Tennessee Vols: 5 Moments Of March Madness Mayhem

Posted on March 7, 2022

The University of Tennessee Volunteers men’s college basketball program rounded out the regular season in monumental fashion last week. Their three home-court victories granted them a three-way tie for 2nd in the Southeastern Conference.

The SEC Basketball Tournament is in Tampa, FL, from March 9-13. We’ll find out on Selection Sunday whether the Vols will be able to channel their current momentum into another run for the NCAA Championship.

In the meantime, let’s look back at five of the Tennessee Vols’ most memorable March Madness appearances.

1) 2009-2010: Tennessee’s date with the Elite Eight

Out of Tennessee’s 113 completed seasons since 1908, none have resulted in Final Four appearances or championship wins. Their best-ever NCAA tournament finish was an Elite Eight appearance in 2010.

After losing star player Tyler Smith earlier that season, the Vols regrouped for March Madness. They advanced through the Sweet Sixteen by knocking out No. 5 Ohio State, No. 2 Kentucky and No. 1 Kansas.

As a result, the squad became the first and only Vols team to advance to the Elite Eight. The celebration was short-lived, though. Their next matchup pitted them against Michigan State, where they ultimately lost by one single point.

2) 2018-2019: a not-so-sweet Sweet 16

When it comes to the NCAA tournament, Sweet 16 endings have been far more common for the Vols over the years, including:

  • 1967
  • 1981
  • 2000
  • 2007
  • 2008
  • 2010
  • 2014
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2021

In 2019, Tennessee concluded the regular season with a conference loss to LSU, giving them a No. 2 SEC ranking. Once in the postseason, they battled into the Sweet 16 after a first-round victory against Colgate and a second-round overtime win against Iowa.

The Vols found themselves in overtime again while playing No. 3 Purdue, but the outcome wasn’t nearly as enjoyable.

While Tennessee might have fallen short of a championship win, their efforts certainly weren’t in vain. The team’s 19 consecutive wins set a new record, and their 31-6 season tied the team’s record. Moreover, they became the first Vols squad to log over 25 wins in two subsequent seasons.

3) 2013-2014: two points from victory

Tennessee was haunted by another fleeting Elite Eight opportunity during the 2013-14 season. The team sailed through the first three March Madness matchups against Iowa, Massachusetts and Mercer, winning each faceoff by 12 points or more.

It wasn’t until that fateful matchup against No. 7 Michigan that a questionable charging call stopped them in their tracks. Tennessee lost by two points, marking the second Michigan-based team to prevent them from advancing.

4) 2006-2007: from hot to not

Yet another close encounter of the Elite Eight kind came in 2007.

The No. 5 seeded Vols made it to the Sweet Sixteen after logging a substantial 35-point victory against No. 12 Cal State and then narrowly winning against No. 4 Virginia.

Tennessee advanced to the semifinals, matched against a tough No. 1 Ohio. A 20-point lead turned into a one-point loss in the game’s final seconds, ultimately snuffing out any chance the Vols had of seeing the quarterfinals.

5) 1976-1977: the Ernie & Bernie show

For this last one, let’s go back to the 1977 NCAA tournament and a Vols roster consisting of a dream team of hoop phenoms.

Often referred to as the “Ernie & Bernie Show,” the Vols went 5-1 against Kentucky during the three years Bernard King and Ernie Grunfeld played college ball together. The team earned the No. 1 SEC seed during this particular season with their record 85.7 points per game.

Tennessee entered the first tournament round matched up against Syracuse. A thrilling back-and-forth eventually led into overtime, where the Vols lost 93-88.

The season was over, but basketball was far from done for four Tennessee team members, who went on to have successful careers in the NBA:

  • Bernard King
  • Ernie Grunfeld
  • Reggie Johnson
  • Terry Crosby
  • Mike Jackson

King was drafter 7th overall in the 1977 NBA draft, becoming an NBA superstar and ultimately being inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame. In 1985, he even led the league with his 32.9 PPG average.

Two other Vols were also selected as first-round draft picks. King’s right-hand man, Ernie Grunfeld, was chosen 11th overall, and Reggie Johnson secured the 15th overall selection.


Tennessee Vols 2021-22 futures odds

Current futures odds for the 2021-2022 postseason are as follows:

Photo by Associated Press
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Alec Cunningham

As a college athlete, Alec Cunningham played Division II golf at Tusculum University. She graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Professional Writing. She then returned to her love of written word in 2000 after working in the music industry as a concert promoter, tour manager and artist developer. As a journalist, she's covered a variety of topics and currently specializes in Tennessee online sports betting and Virginia casino news. She served as a panelist at this year's All American Sports Betting Summit, discussing the ever-evolving role of women in the gambling industry.

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