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Tennessee Basketball Makes First AP Poll Appearance Since Pearl Era

Kyle Zedaker/Tennessee Athletics

While most of the sports world was focused on the NFL and the College Football Playoff unveiling, Tennessee fans hadn’t forgot about basketball.

Coming off a road win over Georgia Tech, the Vols found themselves ranked in the AP Poll for the first time in nearly seven years. The No. 24 Volunteers have taken the basketball world by storm, and look destined to topple some preseason expectations.

Exceeding Expectations

Tennessee was voted to finish 13th of 14 teams at SEC Media Days during the preseason.nKnoxville remained positive, using the rankings as fuel for the fire. Tennessee has handily dominated its unranked mid-major foes and competed well in the Bahamas beating No. 21 Purdue and NC State while losing a hard-fought battle to No. 4 Villanova. The Volunteers have shown that they have the ability to compete with anyone. Against Georgia Tech, the team showed this once again.

The orange and white have shown the ability to adapt and adjust to their opponents. When teams play zone defense, Tennessee plays inside-out. When teams play man, Grant Williams gets as many touches as they can give him. Whether scoring in pairs or in threes, the Volunteers have looked poised for a deep March run in the first third of the season.

Tough Schedule Still To Come

Despite some tough early battles, the schedule doesn’t get any easier. Tennessee welcomes No. 11 North Carolina to Knoxville in just under two weeks in a rematch of last season’s thriller in Chapel Hill. This test will be the biggest yet, as the defending champions have looked just as lethal this year as they were last season.

The SEC schedule will be just as treacherous. The conference has three teams in the current AP top ten: No. 5 Florida, No. 7 Texas A&M, and No. 8 Kentucky. The Vols will have three home games against these teams (one apiece) and a road game against No. 8 Kentucky. The SEC also has only one team with a losing record. The rest of the league has started strong.

Questions Remain

Despite getting off to a hot start, Tennessee still faces questions. Although its been a positive so far, the team’s youth is still a big question. Can it keep successfully handling the pressure of close games? Can the Vols weather long runs from more experienced teams? These questions will need to be answered in the coming weeks.

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