Tennessee’s basketball team is off to a hot start.
The Vols have a 2-0 record with wins over Tennessee Tech and Wisconsin.
The Vols’ 80-70 win at Wisconsin on Friday night offered an early resume boost for Tennessee, which also beat highly-ranked Michigan State in East Lansing in a preseason exhibition game.
One big reason for the early success has been Dalton Knecht, a wing transfer from Northern Colorado.
Knecht scored 24 points against Wisconsin and is averaging 20.5 points through the first two games. (He also scored 28 points against Michigan State.)
Knecht’s impact and the Vols’ returning talent caused CJ Moore of The Athletic to rank Tennessee No. 1 in the country after the first week of the season.
“I’m running for president of the Dalton Knecht fan club,” Moore wrote.” He is the All-American no one saw coming. We had Knecht at No. 44 in our transfer portal rankings, so it wasn’t like he was completely off the radar.
“But Knecht was on a losing team and a second-team All-Big Sky selection last year at Northern Colorado. Second team! If we had a do-over on the transfer rankings, I’d have him neck and neck with Hunter Dickinson (of Kansas) for the top spot. (Knecht is) that good.”
Moore, who predicted Knecht will go in the first round of the upcoming NBA Draft, is just the latest national media member to sing the praises of Tennessee (and Knecht).
Last week, ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg picked Tennessee as his national champion.
“They’ve got great depth,” Greenberg said on ESPN. “They’re playing with much greater flow. They’re playing in transition. They have more shot-makers. You know they’re going to defend. I think Tennessee makes a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.”
Long-time college hoops writer Andy Katz also ranked Tennessee No. 1 in his updated power rankings on Monday.
All of this came after Michigan State coach Tom Izzo called Tennessee a Final Four team following the Spartans’ exhibition game against Tennessee.
It’s very early in the college basketball season. Tennessee has a lot more to prove beyond one or two weeks of basketball.
The Vols will have a chance to showcase themselves further next week when they play in a loaded Maui Invitational in Honolulu.
But there’s no denying the hype surrounding Tennessee’s basketball team.
It’s only getting started.