All-time Tennessee March Madness starting lineup

Tennessee men's basketball has made quite a few trips to the NCAA Tournament but has never gone deep into March Madness. This team could be the best chance and a few of the 2024 players could become all-time greats.

Tennessee forward Grant Williams (2)
Tennessee forward Grant Williams (2) / Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel
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The Tennessee Volunteers men’s basketball program has made the NCAA Tournament 25 times and in 2024 Rick Barnes is heading back for the sixth time since he got to Knoxville. Yet, Tennessee has never made a Final Four and Barnes has yet to get past the Sweet 16. 

This team, with a healthy Zakai Zeigler and Northern Colorado transfer Dalton Knecht, could be the one to finally break through. If it does, then players like Zeigler and Knecht will etch their names in Tennesee basketball history, but they’ll need excellent March Madness performances to make the Elite Eight and to crack this list of the Tennessee all-time March Madness starting five. 

So, as the tournament approaches and the Vols have their best shot to win it all, let’s take a look back at Tennessee’s best NCAA Tournament runs of the past and the players who led the way. 

Point guard: Chris Lofton

If he hadn’t been injured less than a month before the tournament last season, then Zeigler would already be the starting point guard on this list because Tennessee hasn’t had many great postseason performances from its backcourt. That might be the primary reason the Vols haven’t gone deep into the Tournament yet. 

Zeigler’s six-assist performance against Longwood in 2022 is the second most assists by a single player in a Tennessee NCAA Tournament game. He trails only Lamonte Turner who didn’t start any of his five career NCAA Tournament games. So, almost by default, Chris Lofton gets the spot in the all-time lineup. 

Lofton was a two-time consensus All-American and was the 2006-07 SEC Player of the Year. That season, he led Bruce Pearl’s team to the big dance as a No. 5 seed. In both the 2007 and 2008 tournaments, he led the Vols to the Sweet 16, and in his eight career March Madness games, he averaged 16.25 points and only 1.6 assists. 

While not a true pass-first point guard, Lofton would be able to play the point on this all-time team because of his unselfish shooting guard.