Lamont Paris isn't one to be concerned about rankings — especially those in the preseason.
Since Paris took over as men's basketball coach at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga before the 2017-18 season, his roster has flipped from year to year due to transfers both out of and into the program. That makes it difficult to know what to expect from his teams, but one constant for the Mocs under the former Wisconsin assistant has been improvement.
A 10-win debut season was followed by 12 wins in 2018-19, which jumped to 20 last season. To continue that progress, UTC must overcome the loss of six players: three to transfer, two to graduation and one, All-Southern Conference forward Ramon Vila of Spain, to the professional ranks.
So the Mocs' seventh-place projection in the SoCon preseason polls, which were announced Wednesday, isn't a surprise. It also wouldn't be a surprise if they outperformed it.
Five players — graduate transfer Josh Ayeni, transfers Malachi Smith and Mark Tikhonenko and redshirt freshmen Jaden Frazier and Jamaal Walker — will make their debuts for the Mocs on Nov. 25 at home against Bellarmine. Two other transfers, guard/forward Darius Banks and forward KC Hankton, are expected to sit out the 2020-21 season.
"We've got a lot of new faces, so no one is going to know much about our guys," Paris said, "but we've got a good group of guys that have been in our program before, and so we feel comfortable about that. It doesn't matter what the expectations are, really. I've been on teams that had high expectations; I've been on a couple of teams that didn't have high expectations and we ended up being really good.
"I think we're all just happy to be playing and getting back to some sense of normalcy and not worrying as much about it."
Fifth-year senior guard David Jean-Baptiste was named to the 11-player preseason All-SoCon team, also released Wednesday.
The UTC women, picked first by the media and second by the coaches ahead of Katie Burrows' third season in charge, were represented by senior forward Bria Dial and junior forward Eboni Williams. Burrows' Mocs shared the SoCon regular-season title last season.