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Tennessee basketball cracks the top five of CBS Sports’ Top 25 for 2018-19

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The hype train has left the station.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Wright State vs Tennessee Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The college basketball season just wrapped up on Monday night, but the conversation has already moved to next year. We’ve seen a couple of top 25 polls already out for next season, but none quite like this.

CBS writer Gary Parrish released his top 25 for next season, placing the Vols 4th in his rankings.

Here’s what Parrish had to say about Tennessee.

Why the Vols are ranked here: Tennessee, like Auburn, should return most of the important pieces from a team that shared the SEC regular-season title. More specifically, the top six scorers are back — among them SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams. So it’ll come as no surprise when the Vols finish at, or near, the top of the league again.

Tennessee was bounced from the NCAA Tournament early this year by Loyola-Chicago, who turned out to be the story of the 2018 big dance. As much as that hurt, it’s hard not to look ahead to next year. Tennessee returns virtually everyone to a team that earned a three-seed in the 2018 tournament. That’s a rarity in the new one-and-done world of college basketball.

Rick Barnes had it easy last year in terms of how to motivate this group. He won’t be able to use the “media picked us 13th in the SEC” line anymore. This team is going to be at the top of every poll this offseason. How they respond to all of that love and hype will define next season.

Tennessee led the SEC in this projection, just ahead of Kentucky (5th) and Auburn (9th). Mississippi State (15) and LSU (20) also made his top 25 out of the SEC.