CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A huge boom rang out from the Tennessee basketball locker room and down the hallway of the Spectrum Center on Thursday.

An NCAA employee walked out moments later with a foam board depicting the Charlotte bracket pod. The “Tennessee” sign was crooked and there was a fork running along the sign.

What happened?

“Honest mistake,” Tennessee senior walk-on Colin Coyne said.

No. 2 seed Tennessee felt great after its 83-49 win against No. 15 Saint Peter’s — so great that Coyne punched right through the bracket sign that teams always raised their name tags after advancing.

“Every time I looked at that board, I thought it was some kind of bulletin board material,” Coyne said. “I found out the hard way.”

How the bracket in the Tennessee locker room was broken

Dalton Knecht initially denied that he was involved in breaking the sign. He said it was Josiah-Jordan James. James clarified that it was Coyne, who was standing in the opposite corner of the cramped locker room.

“He really destroyed it,” guard Santiago Vescovi said. “He broke that thing. He took it literally. He did what he had to do.’

The Vols (25-8) did just that, dominating overmatched Saint Peter’s (19-14) from start to finish. They will face No. 7-seeded Texas (21-12) on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, CBS) for a trip to the Sweet 16 in Detroit.

Tennessee did it by being the aggressor from the start. It regularly went to Jonas Aidoo to make his presence felt early. Knecht was a knockdown shooter as always, and Zeigler was the driving force behind it all. Vescovi hit a pair of three-pointers. Tobe Awaka played well on the inside.

The Vols were elite defensively. The only criticism James could think of was the need to reduce turnover. UT had 15.

Regardless, it was dominant enough in the opener that Coyne sprinted from the end of the bench when he had the chance to get into the game. Then he heard his name called. He heard it again in the locker room setting up the “Tennessee” sign for the next round.

“I was just told to hit it,” Coyne said. “I just tried to make it and put it down with some force. I put a little too much on it.”

Tennessee tied before facing Texas for the Sweet 16 spot

The Vols spent the first 48 hours after their loss to Mississippi State in the SEC Tournament with a lot of film.

“We know Nashville didn’t go as well as we wanted, so we had to go out there and stay focused, be more aggressive and physical,” Knecht said.

EXAMPLE: Tennessee Basketball vs. Texas in March Madness: Prediction for the 2024 NCAA Tournament

James said last week’s practices were about responsibility. He emphasized the same message that Vols coach Rick Barnes preached after the MSU loss: The next 40 minutes could be the last. The Vols didn’t want that. They challenged each other to battle after two games without assertiveness.

It paid off in the first game.

Before Tennessee left the locker room, Vescovi could tell it was done. There was energy and excitement to play.

“That’s the kind of effort we’re going to need every night if we want to keep playing,” Vescovi said.

Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @By MikeWilson. If you like Mike’s reporting, consider a digital subscription that gives you access to it all.

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