USA Today released their preseason 2013-14 NCAA Basketball coaches’ poll and only two teams from the SEC made it into the top 25. As expected, the Kentucky Wildcats are No. 1 overall, and the Florida Gators snuck into the No. 8 spot. The SEC has many potential NCAA tournament bound teams this season; so, it is strange that only two teams made it into the preseason top 25.
One SEC team that clearly deserved a spot in the top 25 was the Tennessee Volunteers. Cuonzo Martin’s squad is returning four starters and gaining medically redshirted senior Jeronne Maymon. The Volunteers only lost one major contributor, point guard Trae Golden, who didn’t perform up to expectations last season.
Of their five expected starters, shooting guard Jordan McRae is on the first-team preseason All-SEC and post duo Jarnell Stokes and Maymon are on the second-team preseason All-SEC. They are returning one of the most talented and experienced squads in the entire country and deserve more credit coming into the 2013 – 2014 season.
Tennessee’s exclusion from the top 25 shows the conference bias that is prevalent in the NCAA. Because the SEC is so competitive, it’s hard for teams to show out in conference play. Last season, despite only having three teams make it to the NCAA tournament, the SEC led the nation in conferences with the most teams with a 100 RPI or better. That was more teams than the Big East, Big 10 and even the ACC.
On top of that, the Volunteers defeated both the Wichita State Shockers and Florida; two teams that made it to the Elite Eight or further, in Wichita State’s case. This Tennessee squad beat three teams that are currently in the top 16 of the USA Today coaches’ preseason poll and are still not considered at least No. 23 or 24.
Although the Volunteers may have been left out of the preseason top 25, expect them to show out early. Tennessee should run the table in their opening season tournament, the Battle 4 Atlantis, and face the most famous player in the country, Andrew Wiggins, and his team, the Kansas Jayhawks, in the final. If Tennessee can win the Battle 4 Atlantis, expect the Volunteers to quickly become one of the top teams in the country.