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ESPN’s BPI rankings place Tennessee as a top three team entering 2018-19

The Tennessee hype train is full steam ahead.

NCAA Basketball: Georgia at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

You can now add ESPN’s basketball power index (BPI) to the Tennessee hype train for 2018-2019. Boasting the 8th ranked returning offense and the 5th ranked returning defense, Tennessee checks in at 3rd overall in ESPN’s new preseason BPI rankings. Only Gonzaga and Kansas were ranked higher.

West Virginia checked in at No. 5, who the Vols will face in the regular season during the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Tennessee will take on Gonzaga (2nd) this December and has a chance to play Kansas and Marquette, who ranks 4th in the BPI, in the preseason NIT tournament in New York City.

The Vols have appeared inside of the top five or top ten of numerous preseason polls now and will have to deal with huge expectations from the start. Why all the love for Tennessee? They return everyone — minus two role players. Only James Daniel and Chris Darrington exited, leaving Tennessee’s core of Admiral Schofield, Grant Williams, Jordan Bone, Jordan Bowden, Lamonte Turner and Kyle Alexander in tact. Tennessee will go from being picked 13th in the SEC last year to likely projected champions this year.

Florida (12), Mississippi State (17), Auburn (18), Alabama (20) and Kentucky (22) were the other SEC schools in the top 25 of ESPN’s BPI, in case you were wondering about the depth of the conference heading into this season. The SEC made huge strides as a basketball league last season, placing eight teams in the NCAA Tournament last season.