Tennessee men’s basketball makes AP Top 25 for first time since 2010
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee is back in the AP Top 25 men’s basketball poll for the first time in nearly seven years.
The Vols (6-1) cracked the rankings at No. 24 on the heels of Sunday’s night’s 77-70 win at Georgia Tech (4-2) in Atlanta, the team’s third win over an ACC school (counting an exhibition win at Clemson).
It’s worth noting that Purdue — a team Tennessee beat 78-75 on a neutral floor in the Bahamas on Nov. 22 — is ranked No. 21 with an 8-2 record.
The Vols were picked to finish 13 in the conference at SEC Media Days in October, but they are one of four SEC teams currently ranked in the Top 25. (No. 5 Florida, No. 7 Texas A&M and No. 8 Kentucky are the others).
Today’s Question of the Day was more of a statement from Tennessee fan Trent Waller after the Vols beat the Yellow Jackets for a second straight year.
Question of the day
AP poll better start showing us respect
So here it is, the respect Tennessee fans wanted — No. 24 in the poll and back in college basketball’s stream of consciousness.
It’s fair to wonder if Purdue should be ranked ahead of the Vols, but in the big picture, this is a start. After all, it’s an unspoken rule that teams ranked in the Top 25 get their game highlights shown on ESPN and other national cable sports shows.
Vols coach Rick Barnes said Sunday night that last year’s Tennessee team might not have been able to handle the praise that comes with a 6-1 start — the program’s best since Bruce Pearl’s final team opened the 2010-11 season at 7-0 with a win over then-No. 2 Pittsburgh.
That was also the last time Tennessee basketball was ranked in the AP Top 25.
Distractions from an NCAA investigation — ESPN analyst Dick Vitale mercilessly took shots at the Vols’ program — took a toll and led to consecutive losses to Oakland, Charlotte and Southern California the week of Dec. 14-21, 2010.
“We’ve still got a long way to go, but our guys have worked hard, and they deserve to have some good things happen,” Barnes said after Sunday’s victory.
“I think they know that, who we are right now, we can’t be that in time — we have to still get better,” Barnes said. “Whereas a year ago, I don’t know if they knew that.”
Tennessee’s next game is at 2:15 p.m. on Saturday in Thompson-Boling Arena against Lipscomb. The Vols’ next opportunity to make national waves will come on Sunday, Dec. 17, when they host No. 11 North Carolina.