Tennessee looked like one of the best teams in the country down the stretch last season. They ran through and won the SEC Tournament championship. Then came a terrible seeding job by the selection committee as the Volunteers were given a 3 seed. While the Vols did lose two key players, they are still looking really good. I underestimated this team last year. I will not do so again.
Check out the previous team in my rankings here.
Preseason College Basketball Rankings: #11 Tennessee Volunteers
Uruguay native Santiago Vescovi leads the returners. He is one of the best shooters in the SEC. He had a career year last year, putting up the best numbers so far in his three years in Knoxville. Vescovi shot over 40% from three and averaged over 14 points per game. Zakai Zeigler was an under-the-radar pickup late in last year’s recruiting cycle and was very good off the bench as a freshman, providing a great spark on both ends of the floor. Despite his size, count on him to take a big step forward this season as he takes over starting point guard duties after the departure of freshman standout Kennedy Chandler.
Two other (mostly regular) starters in Josiah-Jordan James and a now-healthy Olivier Nkamhoua, both return as well. James is one of the best rebounding guards in the conference and an excellent player out on the wing. Nkamhoua being healthy again will help them in the post and help to offset the loss of longtime Vol John Fulkerson. Jonas Aidoo has a chance to take a step forward this year as he returns for his sophomore season.
Rick Barnes brings in another really good recruiting class to Knoxville. The 11th-ranked class is headlined by top 15 five-star recruit Julian Phillips. He is long and NBA-level athletic with an outside side that is continuing to get better. If he gains strength and weight, he can be a great player for the Vols. Two other four stars that aren’t far outside the top 100 also join the team.
PF – Olivier Nkamhoua (8.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.5 SPG, 1.1 BPG)
SF – Julian Phillips (#13 overall recruit on 247 Sports)
G – Josiah-Jordan James (10.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.1 BPG)
SG – Santiago Vescovi (13.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.7 APG, 0.2 BPG)
PG – Zakai Zeigler (8.8 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.1 BPG)