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Tennessee ranked 6th in first AP Poll of 2018-19

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A top ten start for the Vols.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Tennessee vs Loyola Chicago Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee will begin their season of high expectations ranked 6th in the nation. The poll was released today with Kansas and Kentucky topping the charts.

Auburn at 11 and Mississippi State at 18 joined Tennessee and Kentucky in the top 25 from the SEC.

Rick Barnes will no longer have the motivational tool of the Vols being picked to finish 13th in the SEC like last year. Tennessee was picked to finish second in the conference, trailing only Kentucky. That won’t be an issue, according to Barnes.

Tennessee returns virtually everyone this season, losing reserve guards James Daniel and Chris Darrington. SEC player of the year Grant Williams returns and has already been named the SEC’s preseason player of the year. Senior wing Admiral Schofield — arguably Tennessee’s most important piece — returns for one more go at a title after testing the NBA Draft waters earlier this year.

Jordan Bone, Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden are all back in Tennessee’s backcourt. Jalen Johnson and Yves Pons will provide the depth there and likely take on larger roles this season.

Kyle Alexander joins Grant Williams in the frontcourt, while Derrick Walker, John Fulkerson will provide depth. Zach Kent is expected to contribute more, but is out indefinitely following knee surgery. That may open the door for top-100 freshman D.J. Burns to play immediately.

Tennessee’s season begins on Halloween night with an exhibition against Tusculum.