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Analyst: Tennessee should be favored in the SEC over Kentucky

More hype.

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Another day, another analyst pumping up Tennessee basketball. The Volunteers are set to enter this season with a revamped roster, causing many to believe that Tennessee will make a return to the national spotlight after taking a brief step backwards.

The latest to hop on the Tennessee hype train is Gary Parrish, an analyst for CBS Sports. Parrish chose the Vols has his ‘bounce back team’ for 2020-21, but also thinks that they’ll do a little more than that. He believes that they should be favored to win the SEC over the Kentucky Wildcats.

Assuming Yves Pons withdraws from the 2020 NBA Draft, Tennessee will return five of its top six scorers and pair them with the fourth-best recruiting class in the country, according to 247Sports, headlined by five-star prospects Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson. That’s a super-strong roster for Rick Barnes, who will have a realistic chance to finish in the top two of the SEC standings for the third time in a four-year span. In fact, in my opinion, Tennessee should be the favorite in the SEC on paper, just ahead of John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats, who are basically starting from scratch once again.

Kentucky and John Calipari are no strangers to starting from scratch — they basically do it every single year. The Wildcats bring in the top-ranked class in the country, while Tennessee brings in the fourth. The difference being that Tennessee brings back their core from last year’s team — the same one that knocked off the Wildcats in Rupp at the end of last season.

John Fulkerson, Santiago Vescovi and Josiah-Jordan James are back, and we’re still waiting on an NBA call from Yves Pons. Five-star guards Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer are the headliners of Tennessee’s class, while transfers E.J. Anosike and Victor Bailey will give the Volunteers plenty of competitive depth.

Rick Barnes has established a culture and a winning program in Knoxville — this year feels like one of his best shots to do some damage in March.