There are high expectations on the Tennessee basketball team for the upcoming 2018-19 season. However, there are a few tough stretches of games on the schedule.
Yes, it is technically football season, and while Tennessee fans love their basketball team, Football rules over all. However, the Tennessee basketball team should be one of the top teams in the country, so it is never too early to discuss the program, right?
The job Rick Barnes has done with this team is more than impressive. Donnie Tyndall led the Vols to a 16-16 record and didn’t leave much talent on the roster.
It didn’t get any better the first two season under Barnes, his teams played hard, but the record didn’t indicate much improvement. The Vols went 31-35 in his first two seasons. Going into season three most people still didn’t expect for the Vols to have much success. They were projected to finished 13th in the SEC standings. But, oh how everything changed.
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The hustle plays started going Tennessee’s way. The bounces started to fall, and the wins came more often. The Vols ended as co-regular season SEC Champs with a 26-9 overall record. 26 wins marked the highest win total since the 2009-10 season under Bruce Pearl.
So, now present-day expectations are set high, maybe too high. Tennessee should be one of the favorites to win the SEC. They also should be in the mix as one of the teams that could win a National Championship. However, the schedule does not look easy.
We all know about the tough games apart of the nonconference. The Vols will host Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. West Virginia also travels to Knoxville for the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
Other nonconference games include Louisville in the Preseason NIT Tip-Off with the potential of playing the Kansas Jayhawks. There is also Gonzaga and Memphis apart of the nonconference schedule.
Moving forward to the SEC schedule the Vols start at by hosting Georgia. First-year head coach, Tom Crean will have to coach his first conference game at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The first tough stretch of games starts on January 19 when the Crimson Tide rolls into town. That game is followed by a road trip to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt, who is going to have a team that could contend for an SEC Title. The two games that follow are West Virginia and a trip to South Carolina to take on the Gamecocks.
Another tough run in the schedule starts on February 9 when the Florida Gators come to Knoxville, followed by the second game of the season against the Gamecocks.
Then comes a trip to Rupp Arena to play the Wildcats, a place Tennessee won’t be scared to play. After Kentucky, the Vols travel back home to host Vanderbilt.
If the Vols get out of that four-game stretch 2-2, everyone should be happy.
One thing we have to remember next season is teams will be out to upset the Vols every chance they get. So long to the days where Tennessee was a surprise team. The 2018-19 season, the Vols are going to have to fend off the new surprise teams. If they can, it could be an extraordinary season.