Rick Barnes' 2019 basketball team was clearly in a transition season, as the Vols who spent their majority as time in 2018 as the number one team in the country, finished 17-14 in 2019. However, it appears brighter days are ahead for Tennessee Basketball, at least according to Sports Illustrated.
The Vols enter the early rankings as the number 12 team in the country and the second-best team in the SEC. SI's Jeremy Woo said of the Vols in the breakdown, "This might be Rick Barnes’s most talented Tennessee team and looks like a legit SEC dark horse, with a wealth of talent on the perimeter led by five-star freshmen Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson. Someone is going to have to come off the bench, whether it’s one of those two or returning point guard Santiago Vescovi, but these are pretty good problems to have. Josiah Jordan-James and Yves Pons have plenty of untapped upside, E.J. Anosike transfers in from Sacred Heart, and productive big man John Fulkerson is also back. If all goes well, the Vols should be extremely tough defensively, and will benefit from having more shot-creators on the roster, even though the backcourt skews young."
Barnes has faced heat since from the Big Orange Faithful since he considered the UCLA job last Spring. One of his biggest question marks has been the ability to recruit at a high level. Barnes will bring in three top 50 prospects in the 2020 class to go along with coveted grad transfer E.J. Anosike, which will put expectations through the roof, as evidenced by this early prediction. With Yves Pons, John Fulkerson, and Josiah Jordan-James returning valuable experience, Barnes team will enter the season with an excitement similar to that of 2018, but can he match or best that effort?