After a red-hot late April to revamp its roster, Tennessee basketball has largely remained stable. However, other teams have been moving around, and that has led to the Vols slowly dropping in many early preseason rankings while staying a top 25 team.
The updated top 25 and 1 by Gary Parrish of CBS Sports saw Rocky Top drop another spot, now to No. 18. This was specifically due to the rise of Rick Barnes’ old team, the Texas Longhorns, who jumped nine spots from No. 23 to No. 14.
New Texas head coach Chris Beard has secured a commitment from 6’9″ UMASS Minutemen transfer center Tre Mitchell. He joins three other high-profile transfers to the program who, along with Beard’s, give people like Parrish plenty of reason to be high on this new-look Texas team.
What appears to be holding the Vols back is how Barnes struggled last year with a loaded roster. It wasn’t the first time he struggled with such talent either, as multiple teams he coached at Texas, ironically, were loaded with a mix of elite recruits and returning talent and underachieved.
It seems as if Barnes does much better with just returning talent, and this team on Rocky Top is once again depending on a blend of returning talent and new, incoming elite recruits. As such, other programs running that blend are going to get more credence.
This is why the Alabama Crimson Tide and Arkansas Razorbacks started out ahead of the Vols and the Kentucky Wildcats have since moved ahead of them as well in Parrish’s rankings. UT is also barely ahead of the Auburn Tigers, who currently stand at No. 20 in Parrish’s rankings.
At this point, it’s unlikely Tennessee basketball gets back into the top 15 of Parrish’s rankings. They are probably done upgrading their roster for the year, and other programs are still improving, but as things settle down, it seems as if they’ll remain in the top 20. Either way, Barnes has a lot to prove this year, but it’s impressive how quickly he reloaded the roster.