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Basketball Vols among highest ranked SEC team in preseason poll

Source: UT Sports
Source: UT Sports(WVLT)
Published: May. 27, 2020 at 12:56 PM EDT
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CBS Sports released it's pre-season college basketball rankings and Tennessee received a lot of love.

With the expected return of Yves Pons, John Fulkerson and Josiah Jordan-James as well as the addition of a couple of 5-star players, the belief is Rick Barnes and company are ready to make a return in both the league and national rankings.

Here's how CBS has it laid out right now with Tennessee as it's highest-rated SEC team at number 12 in the country:

1. GONZAGA

Multiple Zags are testing the waters - among them frontcourt star Filip Petrusev. Most players who can return are expected to return, which would give Mark Few three of the top five scorers back from a team that finished 31-2. That team was also supposed to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Combine that with a top-10 recruiting class highlighted by 5-star guard Jalen Suggs, and Gonzaga should be considered the favorite to win the 2021 NCAA Tournament. --

31-2

2.BAYLOR

The top three scorers from a Baylor team that spent multiple weeks ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll should be back. That doesn't even include Mark Vital, a finalist for the Naismith Defense Player of the Year award. Jared Butler is expected to lead the way. He averaged a team-high 16.0 points, 3.1 assists and 1.6 steals per game as a sophomore and is the main reason Scott Drew's Bears should be the preseason favorite in the Big 12 provided nobody leaves early. --

26-4

3. VILLANOVA

Saddiq Bey, at this point, qualifies as a consensus projected first-round pick. So the projection is that Villanova will lose its leading scorer from a team that went 7-1 in its final eight games. But everybody else should be back, which leaves Jay Wright with a talented and experienced roster built to win big. And if Bey ultimately decides to return to Villanova for at least one more season, the Wildcats would be a contender to be No. 1 in the preseason. -- 24-7

4. VIRGINIA

Virginia should return three starters from a team that closed the regular season with eight consecutive victories thanks to a defense that ranked first nationally in efficiency. Former Marquette standout Sam Hauser, who averaged 14.9 points and 7.2 rebounds two seasons ago, will be eligible after sitting out the 2019-20 campaign. He'll make an immediate impact and have Tony Bennett in a position to compete for a second national championship in a three-year span. -- 23-7

5. IOWA

Luka Garza will be the obvious preseason national player of the year if he returns to Iowa for his senior season, which is among the reasons he's expected to return to Iowa for his senior season. Presumably, he'll be joined by the four other starters from a team that finished 23rd at KenPom. And don't forget: Iowa will get Jordan Bohannon back after a redshirt season. So Fran McCaffery should have the best team he's ever had in 22 years as a Division I head coach. -- 20-11

6. KANSAS

Devon Dotson's decision to enter the NBA Draft after two seasons means the Jayhawks will be without the top two scorers from a team that would've been the overall No. 1 seed in the 2020 NCAA Tournament. That's not ideal. But the arrival of 5-star guard Bryce Thompson, combined with an experienced core of Ochai Agbaji, Marcus Garrett, David McCormack and Christian Braun, should provide Bill Self with enough to compete for yet another Big 12 title. -- 28-3

7. DUKE

Vernon Carey, Tre Jones and Cassius Stanley have all announced they're in the NBA Draft. So the Blue Devils are losing their top three scorers, and four of their top six, from this past season's team that finished tied for second in the ACC. Still, the return of Matthew Hurt and Wendell Moore should give Mike Krzyzewski two experienced and reliable pieces to pair with a top-two recruiting class highlighted by 5-star prospects Jalen Johnson, Jeremy Roach and DJ Steward. So Coach K winning a sixth national title remains in the cards. -- 25-6

8. CREIGHTON

Every player who started a game for Creighton this past season was projected to return - but that changed when Ty-Shon Alexander, the Bluejays' leading scorer, announced he's entering the NBA Draft and remaining in it. That's an unfortunate development for Creighton. But, even with Alexander gone, Greg McDermott should still bring back four starters from a team that was the top seed in the Big East Tournament. So the Bluejays will have a chance to make the Final Four for the first time in school history. -- 24-7

9. HOUSTON

Nate Hinton's decision to leave school early is a blow to Houston's rotation considering it means the Cougars are losing their third-leading scorer and best rebounder. But five of the top six scorers are still expected to return - most notably Caleb Mills and former McDonald's All-American Quentin Grimes. So Kelvin Sampson's team should be really strong again and win the American Athletic Conference for what would be the third consecutive season. -- 23-8

10. WISCONSIN

Wisconsin got better after Kobe King quit the team in January - evidence being how the Badgers won eight straight games to close the regular season and shared the Big Ten crown with Maryland and Michigan State. Now the top five scorers from the final-game roster are expected back. The best of the bunch might be Micah Potter, who averaged 10.1 points and 6.2 rebounds while shooting 52.8% from the field. He's among the reasons Wisconsin will be positioned to secure back-to-back league titles. -- 21-10

11. MICHIGAN ST.

If Xavier Tillman decides to return to school, Michigan State will move into the top 10. But, for now, the presumption is that the 6-8 forward is done with college basketball, which means the Spartans will likely be without the top two players from a team that shared the Big Ten title with Maryland and Wisconsin. Finding a suitable replacement at point guard for Cassius Winston won't be easy. But Tom Izzo hasn't missed the NCAA Tournament since 1997 - and that'll still be true after next season. -- 22-9

12. TENNESSEE

Yves Pons has declared for the NBA Draft. But assuming he returns, Tennessee will be adding 5-star guards Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson to an experienced core that also features John Fulkerson, Santiago Vescovi and Josiah-Jordan James. That's a strong roster that should result in a bounce-back season for the Vols, who looks like the favorite in the SEC thanks to a combination of what they're enrolling and what Kentucky is losing -- 17-14

13. WEST VIRGINIA

The Mountaineers collapsed down the stretch and lost six of their final nine games, but they still finished 10th at KenPom, which suggests they were better than their record. Now West Virginia is expected to return the top three players from that team - most notably Oscar Tshiebwe, who averaged 11.2 points and 9.3 rebounds while shooting 55.2% from the field as a freshman. So Bob Huggins will enter next season with an accomplished roster good enough to compete for a Big 12 title. -- 21-10

14. KENTUCKY

Kentucky The Wildcats are losing the top six scorers from a team that won the SEC by multiple games - most notably SEC Player of the Year Immanuel Quickley and projected first-round pick Tyrese Maxey. That's rough. But if any program is built to overcome these departures, it's the one set to enroll the nation's top-ranked recruiting class featuring 5-star guards Terrence Clarke, BJ Boston and Devin Askew. Exactly what John Calipari will do to further enhance his roster remains unclear. But it's possible the Wildcats could creep back into the top 10 of the Top 25 And 1 before the season begins if the UK staff secures some solid reinforcements. 1 25-6

15. NORTH CAROLINA

Roy Williams just endured what he called the toughest season of his coaching career - one that resulted in five more losses (19) than wins (14). It was rough. But the 2020-21 season will be much better, even with the loss of Cole Anthony, thanks to the arrival of a top-three recruiting class featuring 5-star prospects Day'Ron Sharpe, Walker Kessler and Caleb Love. With Garrison Brooks, Armando Bacot, Anthony Harris and Leaky Black all expected back, UNC will be talented enough to push Virginia and Duke at the top of the ACC. 1 14-19

16. OHIO STATE

Ohio State beat Duke for graduate-transfer Seth Towns - a 6-8 forward from Harvard who was the Ivy League Player of the Year in 2018. His arrival alone won't cancel out the departure of Kaleb Wesson, but it'll help. Meantime, Duane Washington, CJ Walker and Kyle Young should provide Chris Holtmann with an experienced nucleus on a team that is projected to return five of the top nine scorers from a roster that finished No. 8 at KenPom this past season. 1 21-10

17. TEXAS

Greg Brown's commitment means the Longhorns are adding a 5-star freshman to a roster that should return every player who helped Texas go 5-1 in its final six games. That's among the reasons next season's UT team could be the best Shaka Smart has coached since taking over in Austin. He'll have the type of experience and talent that good college teams typically possess. 1 19-12

18. TEXAS TECH

Texas Tech is losing its top two scorers early - namely one-and-done star Jahmi'us Ramsey and Davide Moretti, the latter of whom decided in late May to pursue overseas opportunities in a development that hurt the Red Raiders. But Chris Beard is still returning three of the top six scorers from a team that finished 21st at KenPom, and he's combining that nice nucleus with a top-15 recruiting class highlighted by 4-star prospects Nimari Burnett and Micah Peavy, plus VCU grad-transfer Marcus Santos-Silva. So Texas Tech should be talented enough to operate in the top half of the Big 12 again and maybe even compete for the league title. 4 18-13

19. OREGON

It's impossible to overstate what losing somebody like Payton Pritchard will mean to Oregon; he was fabulous and a worthy All-American. But two of the other top-three scorers from the Pac-12 champs are expected back - and Dana Altman has worked the transfer market again. So it would be foolish to assume the Ducks will do anything but compete for another Pac-12 title. -- 24-7

20. RUTGERS

Rutgers should return seven of the top eight scorers from a team that finished 28th at KenPom - most notably double-digit scorers Ron Harper Jr. and Geo Baker. Beyond that, the Scarlet Knights are adding a consensus top-50 prospect in Cliff Omoruyi. So winning at the RAC will once again be a difficult task for opponents because Steve Pikiell should have a team equipped to make the NCAA Tournament for what would be, under normal circumstances, the second straight season. -- 20-11

21. STANFORD

A late commitment from 5-star wing Ziaire Williams was enough to push Stanford into the Top 25 And 1 under the assumption that Tyrell Terry will ultimately withdraw from the NBA Draft. If that happens, the Cardinal will add a heralded freshman to a roster that would include the top six scorers from this past season's team that finished in the top 45 at KenPom. 1 20-12

22. UCLA

The greatest in-season turnaround of the 2019-20 season belonged to UCLA, which went from 8-9 to 19-12 by going 11-3 in its final 14 games. It was incredible stuff from Mick Cronin and his staff. And now the top five scorers from that team should be back - provided Chris Smith withdraws from the NBA Draft, which is the projection here. Will the Bruins miss Daishen Nix, who de-committed late to join a G League program? Of course. But, on paper, they'll still be contenders to win the Pac-12. 1 19-12

22. INDIANA

The late addition of five-star point guard Khristian Lander pushed Indiana's recruiting class into the top 15 and provided Archie Miller with the perfect compliment to an experienced roster. Justin Smith's decision to transfer stings a little. But the Hoosiers are still returning seven of the top nine scorers from a team that was projected to make the 2020 NCAA Tournament - and that should be enough to give Indiana a chance to compete at the top of the Big Ten standings. 2 20-12

24. ARIZONA STATE

Romello White's decision to enter the transfer portal means Arizona State is losing its leading rebounder and one of three double-digit scorers who were expected to return from last season's team. That's tough. But 5-star guard Josh Christopher joining a nucleus of Remy Martin and Alonzo Verge suggests Bobby Hurley might still have a chance to finish in the top three of the Pac-12 for what would be the third consecutive season. -- 20-11

25. FLORIDA STATE

Leonard Hamilton just led Florida State to its first conference title since 1989, but most of the best players from that team are gone. Devin Vassell and Patrick Williams are leaving early for the NBA Draft, and Trent Forrest is out of eligibility. So the Seminoles have holes to fill. But 5-star forward Scottie Barnes is likely to make an instant impact, and there are enough quality pieces returning to keep Florida State competitive in the ACC. -- 26-5

26. ARKANSAS

Arkansas' 20-12 record this past season is misleading because the Razorbacks were actually 19-7 with Isaiah Joe in the lineup, just 1-5 without him. Joe has entered the NBA Draft - but this ranking projects him to eventually withdraw and return to Arkansas. If that happens, the Hogs will return two of their top four scorers and enroll a top-10 recruiting class featuring four top-100 prospects - most notably Moses Moody. So while the early departure of Mason Jones is less than ideal, Eric Musselman should still have Arkansas in the NCAA Tournament and positioned to maybe make the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1996. -- 20-12

Copyright 2020 WVLT. All rights reserved.

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