As the college basketball season begins to heat up, the cream of the crop are emerging. Traditional powers like the Duke Blue Devils and Kansas Jayhawks hold spots near the top of the AP Poll, but there may be no squad in the nation hotter than the Tennessee Volunteers men’s basketball team.
After throttling the Arkansas Razorbacks, and scoring the most points in an SEC game (106) since 2000, head coach Rick Barnes’ team has put together 11 wins in a row. The Vols only blemish on the season so far came in an overtime loss to Kansas. With depth, experience, and a whole lot of swagger, Tennessee is not only the best team in the Southeastern Conference right now, but they’re arguably the best team in all of college hoops.
According to Elias Sports, the Vols have become only the third team in history to outscore their first four conference opponents — Georgia, Missouri, Florida and Arkansas — by a combined 100 or more points. They join the 2012-13 Florida Gators and the 2001 NCAA Tournament national champion Duke Blue Devils as the only teams to reach that milestone.
In an era of the one-and-done freshman, when players jump to the NBA ranks after their lone season of college basketball, the University of Tennessee is proving that experience reigns supreme. After finishing last season 26-9, including being regular season co-champions of the SEC alongside Auburn, Tennessee returned their top six scorers from that team in 2019, and they haven’t slowed down.
Led by NBA-caliber prospects Grant Williams (18.8 ppg.) and Admiral Schofield (17.7 ppg.), this pair of Vols rank first and second in the SEC in scoring per game. Alongside the rest of this team, the Vols are putting together the pieces for a potentially deep NCAA Tournament run. Earlier this season, they beat then-No. 1 Gonzaga and dropped 100 points on Memphis, so they’re no stranger to big games in big moments.
Williams, a 6-foot-7 forward from Charlotte, North Carolina, is averaging career-highs across the board as a junior. His 7.8 rebounds per game leads the team, plus he’s shooting a whopping 57.1 percent from the floor for the highest scoring team in the conference.
At 6-foot-6, Schofield is fourth in the SEC shooting 46.2 percent from 3-point range through the team’s first 15 games. He’s one of four seniors on this team, and that experience is paying off in a big way.
With the help of Jordan Bone, Jordan Bowden, Kyle Alexander, plus the return of redshirt junior Lamonte Turner from injury, Tennessee basketball has options coming out of their ears with their six top scorers averaging double-digit points heading into the second half of the season.
The Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville is becoming must-see TV for college basketball fans. If the Vols keep this pace and continue to get quality minutes from a team that goes 10 deep, we might be watching the favorites to unseat Kentucky in the SEC, score a No. 1 seed, and be the popular favorite to win it all come tournament time.
Jan. 19: Home vs. Alabama
Jan. 23: Away at Vanderbilt
Jan. 26: Home vs. West Virginia (SEC/Big 12 Challenge)
Jan. 29: Away at South Carolina
Feb. 2: Away at Texas A&M