Many key players return from UT's 2009-10 men's basketball team, one of the most successful seasons in school history.
The Vols will return most of their rotation, with the exception of three key players: Wayne Chism, J.P. Prince and Bobby Maze.
Replacing the three starters will be no easy task. One of the main factors for UT's success will be the play of junior guard Scotty Hopson.
Ranked as the fifth best player in the country out of high school, according to Rivals.com, Hopson averaged 12.2 points per game last season, second only to Chism's 12.6. Many believe Hopson still has not met his full potential since enrolling at UT.
However, this season will be a true test to Hopson's legacy as this will be his chance to be "the go-to guy" for the Vols. With the absence of Chism and Prince, many fans regard the 2010-11 Volunteers as "Hopson's team."
Many other players are looking to become leaders for this upcoming season. Along with Hopson, much of the hype surrounding the returning Vols falls upon Brian Williams, Melvin Goins and Cameron Tatum. All received significant amounts of playing time last year.
Williams was one of the most improved players over the course of the entire season for UT.
Following the well-documented New Year's Day suspensions, Williams took the time off and trimmed down on his weight, which helped improved his quality of play. He takes this philosophy into the upcoming season as he has dedicated this summer to getting into the best shape in his career as a Volunteer.
Williams spent three weeks in July training with Frank Matrisciano in San Francisco, where he dropped 15 pounds. Williams' expectations for himself, as well as his team, are high going into this season.
"Numbers wise, I'm trying to be the best I've been since I've been here," Williams said. "My goal is to average a double-double. I want to have at least 10 rebounds every game, or I'm disappointed with myself. And playing over 25 total minutes (per game) is also a goal for me. That's something I didn't do until the NCAA tournament. As a team, my goal is to win the SEC championship."
Goins started a few games last season, although Maze saw the majority of playing time at the point guard position. Goins is regarded by many, including coach Bruce Pearl, as the first true point guard to play for UT since C.J. Watson.
Goins will also take on the role of a leader for the freshmen this season, a role he is willing to accept.
"I just think I have to be very active and lead by my actions first," Goins said. "I have to never take a play off, stay at it and take care of my responsibilities. Just be a leader and fit into that title. I just want to get better everyday as a basketball player and as a leader."
Tatum has been another key scoring threat for the Vols. The swingman averaged 7.4 points per game last season while seeing an increase in playing time toward the end of the season.
However, his role will likely be increased following the departure of Prince. Pearl acknowledged how much Tatum will be relied upon this upcoming season.
"I think Cameron Tatum is one of the guys who will have the most changed role this season," Pearl said. "He's always been one of our leaders and will see a lot of playing time if he can stay healthy."