Tennessee hasn’t won an outright SEC regular season title in men’s basketball since the 2007-08 season. Last year, the Vols split the regular season title with Auburn after both teams went 13-5 in conference play in the regular season. But it’s been over a decade since Tennessee has been the outright winner of the conference in the regular season.
In fact, Tennessee has only been the outright winner of the SEC regular season title twice in school history. They did so in 2008 and also in 1967. The other eight time the Vols have been crowned an SEC regular season champion, they’ve done so as a co-champion. In 1936, 1941, 1943, 1972, 1977, and 1982, Tennessee split the regular season crown with Kentucky. In 2000, the Vols were part of a four-way tie for the conference regular season title along with Kentucky, Florida, and LSU.
Right now, the Vols sit atop the SEC with a 12-1 conference record. So what are the chances that the Vols end the regular season as the lone conference champions?
According to TeamRankings.com, the Vols have a 50.1 percent chance of winning the regular season title in the SEC outright. They project Tennessee to finish with a 15-3 record in SEC play at the end of the season, edging out both Kentucky and LSU. Those projections give Kentucky a 26.6 percent shot at winning the regular season title and LSU a 23.3 percent chance.
ESPN is actually even higher on Tennessee’s chances of winning the conference.
Per their Basketball Power Index ratings, the Vols have a 70.2 percent shot of winning the SEC regular season title this year. The BPI gives Kentucky the second-best odds of winning the title, giving them a 40.3 percent chance of doing so. LSU has a 24.8 percent chance of being crowned the SEC regular season champion.
So how will Tennessee finish the regular season according to these various outlets? Both ESPN and TeamRankings project the Vols with a very good chance of finishing the 2018-19 regular season with only three losses.
Weirdly enough, TeamRankings actually gives the Vols’ a higher chance of finishing the regular season with a 27-4 record rather than a 28-3 record despite projecting Tennessee to be the favorites in four of their last five regular season games.
TeamRankings says UT has a 34.6 percent chance of finishing the regular season with a 27-4 record and a 28.2 percent shot of finishing with a 28-3 mark. Their projections only have the Vols with a nine percent chance of winning out in the regular season.
Tennessee, however, has a better than 50 percent chance of winning four of their five remaining games according to TeamRankings.
Here’s the breakdown of the Vols’ odds of winning their final five regular season games according to TeamRankings:
at LSU: 56.7%
at Ole Miss: 67.7%
vs. Kentucky: 64.7%
vs. Mississippi State: 81.4%
at Auburn: 41.1%
ESPN’s match-up analysis predictor falls almost exactly in line with TeamRankings’ projections for the Vols’ final five regular season games.
The ESPN predictions think more highly of Tennessee’s chances against Ole Miss on the road and give the Vols slightly better odds on the road against Auburn. They also are a little more down on UT’s odds of beating Kentucky at home, though the Vols are still the favorite in that one.
Here’s how ESPN’s predictions play out over the last five games of the regular season:
at LSU: 58.2%
at Ole Miss: 72.9%
vs. Kentucky: 63.5%
vs. Mississippi State: 83.9%
at Auburn: 43.2%
The site DRatings.com is fairly similar across the board in their predictions for the Vols’ final five games, but they’re the only service that actually thinks Tennessee will beat Auburn on the road. Here’s how that site sees Tennessee’s final five games playing out:
at LSU: 57.1%
at Ole Miss: 64.5%
vs. Kentucky: 62.1%
vs. Mississippi State: 84.2%
at Auburn: 57.1%
The biggest outlier in all these final season projections is actually RealTimeRPI. The RPI is no longer the main measuring tool used by the NCAA Selection Committee to help determine NCAA Tournament seeding and who makes it in to the Big Dance and who doesn’t. The RPI has been replaced by the NET rating system. But the RPI still functions and is still calculated, and RealTimeRPI still predicts match-ups and gives rankings for teams.
According to RealTimeRPI, the Vols are going to close the regular season losing three of their last five games. They have UT winning their two remaining home games against Kentucky and Mississippi State, but they have them losing close contests against the three teams they face on the road.
Here is how RealTimeRPI sees Tennessee’s regular season finishing up:
at LSU: 40.1%
at Ole Miss: 45.9%
vs. Kentucky: 67.6%
vs. Mississippi State: 70.1%
at Auburn: 44.3%
If you average together the odds from all four sites (TeamRankings, ESPN, DRatings, RealTimeRPI), here is how Tennessee’s chances of winning each of their next five games plays out:
at LSU: 53.03%
at Ole Miss: 62.75%
vs. Kentucky: 64.48%
vs. Mississippi State: 79.90%
at Auburn: 46.43%
It’s clear that the Vols are favored on the road against LSU, but not by much. And for some reason, almost all the projections just really don’t like Tennessee in their season finale on the road against Auburn. The only site to predict the Vols to be the winners in that one is DRatings. Every other site thinks Auburn will defend their home court in that match-up.
Tennessee’s final five games of the regular season are rough contests. All five opponents are inside the top 35 of the NET rankings, and three of them (Auburn, LSU, Kentucky) are ranked inside the top 20 of the NET.
It won’t be easy for the Vols to close out the regular season as conference champions, but they have the best shot of doing so of anyone else in the SEC according to the odds. And they can really help their cause this Saturday when they take on LSU in Baton Rouge for a 12:00 Eastern tip-off.