Sports Illustrated released its final grades for every college basketball team earlier this week. Tennessee received a final grade of a B+. This raises the question: is that grade fair?
Skeptics will tell you the Vols’ grade should be lower, much lower.
There is a decent argument for Tennessee’s grade to be more in the C range rather than a borderline A. This team came into the year with extremely high expectations and performed well in the regular season. At the end of the day though, they have nothing to show for it.
There are no trophies coming home to Knoxville after this season. No SEC regular season championship, no SEC tournament championship, and only a Sweet 16 appearance in the tournament. It seems as if the memory of this team will eventually fade into oblivion until you hear about them in a trivia question 10 years from now.
On the other hand, there is a good argument for why this team deserves an A grade. This was arguably the best and most fun season in Tennessee basketball history.
Tennessee had spent one week ever atop of the AP poll before this season when the nation saw the Vols sit on top of the mountain for four consecutive weeks.
This year also set the groundwork for many good years of basketball to come. Tennessee is now starting to see high-profile recruits like Josiah James and Corey Walker march their way to Knoxville which would not have happened without the recent success of the team.
Fulmer mentions that Rick Barnes is recruiting at a level “never seen” before at Tennessee in men’s basketball.
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) April 16, 2019
What is even better than the talented players funneling into the program is that Rick Barnes is not involved in any type of scandal surrounding recruiting (cough cough, Will Wade).
From a program building perspective, this season deserves an A.
You could also argue that this grade is just right.
B+ seems to give the perfect balance of how disappointing, yet fun this season was. What really makes the grade seem fair is looking at the full list of the Sports Illustrated SEC grades:
Full list of SEC Basketball season grades via @SInow
Ole Miss: B+
South Carolina: B
Mississippi State: B-
Texas A&M: D
— Alex Abernathy (@TheAbernasty) April 20, 2019
Auburn certainly deserves an A following an SEC tournament championship and a miraculous Final Four run where the Tigers knocked off three of the winningest programs in college basketball history (Kansas, UNC, and Kentucky).
LSU’s grade is debatable considering the Will Wade allegation and tapes. From an on court perspective though, the Tigers made their presence known in the SEC while taking home a regular season championship which well warrants an A.
Tennessee is nuzzled right into the three spot with Ole Miss, who wildly overachieved this year.
Tennessee also graded higher than Kentucky (B) which will put a smile on the face of any Vols fan.
When comparing the grades to other programs in the SEC, a B+ seems pretty fair.
Cover Image: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports