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In this March 4, 2017, file photo, Tennessee men's basketball coach Rick Barnes directs his team during an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama, in Knoxville, Tenn. Barnes is on his third athletic director in his short tenure with the Vols. (Calvin Mattheis/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP, File)

KNOXVILLE — The Tennessee men's basketball team cracked the Associated Press Top 25 on Monday for the first time since the Bruce Pearl coaching era.

The Volunteers (6-1) are ranked 24th. They beat Mercer at home last week and defeated Georgia Tech on the road Sunday to follow up on a 2-1 performance in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.

Tennessee was picked 13th out of 14 teams in the Southeastern Conference in a preseason poll of media that cover the league but are one of just four SEC teams currently ranked in the AP poll.

The Vols last were ranked in the AP poll on Dec. 20, 2010, according to Sports Reference archives. That was Pearl's final year as coach.

Pearl's successor, Cuonzo Martin, took Tennessee to the round of 16 in the 2014 NCAA tournament, but the Vols were not included in the season's final AP poll, although they were ranked 23rd in the final USA Today coaches' poll that year.

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Tennessee failed to make the NCAA tournament in the 2014-15 season, which was Donnie Tyndall's lone season as coach, and now Rick Barnes is in his third season leading the program.

Barnes appears to have his strongest team yet after rebuilding the roster through a 15-19 season in 2015-16 and a 16-16 campaign last year.

"It's early still," Barnes said after his team's 77-70 win over Georgia Tech. "We've played some quality teams. We've got a long way to go. Our guys have worked hard. They deserve to have some things happen."

Tennessee hosts Lipscomb on Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena and then gets eight days off before welcoming No. 11 North Carolina on Dec. 17.

The Vols have three wins against power conference opponents to this point — all coming away from home. Tennessee beat Purdue in the opening game of the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas last month. The Boilermakers rebounded from a 1-2 showing in that tournament with quality wins over Louisville, Maryland and Northwestern and were ranked 21st in this week's AP poll.

Tennessee also has wins over RPI top 100 teams North Carolina State and Georgia Tech on its early-season resume.

Contact David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com.

Here is this week's Associated Press Top 25 poll:

Note: Times Free Press beat writer David Cobb is an Associated Press Top 25 voter. He voted Tennessee 19th in this week's poll after leaving the Volunteers out of the poll last week.

1. Duke (65)

2. Kansas

3. Michigan St.

4. Villanova

5. Florida

6. Wichita St.

7. Texas A&M

8. Kentucky

9. Notre Dame

10. Miami

11. North Carolina

12. Gonzaga

13. Xavier

14. Minnesota

15. Virginia

16. Arizona St

17. Cincinnati

18. West Virginia

19. Seton Hall

20. TCU

21. Purdue

22. Nevada

23. Baylor

24. Tennessee

25. Southern Cal

Others receiving votes: Texas Tech 82, UCLA 75, Rhode Island 73, Creighton 53, Louisville 50, Texas 32, Alabama 21, SMU 15, Mississippi St. 11, Kansas State 10, Arizona 10, Washington State 9, Georgia 9, Oklahoma 7, Providence 6, Florida State 6, Clemson 5, Valparaiso 5, Georgetown 4, Texas Arlington 3, Oklahoma State 3, Western Kentucky 2, Towson 1.

This story was updated Dec. 4 at 8:45 p.m. with more information.

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