By Jimmy Hyams
No Tennessee men’s basketball team won more games (31) in a season than the 2018-19 version.
No UT men’s basketball team spent more time ranked No. 1 (four weeks). Last season, no other UT team in any sport was close to being ranked No. 1. In fact, only two other teams were ranked in the top 10.
No UT men’s basketball team had more players taken in the modern two-round NBA draft (three).
Rick Barnes’ team also beat top-ranked Gonzaga and thrilled fans with a perfect home record.
The Vols won 11 SEC games in a row, routing Georgia by 46.
While the team didn’t bring home a banner – no other UT team won a banner, either — it did achieve more than any other sports team at UT this past season, giving them the No. 1 ranking in my poll.
Here’s a look at how I ranked other UT sports teams:
- Soccer. The best season in program history saw the team go 16-3-3, play great defense and reach the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
- Volleyball. This team went from 10th in the SEC to second. Under the leadership of first-year coach Eve Rackham, it went from 3 SEC wins to 11, the biggest jump in program history,.
- Softball. Compared to UT baseball, the softball team won more games, had a higher SEC finish and was often ranked in the top 10 this season. That’s reason enough to rank the Lady Vols over UT’s surprisingly good baseball team.
- Baseball. Tony Vitello’s team won 40 games for the first time since 2005. They made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007. Yet, the Vols were still a nine seed in the SEC Tournament.
- Women’s swimming and diving. This team was fourth in the SEC, eighth in the NCAAs.
- Men’s tennis. Chris Woodruff’s squad overachieved, reaching the SEC tournament final and placing fourth in the SEC regular season. It made the NCAA Sweet 16.
- Men’s swimming and diving. This team was third in the SEC and 11th in the NCAAs and produced UT’s only national champion: diver Colin Zeng.
- Women’s tennis. This team made the SEC tournament quarterfinals and placed fourth in the regular season with a 9-4 record.
- Men’s golf. Brennan Webb’s team made the quarterfinals of SEC match play and was sixth in the NCAA regionals.
- Women’s golf. Judi Pavon’s team was 10th in the SEC and 24th and last among those that advanced to the NCAA Championships.
- Men’s cross country. Placed fourth in the SEC.
- Women’s basketball: Won only 19 games – the fewest in 42 years. Placed eighth in the SEC and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
- Football. Went 5-7 in Jeremy Pruitt’s first season and beat two ranked teams (Auburn, Kentucky) but still failed to make a bowl game, finished last in the East and had a better SEC record than only two teams (Arkansas, Ole Miss). That puts them behind Lady Vols basketball.
- Men’s track and field. Placed sixth indoors, seventh outdoors in the SEC but scored just one point in the NCAA outdoor championships.
- Women’s cross country. Placed seventh in the SEC, fourth in NCAA South Region.
- Women’s track and field. Placed eighth indoors, ninth outdoors in the SEC and scored just one point in the NCAA outdoor championships.
- Rowing. Placed sixth in the Big 12.
A few other notes:
- The Vols had a combined winning record in all sports against six other SEC teams, tied four and had losing record against only three (Auburn, Arkansas, Mississippi State).
- The Lady Vols had a combined winning record against 11 other SEC teams, tied one and had a losing record against just one (Vanderbilt).
- All totaled, UT had a combined winning record against 11 SEC teams, tied one (Auburn) and had a losing record against one (Vanderbilt).