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By the Numbers: Tennessee’s Match-Up with St. Peter’s in the NCAA Tournament

Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

March Madness has descended upon us, and that means it’s time to analyze, overanalyze, and worry yourself to your wit’s end about Tennessee’s NCAA Tournament chances.

If you’re anything like me, you like to dig into the numbers of Tennessee’s opponents, look at how the Vols stack up against them, and look for any historically significant data about the opponent, seeding, location, or coaches. If you’re not like me, I hope you still can enjoy this article and my “by the numbers” look at the Vols’ First Round game against Saint Peter’s on Thursday night.

Take a look at some interesting data, fun factoids, and possibly some scary stats ahead of Tennessee’s first NCAA Tournament game of 2024.

More From RTI: What Saint Peter’s Coach Bashir Mason Said About Tennessee


Let’s start with the most relevant data point: Tennessee’s record against Saint Peter’s heading into Thursday’s game.

This won’t be the first time the Vols and Peacocks have faced each other in the postseason. The two squared off in the NIT back in 1984, almost exactly 40 years to the date of their match-up this Thursday night. The Vols are 1-0 against St. Peter’s, winning that NIT contest 54-40 in what must have been an absolutely thrilling game to watch.


Thursday’s game will mark the 9th time Tennessee has faced a team currently in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The Vols are 6-2 in their previous 8 games against MAAC opponents, with both losses coming against the same team: Niagara. Tennessee lost December contests against Niagara in 1969 and 1972 but finally found the win column against them in Knoxville in 1978.

Tennessee is 1-0 against St. Peter’s, as previously mentioned, and they’re 2-0 against Iona, 1-0 against Manhattan, and 1-0 against Siena.


Heading into Thursday’s game, Saint Peter’s ranks 187th overall on KenPom. They will be the lowest-ranked team the Vols have faced since playing Vanderbilt on February 17th, and they will be the lowest-ranked KenPom team Tennessee has EVER faced in the NCAA Tournament.

KenPom data and rankings date back to 1999. In that time, the Vols have faced six teams ranked 100 or worse prior to this year, and the Peacocks will be the seventh and the lowest-ranked of them all. The previous lowest ranking for a UT opponent in the NCAA Tournament was 150th back when the Vols faced American in 2008. Tennessee won that game 72-57 in the first round, and UT is 6-0 against teams ranked 100 or worse on KenPom in the NCAA Tournament. The Vols have won those games by an average margin of 20.5 points.


This year marks the fourth time Tennessee has been a two-seed in the NCAA Tournament. It also marks the fourth time in Rick Barnes’ career that one of his teams has earned a two-seed in the Big Dance.

For Tennessee as a program, they’ve made it to the Sweet 16 twice as a two-seed and were bounced in the 2nd round once. The Vols are 5-3 all-time as a two-seed, advancing to the Sweet 16 in 2008 and 2019 but getting eliminated in the 2nd round in 2006.

Rick Barnes has had slightly more success leading two-seeds, however. His two Texas squads that earned two-seeds both made it to the Elite Eight in 2006 and 2008, and he was the head coach of the 2019 Vol squad that reached the Sweet 16. Overall, Barnes is 8-3 in the tournament as the head coach of a two-seed.


The Vols have never made it to a Final Four, but the better a team’s seeding, the better their chances of making it that far in the tournament. And as a two-seed and No. 5 overall seed, Tennessee is one of the favorites to reach that destination this year.

According to BracketOdds, two-seeds historically have a 21.1% chance of making it to the Final Four since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Last year, not a single one, two, or three-seed made the Final Four, but that’s an abnormality. Prior to last year, at least one two-seed made it to the Final Four in three-straight tournaments, and a two-seed has reached the Final Four in 14 of the last 22 NCAA Tournaments dating back to 2001.

By the way, the odds of a two-seed reaching the Elite Eight are 44.7%, which is also significant since the Vols have only gone that far in the tournament just once.


This year marks the sixth time Tennessee will play in Charlotte, North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately for the Vols, they haven’t had much luck making deep tournament runs when playing in Charlotte.

Tennessee lost their first game of the tournament in 1976 in Charlotte, but they bounced back the next time they made the trip there by defeating VCU in overtime in the Round of 32 in 1981 before moving on to Atlanta to face one-seed Virginia (who beat UT 54-51). Tennessee didn’t return to Charlotte for the NCAA Tournament again until 1999, where they beat Delaware in the first round before getting blown out by Southwest Missouri State in the second round. Tennessee advanced to Charlotte for the Sweet 16 in 2008 but lost to Louisville, and they lost the last time they appeared in Charlotte in 2011. That game was a blowout loss to Michigan and ended Bruce Pearl’s tenure as head coach.

Overall, Tennessee is just 2-4 in Charlotte in the NCAA Tournament.


Though their offense won’t wow you, Saint Peter’s has a pretty stout defense. They’re only allowing opponents to score 63.4 points per game, which ranks 11th in the country. Part of that, though, is due to the fact that the Peacocks play such a slow tempo on offense and take care of the ball well, so opponents don’t get as many chances to score as usual. St. Peter’s tempo ranks 338th on KenPom, and they average just 64 possessions a game.

On KenPom, the Peacocks’ defensive efficiency ranks 78th in the country. St. Peter’s has a high forced turnover rate on defense and has a penchant for steals. The Peacocks have held opponents to 65 or fewer points 20 times this season, and they’re a perfect 13-0 when holding teams to 60 or fewer points. Tennessee is 0-3 this year when scoring 60 or fewer points, though all three of those occasions came against teams ranked much higher than St. Peter’s (60 vs. Kansas, 59 vs. South Carolina, 56 vs. Mississippi State).

On the flip side, St. Peter’s is just 1-6 this season when their opponent scores 70+, and their only win when their opponent eclipsed the 70-point mark came against Kean, a D-III program. The Vols, meanwhile, have scored 70 or more points in all but seven games this season and are 22-3 when scoring at least 70 points.


Saint Peter’s offense might be as bad as their defense is good. Where the Peacocks’ defense is a borderline top-75 defense, their offense is almost in the bottom 50 in the country.

The Peacocks’ offense ranks 306th on KenPom, and only 16-seed Wagner (332nd) has a worse-rated offense in the NCAA Tournament. The Vols have only faced one team this season with an offense in the 300s on KenPom, and that was Tennessee Tech, a game UT won 80-42. The Vols have played five games against opponents with an offensive efficiency ranked 200 or worse this season, and only Vanderbilt managed to eclipse 60 points among those teams. Vandy scored 62 in a 75-62 loss on January 27, but they were held to just 53 points in the rematch in Knoxville on February 17. Tennessee held Georgia Southern to 56 points, Norfolk State to 50 points, and the aforementioned Tennessee Tech to 42 points.


Tennessee’s record for most points in a NCAA Tournament game is 36. Ernie Grunfeld set that mark against VMI back in 1976, and no other Vol has even eclipsed the 30-point mark in a tournament game.

Dalton Knecht has been a scoring machine for the Vols this year, and he’s totaled 36 or more points five different times this season. While it’s unlikely he’ll approach the single-game scoring record for a Vol in the NCAA Tournament against St. Peter’s due to their extremely slow pace and solid defense, this is a number you might want to keep in mind if the Vols are able to go on any sort of run this tournament.

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