5. Tennessee (12-4)
In talking about Tennessee it’s easy to focus on their defense, which has been elite these last few seasons. There have certainly been slip-ups this year, like allowing 100 points to North Carolina back in November. However, the Volunteers have shown signs of being a national contender, especially during this recent run of success.
That streak came to an end this week, as the Volunteers fell 77-72 at Mississippi State on Wednesday night. Tennessee couldn’t quite dig back out of a 13-point halftime hole despite 28 points from Dalton Knecht and 26 from Zakai Zeigler. Over the weekend, Tennessee did dig out of a late deficit, pitching a late comeback to secure an 85-79 road win at Georgia. Jonas Aidoo had a double-double but Knecht was certainly the star, putting up 36 points in that wild victory.
Tennessee has been a better offensive unit since Knecht came to town. Their defense wasn’t playing at an elite level in these tough road environments, but this season they aren’t faltering quite as much on the other end. Even with that loss to the Bulldogs, Tennessee is still in fantastic shape and all of their goals lay in front of them in the SEC. That task keeps them in Knoxville next week, as they’ll host Florida and Alabama.