ESPN on Monday issued a summer update to its College Basketball Power Index for the 2018-19 season. It was flattering news for the Tennessee basketball program.

The Vols came in at No. 3 in the updated BPI — with a score of 10.7; ranked No. 8 in offense and No. 5 in defense — trailing only No. 1 Kansas and No. 2 Gonzaga.

The bad news? Tennessee plays Gonzaga in December in the Jerry Colangelo Classic in Phoenix. The Vols could face both Kansas and Marquette, the surprise No. 4 team in ESPN’s BPI, during the NIT Season Tip-Off Nov. 21-23 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

West Virginia, coming in at No. 5, is Tennessee’s Big 12-SEC Challenge opponent at home in January.

According to ESPN, the preseason rankings come from these categories:

“The quality and quantity of the returning players on the team, including transfers and players who missed last season because of injury; recruiting rankings, both overall and the number of five-star prospects; and coaches' past performances on offense and defense.”

It was noted by ESPN that only twice since 2007 has the national champion come from outside of the top four teams in the BPI’s October preseason update. It was UConn both times.

Other notable rankings in Monday’s summer update: No. 6 North Carolina; No. 9 Duke; No. 12 Florida; No. 16 Villanova; No. 17 Mississippi State; No. 18 Auburn; No. 20 Alabama; No. 22 Kentucky.

Tennessee returns its top six scorers — Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield, Lamonte Turner, Jordan Bowden, Jordan Bone and Kyle Alexander — after going 26-9 last season, winning a share of the SEC regular-season title and playing as a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament last season.

The Vols have been a top-five preseason team in four other summer projections from various media outlets and have been a No. 1 seed (CBS Sports) and a No. 2 seed (ESPN) in summer bracketology updates:

ESPN’s Myron Medcalf in June ranked Tennessee No. 5 in his “Way-Too-Early Top 25"

“Kudos to Admiral Schofield for exploring his pro prospects by entering the draft before making the right decision to return to Knoxville to chase a first Final Four appearance in school history,” Medcalf wrote. “The Vols are stacked and ready to defend the SEC title they shared with Auburn in 2017-18.

“Schofield will pair with SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams (15.2 PPG) to form one of the nation's top duos.

“We know the Vols will defend well -- they ranked in the top 10 in adjusted defensive efficiency last year -- and Rick Barnes reminded doubters he's still one of the game's elite coaches with his effort last year. Things are trending up for Tennessee.”

Andy Katz,’s college basketball correspondent, had the Vols fourth in his Power 36 released in June.

“The Volunteers will be in quite a tussle atop the SEC with Kentucky and Auburn,” Katz wrote. “But Tennessee has an experienced frontline that will be tough to match in Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams.

“This team also is no longer sneaking up on opponents. The Volunteers will head into the season confident and self-assured that they can compete for a deep NCAA tournament run.”

— College hoops national analysts Jon Rothstein, on FanRag Sports, and CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish both had Tennessee at No. 3 in their offseason rankings.

“Tennessee should return most of the important pieces from a team that shared the SEC regular-season title,” Parrish wrote. “More specifically, the top six scorers are back — among them SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams. So it'll come as no surprise when the Vols finish at, or near, the top of the league again.”

— CBS Sports bracketolgist Jerry Palm in June had the Vols as a No. 1 seed (No. 3 overall) in his "way-too-early preseason bracket.” ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi had Tennessee as a No. 2 seed in the June 8 update of his summer bracket.