’ll have to transition from negative motivation (no one believing in them) to something else. But if they can manage those things, it should be a fun season this fall for Vols hoops.