Rosy outlook for Vol hoops?

Tennessee's meteoric rise in college basketball is not ready to end. That's the opinion of hoops analysts for three national sports web sites – Gary Parrish of cbssportsline.com, Andy Katz of ESPN.com and Ryan Fagan of sportingnews.com.

Following records of 22-8 in 2005-06 and 24-11 in 2006-07, the Vols clearly have earned the respect of the national media.

Parrish tabs Tennessee No. 6 nationally in his preseason picks for 2007-08. In an article titled "Preseason Top 25 (and one)," he lists UCLA, Kansas, Memphis, North Carolina and Louisville as his top five picks for next season, with UT, Ohio State, Southern Cal, Washington State and Kansas State rounding out the top 10.

Parrish's projections are based in part on how many underclassmen each team will lose. Once he offers his prediction in this regard, he gives an explanation for his ranking.

Here's what he has to say about the Vols:

"My guess: Nobody leaves early.

"My explanation: Wait until you see what Bruce Pearl is capable of with experienced talent."

Parrish ranks two more SEC teams – Arkansas (18th) and Alabama (19th) – in his top-25, then gives two-time defending national champ Florida the No. 26 spot based on the premise that Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Corey Brewer will turn pro rather than return for their senior seasons.

Katz tabs Tennessee No. 10 in his preliminary rankings for 2007-08. He has Kansas No. 1, followed by UCLA, North Carolina, Memphis, Ohio State, Southern Cal, Georgetown, Washington State, Louisville and UT.

Here's how Katz justifies the Vols' No. 10 ranking:

"Why: Chris Lofton. He's not expected to leave. If he stays, the Vols have a lethal shooting weapon and a style of play that causes problems for opponents. Ohio State wasn't the only team that was down in double figures against Tennessee. The problem is the Vols still can let teams climb back in, making them the most vulnerable of the top 10 teams."

Mississippi State (No. 24) is the only other SEC team to make Katz's rankings, although he says Alabama, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Arkansas, Auburn and LSU could show up once all of the NBA defections are announced. Katz also predicts that Noah, Horford, Brewer will bolt for the NBA, dropping Florida out of the top 25.

Finally, Fagan lists Tennessee as one of the "Teams on the rise" in an article called "Rising sophomores and rising teams for '07-'08."

Here are his comments on the Vols:

"Tennessee. That first half shooting clinic against Ohio State in the Sweet 16 was just a taste of what the Volunteers can do, especially if Chris Lofton stays. The Vols have a ton of depth and are losing only one senior."

Fagan lists Florida among the "Teams headed for a fall." Like Parrish and Katz, he bases his projection on the belief that the nucleus of the two title teams will be playing in the NBA next winter.

Here are Fagan's comments on the Gators:

"Florida. Scratch the Gators off this list if Al Horford, Corey Brewer, Joakim Noah, Taurean Green and Billy Donovan all stay in Gainesville. And scratch off a few lottery tickets while you're at it."


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