Tennessee entered this season ranked 12th in the Associated Press Top 25 poll — and as the media’s pick to win the SEC. Fast-forward to Saturday, and the Vols are 19th in the AP poll, and fourth in the league standings, four games back of first-place Alabama.
So is it fair to label UT disappointing?
By definition, maybe.
But the Vols are still very good and very capable of advancing deep into the bracket of the 2021 NCAA Tournament. They won’t be projected to make the Final Four given that they will not be a No. 1 seed. But if the five-star freshmen play like future first-round NBA Draft picks, which has been the case sometimes lately, nobody should be surprised if they do.
“There are things we have to clean up,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said after Wednesday’s 93-73 victory over South Carolina.
And he’s right, obviously.
But all of the things that created high preseason expectations for Tennessee — i.e., an accomplished coach, proven veterans, and two NBA-level freshmen in the form of Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer — remain in place. And when you combine that fact with the fact that UT’s adjusted defensive efficiency rating ranks third nationally, there are plenty of reasons to believe the Vols will be a tough out next month for almost anybody under almost any circumstances.
Tennessee is No. 19 in Saturday morning’s updated CBS Sports Top 25 And 1 daily college basketball rankings. The Vols are 3-1 in their past four games with wins in that stretch coming against Kentucky, Georgia and South Carolina. They’ll try to complete a regular-season sweep of Kentucky on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET on CBS.
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Saturday’s Top 25 And 1 rankings
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