Tennessee will be appearing in the NCAA Tournament for the 21st time when they take the court to play Wright State this Thursday in the opening round of the tournament. The Vols are a three-seed in the South region and will play the No. 14 seed Raiders in the Round of 64. Tennessee is back in the tournament for the first time since 2014, and their No. 3 seed is the second-highest seed in program history.
The Vols don’t have as prestigious of a history in the NCAA Tournament as some other SEC schools, but they’ve had their fair share of success over the last two decades and since the bracket expanded to 64 total teams.
I decided to take a look at Tennessee’s history in the NCAA Tournament by the numbers. Check out the numbers, my analysis, and more below.
1967, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1989, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2018
The Vols have made it to the NCAA Tournament 21 times counting this season, and they hold a 19-21 overall record in the tournament. Tennessee is 14-12 since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, and they’ve made the Big Dance 13 times (counting this year) in the 34 years since it’s had 64 teams.
Since the expansion in 1985, the Vols have failed to win a single game in five of their previous 12 appearances prior to this year. Tennessee has won at least one game seven times.
Tennessee’s longest streak of NCAA Tournament appearances came during the Bruce Pearl era. The Vols never missed the tournament under Pearl, making it six consecutive years from 2006-11. They made it six times in an eight year span from 1976-83, and they made it four straight years from 1998-2001.
2: 2006, 2008
4: 1981, 1999, 2000
8: 1979, 1983, 2001
9: 1982, 2009, 2011
This year marks the first time the Vols have ever earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They’ve twice been a No. 2 seed (both under Bruce Pearl), and they’ve been rated as low as a No. 11 seed back in 2014. Tennessee had to play Iowa in a play-in game that season to even make it to the field of 64.
Tennessee has appeared most as a No. 4, No. 8, and No. 9 seed in the tournament. They’ve made it to the tournament three times apiece as each of those seedings. Since the bracket expanded to 64 teams, they’ve made it most as a No. 9, No. 4, and No. 2 seed, making it twice as all three of those seedings. The Vols have never been a No. 1 seed.
The Vols’ best record as a particular seed is their 3-1 mark as a No. 11 seed. Their worst record is 1-3 as a No. 9 seed. Tennessee is 12-7 when they’ve earned a 6-seed or better. Four of the Vols’ five Sweet Sixteen appearances since the tournament expanded have come when they’ve earned a 6-seed or better.
Record vs. Seeding
Tennessee has never beaten any No. 1 seed they’ve played, and they’re only 1-8 against three-seeds or better. Their lone victory over a team in that seeding range came in 2010 when the Vols beat No. 2 seed Ohio State 76-73 in the Sweet Sixteen.
The Vols are 10-1 against teams seeded between 10-15. The Vols are a perfect 2-0 against No. 14 seeds, which is the seeding of their first opponent, Wright State, in this year’s tournament. Tennessee is a combined 2-2 against No. 7 and No. 10 seeds, which would be the seeding they would play in the Round of 32 should they win on Thursday.
Deepest Runs (Since 1985 Expansion)
Round of 32: 7 times (1999, 2000, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2014)
Sweet 16: 5 times (2000, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2014)
Elite 8: 1 time (2010)
Of the 12 times the Vols have earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament since the expansion, they’ve only advanced to the second round seven times. But once the Vols get that far, they’ve almost always made it to the Sweet Sixteen, winning in the second round five times and advancing to the third round of the tournament.
So far, the Vols have only one Elite Eight appearance in school history, and that came in 2010 under Bruce Pearl. Tennessee finished just a couple points short of advancing to the Final Four that year, falling 70-69 to No. 5 seed Michigan State in that round.
Record in Locations
Atlanta, GA: 0-1
Austin, TX: 0-1
Baton Rouge, LA: 0-1
Birmingham, AL: 4-0
Charlotte, NC: 2-4
Columbus, OH: 2-0
Dallas, TX: N/A
Dayton, OH: 1-2
Evanston, IL: 0-2
Greensboro, NC: 2-3
Indianapolis, IN: 1-2
Murfreesboro, TN: 1-1
Providence, RI: 2-0
Raleigh, NC: 2-0
Sacramento, CA: 0-1
San Antonio, TX: 0-1
St. Louis, MO: 1-1
This year will be the first time the Vols have ever played in Dallas in the NCAA Tournament, and it will mark just the third game they’ve ever played in the state of Texas in the Big Dance. Tennessee is 0-2 in the state of Texas. Their last game in Texas came in 2007 when they lost 85-84 to Ohio State in the Sweet Sixteen.
Tennessee holds perfect records in Birmingham, Columbus, Providence, and Raleigh in the tournament.