Men’s basketball SEC Media Days took place on Wednesday. In addition to Rick Barnes, Tennessee basketball brought Josiah-Jordan James and Santiago Vescovi to the event. However, what stands out is not anything any of those guys said. It’s the inconsistencies with which people are projecting UT this year.
In the final media SEC projections, the Vols are picked to finish third in the league behind the Arkansas Razorbacks and Kentucky Wildcats. However, those same voters named three Vols All-SEC. Vescovi earned first team; James and Zakai Zeigler earned second team.
No other team had more than two players on either team combined, and Arkansas, which is picked ahead of Tennessee basketball, just had one player. Taking that into account, it makes no sense to pick the Hogs ahead of the Vols.
If you want to go by recruiting and point out that Arkansas has three five-stars while also adding five players via the transfer portal, that’s fine. However, the Vols have one five-star in Julian Phillips and added a player via the transfer portal.
That may seem like a huge drop-off, but last time I checked, you can only put five guys on the court at a time. Also, if recruiting and transfers are to be taken into account in the projections, why aren’t they taken into account with All-SEC teams? None of them made it on there.
Simply put, it’s wildly inconsistent to justify UT beating Arkansas 3-1 in terms of SEC talent while they are bringing in enough new talent but then having them behind the Hogs in SEC standings. Barnes’ team should easily be picked second.
Now, if you want to put Kentucky ahead of them, that makes sense. UK does beat them on the recruiting trail with more five-stars as well, and while they have fewer All-SEC players, it’s just by one, and they have more first team All-SEC players. Both their players made first team.
One of those players was guard Sahvir Wheeler. More notably, though, is the fact that the other is forward Oscar Tshiebwe, and he’s the projected SEC Player of the Year. As a result, Kentucky being ahead of Tennessee basketball makes some sense.
Still, there are inconsistencies on that front, as UK just has two five-stars, and like the Vols, they just added one transfer. As a result, you have to rely on All-SEC talent to make the case for John Calipari’s team above Arkansas, but how can you do that for them and not the Vols?
A lot of this follows the logic of the AP Poll, which came out Monday. The Vols came in at No. 11, one spot behind Arkansas, who came in at No. 10. Kentucky came in at No. 5. Just like SEC projections, Tennessee basketball is being undervalued here.