Expectations have returned for Tennessee basketball after a mediocre 2019-20 season. Guards Jordan Bowden and Jalen Johnson were the only departures, pending an NBA decision from Yves Pons. Santiago Vescovi, Josiah-Jordan James and John Fulkerson are each back, along with several new pieces that could take Tennessee to the next level.
A top five recruiting class will bring in two five-star guards — Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer. Four-star forward Corey Walker Jr. joins them, along with transfers E.J. Anosike and Victor Bailey.
Just like that, Tennessee is loaded once again. 247Sports is taking notice. They’ve got the Volunteers at No. 10 of their updated way-too-early rankings. Here’s what they had to say.
Yves Pons and John Fulkerson emerged as stars a year ago, and should Pons return, he’ll have plenty of help. Santiago Vescovi and Josiah Jordan-James are returning starters as well, and the fourth-ranked class in the 247Sports Composite yielded two five-star players in Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson. Add in rebounding machine E.J. Anosike, who transferred in from Sacred Heart and Oregon transfer Victor Bailey, a high-quality shooter who sat out last year, and the Volunteers have plenty of returning talent and overall experience.
Gonzaga, Baylor, Virginia, Villanova and Iowa made up the top five. Tennessee was the top ranked team in the SEC, with Kentucky checking in at No. 17. Arkansas (19) and LSU (21) were the only other teams in the SEC to make the cut, though they are still pending final NBA decisions from a few key players.
Tennessee was ranked to start the season last year, but things quickly fell apart after the loss of Lamonte Turner for the year. It was a bumpy ride from there, but Rick Barnes is hoping that those bumps will help mold a championship contender this year.