Two top 10 teams could be squaring off at the NIT Season Tip-Off this November as both Kansas and Tennessee are ranked in ESPN’s Way-Too-Early Top 25. See what ESPN’s Myron Medcalf had to say about each squad:
Bill Self’s squad should defend its Big 12 title streak and make another run in the NCAA tournament. He’ll have more talent. Yeah, it sounds crazy, but Malik Newman — if he returns — will enter next season as a preseason All-American after his dominance in the NCAA tournament. Lagerald Vick and Udoka Azubuike should also return, joining a top-10 recruiting class that features a pair of five-star guards: Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes. Wait, there’s more. Self will also add Memphis transfers K.J. Lawson (12.3 PPG, 8.1 RPG in 2016-17) and Dedric Lawson (19.2 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 2.1 BPG) and Cal transfer Charlie Moore (12.2 PPG, 1.1 SPG), who are all eligible to play next season. Oh, and Romeo Langford, a top-five recruit who is unsigned, could still pick the Jayhawks, too. That’s a helluva talent pool for Self.
Rick Barnes won SEC Coach of the Year honors after a Tennessee team picked to finish at the bottom of the league shared the SEC title with Auburn. The Vols, who finished the season ranked in the top 10 in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom.com, will boast more ambitious aspirations next season when all but one player (James Daniel) will likely return to a roster filled with youth. Grant Williams (15.2 PPG), the SEC Player of the Year, led in points among the top six scorers from 2017-18, all of whom are set to come back and help Barnes chase a national championship. Admiral Schofield averaged 13.9 PPG and made nearly 40 percent of his 3-point attempts. Tennessee will have a talented crew next season.
While not included in the Top 25, other participants Louisville and Marquette are included in Joe Lunardi’s first Bracketology. ESPN’s resident bracketologist has the four NIT Season Tip-Off teams slotted into the following seeds:
Kansas – #1
Tennessee – #3
Louisville – #8
Marquette – #11