Did anyone expect the Tennessee Volunteers to end up second in the SEC at the end of last year? Did anyone expect a Tennessee team with a first year head coach to beat a strong Florida team twice? What was supposed to be a rebuilding year under first year head coach Cuonzo Martin ended up being a mad dash to March Madness with Tennessee just narrowly missing the cut. They gave up hope in an NIT semi-final loss to Middle Tennessee State, but do not expect the Volunteers to give up this year. These players believe they can win – not only the SEC, but the NCAA national championship as well. Expect big things from this team. Only one starter and one consistent sub graduated last year, who both averaged less than 8 points a game. This team is a darkhorse in the SEC race. No one is talking about this talented young team, and that will only drive these talented players to fight even harder. Florida and Kentucky must not underestimate the Volunteers, because at the end of the season the SEC may be united in an overwhelming chorus of Rocky Top.
Player to watch:
Jarnell Stokes. He’s big, he’s fast, and he’s a proven scorer. What more needs to be said? He might end up one of the best players in the country once March swings around. He performed very well in a tough league for a player who had one practice before his first game straight out of high school. Expect him to return from the offseason faster, stronger, and more accurate after being trained by a talented head coach like Cuonzo Martin.
Where to start…the Volunteers play a tough schedule (including non-conference opponents Memphis, Xavier, Oakland, Georgetown, Virginia, and Wichita State), but expect them to fight through many of these games and come out on top. It is hard to specify a specific match-up to watch for an upset, but Florida was swept last year by the Volunteers, most of who return this year. Tennessee matches up well against Florida; expect Florida to be swept again.
Predicted regular season: 22 – 6