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Examining Tennessee Basketball’s SEC Championship Hopes With One Week Remaining

Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

For the first time all season, Tennessee basketball moved into sole possession of first place in the SEC on Saturday night when they went into Tuscaloosa and knocked off No. 14 Alabama 81-74 at Coleman Coliseum.

The Vols entered the night tied with Alabama atop the SEC standings and enter the final week of the regular season a game ahead of both Alabama and South Carolina.

But the job is far from finished for Tennessee. The Vols have a daunting final week of the regular season, traveling to No. 18 South Carolina on Wednesday night before hosting No. 16 Kentucky in the regular season finale on Saturday afternoon.

“That’s the most important thing to us right now,” super senior Josiah-Jordan James said of the SEC Championship race on Saturday. “That’s the first goal that we have in mind. The first championship that we’re trying to win. So like I said, the two teams that we have next are just as good as anybody in the league. It’s going to be tough down at South Carolina, they’re a really good team and they beat us the first time so we have to prove that we’ve grown from that game and Kentucky is going to come in on Saturday with a lot of vengeance but we have one at South Carolina first.”

Here are all the scenarios to know for Tennessee’s SEC Championship hopes entering the final week of the season.

The Vols needs to win just one game to guarantee a share of the conference championship. Two wins clinch an outright conference championship. Tennessee could also clinch the outright title by Wednesday night if Florida defeats Alabama on Tuesday and the Vols knock off South Carolina.

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Tennessee could still win the conference title outright if the fell at South Carolina but would need to beat Kentucky and need the Gamecocks to lose at Mississippi State and for Alabama to drop a game against either Florida or Arkansas.

The SEC crowns multiple champions instead of using tiebreakers if there is a tie atop its standings to end the season. But as far as the tiebreakers are concerned with SEC Tournament seeding, Tennessee would lose the tiebreaker against South Carolina and win a tiebreaker with Alabama.

Analytics based college basketball website gives Tennessee a 95.2% chance of earning a share of the conference title and a 68.5% chance of winning the title outright. Alabama has a 24.6% chance to earn a share while South Carolina has a 14.6% chance to earn a share. Both teams have less than a 3% chance to win the conference outright.

Tennessee will likely be favored in both games this week with KenPom predicting the Vols to beat South Carolina five points and to beat Kentucky by eight points.

Tipoff from Colonial Life Arena in Columbia is at 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday night. ESPN2 is broadcasting the game.

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