Tennessee basketball responds Saban-style to being picked to win SEC
Rick Barnes has brought the Tennessee basketball program back to its winning ways since arriving in Knoxville before the 2015-16 season. Despite ending the 2019-20 season 9-9 in the SEC and 17-14 overall, Barnes led the Volunteers to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments in the 2 seasons prior, including a Sweet 16 run in 2019.
This year, a roster led by John Fulkerson and Yves Pons is expected to lead the Vols to the top of the SEC, as they were picked by the media members of the league to win the conference title. It is the first time in 12 years that the media has made such a projection.
The Vols, though, had a perfect response to the news, and they may have taken a page out of the playbook of a highly successful, legendary coach within the conference. On their website, an image of the media release with the words “Rat Poison” in the background is pictured:
Yes, that’s something that you’d expect from Nick Saban himself. And credit is due to Barnes and his team, who understand that the media doesn’t always get it right in their rankings and that things could just as easily go in the other direction. As the full press release notes, Tennessee was picked to finish the 2017-18 season in 13th place; all it did was win the SEC championship and advance to the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to Final Four-bound Cinderella team Loyola-Chicago.
But the Volunteers hope these projections are correct and that big things are to come in this go-around. They open their season against Charlotte on Nov. 25 as part of the Volunteer Classic with VCU.