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Zakai Zeigler Jokingly Trash Talks His Brother Before First Round Matchup on Thursday

Zakai Zeigler
Tennessee guard Zakai Zeigler. Photo by Rocky Top Insider.

Tennessee junior guard Zakai Zeigler will square off against his half-brother, Armoni Zeigler, on Thursday during the first round of the 2024 NCAA Tournament.

Zakai’s Vols are the 2-seed in the Midwest Region while Armoni’s Peacocks are the 15-seed. The Vols and the Peacocks will meet in Charlotte, N.C.’s Spectrum Center on Thursday night at 9:20 p.m. ET for a March Madness clash.

With the possibility of a Zeigler-Zeigler matchup, both sides sort of had a gut feeling that it would come to reality before the selection show this past Sunday. Tennessee guard Santiago Vescovi said on Sunday that the team talked about it throughout the day while Saint Peter’s head coach Bashir Mason said on Wednesday that his players started recording the selection show when Tennessee was announced because they were so confident that their name would follow.

All of that to say, it felt almost like destiny that the Zeigler brothers would square off in the first round of the NCAA March Madness Tournament.

With both Tennessee and Saint Peter’s in Charlotte ahead of their game on Thursday, the Zeigler brothers finally had a chance to meet on the court before the meeting on gameday.

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The behind-the-scenes trash-talking from both Zakai and Armoni on Wednesday felt right off of the school-yard playground from a pair of brothers.

After Armoni stated to the media that Zakai led their all-time one-on-one series by a score of 6-5, older brother Zakai emphatically challenged that in his own press conference despite Armoni acknowledging him as the leader in the race – all with a big smile, too.

“To clear the air, he’s never beat me one-on-one,” Zakai said with a laugh filled with undertones of a lowkey intensity. “He’s not even close in the series at all. And he’s not even close in his scores.”

Even though Zakai claims to have never lost a game of one-on-one with his brother, Armoni is a big fella – a 6-foot-4, 185-pound shooting guard, to be exact.

“I told [Zakai], I was like you are going to have to guard your brother,” Vescovi shared with the media on Sunday night after the selection show. “[Zakai] was like no you’ve got him. He is 6-5. We love it. I think it is going to be a great moment for both of them.”

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There’s a fun, pure element to the trash-talking. The brothers have both authored remarkable stories despite still having chapters to write as they continue their individual basketball careers. At the same time, though, there’s a legitimate level of competitiveness to it. It’s not all fun and games, after all.

“Me and him, we’re two competitive people,” Zakai said about him and his brother on Wednesday. “We’ve gotten in plenty of fights just over us being competitive. At the end of the day, it’s still a team sport. Me and my team, we’re really competitive as a team. I’m not sure how they are on their team, but on our end, we’re really competitive. We’re going to do whatever it takes to go out there and get the win.”

Name the time, the place, and the opponent… It’s all the same.

“No matter if it’s pickup, one-on-one, just a regular workout, I want to win at everything,” Zakai said. “So it’s going to be the same competitiveness and the same mindset. Once we step between the lines, whether it’s my friend, my brother, whoever it is, whether it’s my dad, it doesn’t matter, I’m trying to go out there and win.”

During his press conference with the media, Armoni Zeigler said that he was going to guard older brother Zakai, which was met with an answer that oozed confidence in the coming war between the brothers.

“If he guards either one of us, it’s ballgame,” Zakai said while sitting next to Dalton Knecht, hardly able to hold back a big laugh.

The memory of a lifetime will take place for the Zeigler family on Thursday night when half-brothers Zakai and Armoni Zeigler meet in the NCAA Tournament. The brothers grew up with each other, played ball with each other, and competed against each other. Now they’re going to do it in March during the madness.

It doesn’t get much better than that… and it certainly helps explain all the brotherly trash talk.

2-seed Tennessee will take on 15-seed Saint Peter’s at 9:20 p.m. ET in the first round of the 2024 NCAA Tournament on Thursday night.

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