Tennessee received some massive news this week, learning that forward Yves Pons would be officially returning for his senior season in Knoxville. The high-flying hybrid forward is the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year, coming off of a season which saw him block 2.4 shots per game as a junior.
Pons was the final question mark on this roster, now Rick Barnes is ready to play for a title once again. The gambling markets reacted to the Pons news this week, pushing Tennessee up the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Championship odds board.
Via BetOnline.ag, Tennessee now sits as a 22-1 favorite to win it all.
The odds honestly are lower than much of the media rankings to this point. Tennessee is beginning to appear in the top ten of nearly every preseason poll that you see, thanks to all the returning talent and a top five recruiting class coming in.
Five-star guards Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer will join a rotation that already features John Fulkerson, Yves Pons, Santiago Vescovi, E.J. Anosike, Victor Bailey and Josiah-Jordan James. Four-star forward Corey Walker Jr. will also be in the mix as a freshman. Year two players like Olivier Nkamhoua, Drew Pember and Davonte Gaines could also push for playing time.
Tennessee could be the favorite to win the SEC with Kentucky once again starting from scratch. The Wildcats were given 12-1 odds to win it all next year by BetOnline. Florida was the next SEC team on the list, with 30-1 odds. LSU and Auburn were next at 40-1, while Arkansas checked in at 80-1.
So after a down year, expectations are once again high in Knoxville. Rick Barnes is going to have chance to earn every penny of that big contract this winter.