1. Tennessee (7-1): The Volunteers are the clear class of the state. Their only loss on the season was to 4th-ranked Purdue in St. Thomas. That was a very winnable game and the team hasn't had a close game since. UT has already defeated two in-state schools (ETSU and MTSU) and will play Memphis on New Year's Eve. The Vols play Wyoming tonight and will travel to the West Coast to play USC on Saturday.
2. Memphis (7-1): John Calipari has received all this buzz this year for his incredible start at Kentucky. His replacement and former assistant Josh Pastner has done an incredible job, with the Tigers seemingly not missing a beat. In their only real test of the season, Memphis lost a close game to No. 1 Kansas. Other than the Jayhawks, the Tigers have not played anyone to brag about. Memphis has won their seven games by an average of 26 points, including a 92-59 victory over Tennessee Tech. They travel to play UMASS this Saturday.
3. Belmont (7-2): I'm giving the Bruins the nod over Vanderbilt. They have only lost at Washington and to a solid Wright State squad. To be blunt, if you put Vandy and Belmont on a neutral court, I think its a toss up. After games this week against Saint Louis and Eastern Illinois, they will travel to Kansas and try to shock the nation.
4. Vanderbilt (6-3): The Commodores should be 11-3 headed into its first SEC game against Florida. The 'Dores play Tennessee State and Mercer this week. Things are pretty rough right now for Vanderbilt after suffering back-to-back losses against Illinois and Western Kentucky. This week should give them a nice chance to figure things out.
5. Austin Peay (7-4): The Governors have played well over their first 11 games. They opened the season with a 29-point loss to Tennessee. They get their chance at another top top squad this week. They travel to Lexington on Saturday to take on UK. A solid showing there should give them confidence going into OVC play.
6. Chattanooga (5-5): Vanderbilt transfer Keegan Bell is playing well for the Mocs, averaging 8.7 points and 6.3 assists. Three of the team's losses have been against very solid squads (Richmond, Missouri, and Georgia Tech). Chattanooga will play Murray State and the famous Tennessee Temple Crusaders this week.
7. East Tennessee State (5-6): Their results for the year are all over the board. They lost to Chattanooga and Murray State, but beat a very good College of Charleston and played Tennessee close. They are 1-0 in the Atlantic Sun and play two conference games this week (Jacksonville and USC Upstate). It appears they have to talent to challenge for the conference's automatic tournament birth.
8. Tennessee Tech (4-6): The good news: Going into OVC play, the Golden Eagles have experience under their belt playing three great teams (Kansas, Memphis, and Minnesota). The bad news: They lost those games by a combined score of 291-184. That's an average of 35 points in the three losses. This week, they play a non-Division 1 school: the Bryan Lions.
9. Lipscomb (4-5): After four losses to start the season (including Vanderbilt and Tennessee Tech), the Bison have won four of their last five. Junior Adnan Hodzic is averaging 21 points and seven rebounds to lead the team. Lipscomb could challenge Belmont for the A-Sun title. Their next two games will be rough, hitting the road to face Cincinnati and Arizona.
10. Middle Tennessee State (4-6): The Blue Raiders played well in their loss to Tennessee in the Sun Belt Classic. The problem is that the squad hasn't beaten anybody to write home about. Their four wins were against King College, Lamar, Cumberland University, and SIU-Edwardsville. They do not play again until next Tuesday. I was very impressed with senior Desmond Yates against UT. He scored 26 and was the only real scoring threat for the team.
11. Tennessee State (2-8): Not much to say here. Somehow they beat Detroit and a Kennesaw State team that beat Lipscomb and took Belmont to overtime. They play Alabama A&M tonight and provide Vanderbilt and chance to get back on the winning path on Saturday. I would be impressed if the team gets anywhere near .500 in OVC play.
12. Tennessee-Martin (1-7): After losing top scorer Lester Hudson at the end of last season, it looks like the wheels are coming off. The team's only win this season was against Harris-Stowe, which may be the name of a grocery store. I'm not sure. The team will likely chalk up two more losses this week against Evansville and Florida State.