Despite Yves Pons back, Joe Lunardi dropped the Tennessee basketball Volunteers.
How in the world does this work out? Tennessee basketball has been looking like an SEC title contender all offseason with the arrival of E.J. Anosike, the return of John Fulkerson and Santiago Vescovi and the top five recruiting class coming in.
Then, Yves Pons, the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2019-2020, announced he would return for his senior season. Somehow, though, after that decision, the Vols dropped in Joe Lunardi of ESPN’s bracketology.
On his Aug. 10 bracket, Lunardi had Tennessee basketball as a No. 5 seed in the Midwest region facing the No. 12 seed Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in the first round. The Virginia Cavaliers were the top seed in that region.
However, in his most recent bracketology before this one, Lunardi had the Vols as a No. 4 seed. What in the world could happen where Rick Barnes’ team would drop after the confirmed return of its senior defensive specialist on the wing?
To be fair, the Vols weren’t the only team to benefit from last week’s NBA decisions. As Grant Ramey of GoVols247 points out, the Illinois Fighting Illini, who went 21-10 under third-year head coach Brad Underwood, received news of guard Ayo Dosunmu and forward Kofi Cockburn returning instead of entering the NBA Draft as well, just like Pons.
Lunardi did move Illinois up from a No. 5 seed to a No. 4 seed, and he has them facing the No. 13 seed Georgia State Panthers in the first round in the West region. The Gonzaga Bulldogs are the No. 1 seed in that region.
Still, there’s no reason that Lunardi couldn’t bump up both teams. How in the world could UT be so low with so much talent coming back and such elite talent coming in? They are considered a favorite to win the SEC and a potential top 10 preseason team.
Most of the time, college basketball ratings look at teams with lots of returning talent and teams with elite recruiting class. Tennessee basketball has both heading into 2019-2020. As a result, dropping the Vols in a bracketology projection after the return of Pons makes no sense.