Tennessee's Cierra Burdick indulged in some double vision this week.
The women's basketball forward first imagined how outsiders perceive the Lady Vols. Judging by a week's worth of rankings, her vision was razor sharp.
Burdick was responding to Tennessee being picked fourth in an SEC preseason poll. The Associated Press preseason top 25 poll, which was released on Saturday, had a similar take on her team. A 40-member national media panel ranked the Lady Vols No. 20. Other than the debut poll of 1976-77, when they weren't ranked, it was the lowest preseason ranking in Lady Vols history. The previous low was No. 14 to start 1984-85.
No. 20 amounts to a relatively dim view of a program that has been among the top 10 in every other preseason poll and ranked No. 1 12 times.
Burdick likely wasn't surprised.
"People don't expect much from us," the 6-foot-2 sophomore said on Wednesday. "We have a completely new coaching staff and we have five new people on our team. Quite frankly, I wouldn't expect much from us either."
The outsiders have spoken.
Burdick quickly noted that her best view is from inside UT's ranks and it's much different, much more optimistic.
"Being inside the gym and in between the lines and with my teammates and my coaches," she said, " I know what we're capable of and I know how much talent we have."
Burdick sounded almost defiant in defense of her team.
"I'm looking forward to surprising a lot of people," she said. "A lot of people don't believe in us and don't think we're going to do a lot great things this season. But I'm here to say we are."
Overall, nine teams ranked in the preseason poll dot UT's schedule, including unanimous No. 1 Baylor. Four of those teams — Kentucky, Georgia, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt — are SEC rivals. Kentucky, the preseason pick to win the conference, and Georgia were in the top 10 at sixth and 10th respectively. Texas A&M was 15th and Vanderbilt No. 16.
The Lady Vols' first order of business will be holding their ground. Road games at No 22 Georgia Tech (Nov. 11) and No. 24 Miami (Nov. 18) loom within the first 10 days of the regular season. Tennessee hasn't been unranked since the 13th week of 1984-85.
"I love it when people have us against the wall," Burdick said. "I love it when people aren't expecting much out of us because we're going to surprise them."