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Vols’ title odds rise following Pons’ decision to return for senior year

Photo credit: Anne Newman/RTI

Tennessee’s highly anticipated 2020-21 basketball roster was solidified on Monday afternoon when forward Yves Pons announced his return.

The Vols now boast the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year and the nation’s No. 4 overall recruiting class, according to 247Sports. They also added Sacred Heart graduate transfer E.J. Anosike this offseason.

Oddsmakers have made a quick adjustment to Tennessee’s title odds for the upcoming season. The Vols opened at 50/1 to win the 2021 NCAA Tournament at almost every sportsbook after the 2020 season was canceled in March.

They have leapt up the odds sheet since then, though. William Hill, a prominent sportsbook in Las Vegas, has moved Tennessee to 25/1 to win the title. Offshore sportsbook BetOnline has shifted the Vols from 50/1 to 22/1, making a slight move from 25/1 after Pons’ announcement on Monday.

BetOnline has the Vols at +450 to make the Final Four. In percentage terms, the odds are placing a Final Four berth at 18% and a title victory at 3.85%. There are 20 teams within 5/1 odds to make the Final Four, though, so betting Tennessee at +450 would be considered a ‘sucker bet’ among professional bettors.

Tennessee’s 25/1 odds mark the school’s best pre-season title odds since 2010-11, when the Vols were 22/1. That season ended in disappointment, as Michigan defeated Bruce Pearl’s team by 30 points in what proved to be his final game as head coach.

This is Vegas’ third-highest expectations for a Tennessee team since pre-season odds were first released. Tennessee was 20/1 entering the 2008-09 season, which ended in a first-round NCAA Tournament loss to Oklahoma State.

The 2018-19 season was long-awaited by Tennessee fans, but Vegas only listed the Vols at 40/1 in the preseason odds. They went 31-6, but the season ended with a loss to Loyola-Chicago in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Iowa moved to second in the Vegas odds to win the 2021 title after Luka Garza announced his return on Monday. The Hawkeyes are +750, while Villanova has the shortest odds at +700.

Kentucky is the only SEC team with better odds to win the championship than Tennessee. The Wildcats are currently 12/1. Florida is priced at 30/1, while LSU and Auburn are both sitting at 40/1.

Tennessee finished the 2019-20 season with a losing record against-the-spread, going 14-17. The biggest upset came in an 81-73 road win against Kentucky as 8.5-point underdogs on March 3.

The Vols did not cover many spreads at home, going 6-11 ATS. They were 6-5 ATS on the road and 2-1 ATS in neutral site games.

Games at Thompson-Boling Arena tended to be low-scoring, with six of 17 games going over the betting total. Eight of the Vols’ 11 road games went over the number.

Tennessee is No. 17 in BetOnline’s list of teams to win the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

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