Barnes and the boys ready for the national spotlight this season

Sports

The Volunteers host the Jayhawks for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge on January 30

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – The Tennessee men’s basketball team was picked 16th by Andy Katz in the NCAA.com’s Power 36 college basketball rankings, but could very well jump in the top 10 at any point this season.

The Vols return four of their top-six leading scorers, including Kingsport native John Fulkerson. The redshirt-senior tied a team-high with 13.7 points per game and chipped in nearly six boards a contest, while starting all 31 games last season.

Senior forward Yves Pons (10.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg) also led the conference with 73 blocks last season. Barnes also brings back Santiago Vescovi (10.7 ppg) and Josiah-Jordan James (7.4 ppg).

On top of that, Tennessee features one of the nations best incoming freshman classes with five-star guards Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer leading the way.

All these pieces will be crucial for the Volunteers showdown with Kansas on January 30 in Knoxville. Barnes knows it’s going to be an amazing atmosphere when Bill Self and his squad rolls into town.

“I think when a team like that comes in, I don’t think there’s any better arena in the country. I think anytime you go out, you have the chance to do something for your program one way or the other,” Barnes said.

“We want to be in those games. We want to play one of the best schedules in the country. We will play anybody. It’s a challenge, but those are the kind of challenges that you look forward to.”

This marks the third straight season the Vols and Jayhawks will meet. Kansas successfully defended its home court in last year’s challenge, despite a career-high 24 points from returning senior Yves Pons and the Jayhawks also defeated UT in overtime at the 2018 NIT Season Tip-Off championship game in New York City.

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