Sleeper conference title candidates

Tennessee among five under-the-radar teams that could win league crown

Updated: January 2, 2014, 11:41 AM ET
By John Gasaway | ESPN Insider

Cuonzo MartinRandy Sartin/USA TODAY SportsWill Cuonzo Martin and the Volunteers contend for the SEC title?

Now that we've turned the page on a new year, I've decided to unilaterally banish all tentative and diffident "it's early" talk. It's not "early" anymore! We've seen enough basketball to come to some firm conclusions on which teams will be serious contenders in their respective conference races.

You probably don't need me to tell you that Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State all look strong in the Big Ten, or that Arizona looks like the team to beat in the Pac-12. But here are some dark horses that clearly are not getting enough attention. Remember these five sleepers:


Tennessee Volunteers


Tennessee is 8-4, with road losses to Xavier and Wichita State, a neutral-floor defeat at the hands of UTEP and even a loss at home to a non-threatening North Carolina State team. With a track record like that, it's no surprise that the Volunteers received zero votes in the latest AP poll. How in the world is a team with such a profile going to compete with the likes of Florida and Kentucky in this season's SEC?