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Tennessee Volunteers vs. Memphis Tigers Opponent Preview

The first chapter of the Rick Barnes vs. Penny Hardaway rivalry begins on Saturday.

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at Tennessee
Admiral Schofield and the Vols know they have another big test in the Tigers.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Tennessee Volunteers proved that they belong in the national championship conversation last week with a 76-73 win over the then-ranked No. 1 Gonazaga Bulldogs. All of the offseason build-up and hype caught up with Rick Barnes’ squad and they delivered.

Now they sit at No. 3 in the country and will drive across the beautiful state of Tennessee to play the unranked Memphis Tigers in FedEx Forum.

Despite their lack of rank, there is still plenty of excitement surrounding the Tigers. Most of it comes in the shape of first-year head coach, Penny Hardaway.

Yup. That Penny Hardaway. LIL’ PENNY.

The arena is sold out and both teams are going to be ready to play. Hopefully this is the first game of many to come in a potentially rekindled rivalry.

Impact Players

  • G Tyler Harris: 16.2 PPG, 43.3 FG%, 89.7 FT%, 39.5% 3PT, 3.78 AST, 1.9 TO, 0.9 STL, 30.9 MIN

While Harris is the team’s leading scorer, he may run into some issues with the Vols’ size.

That’s because he’s 5-foot-9 and 150-pounds. He is able to make up for the lack of size with quickness, acceleration, and good outside shooting.

Despite a lethal stroke from the free throw line, Tennessee may not have to worry about that aspect of Harris’ game due to the fact that he only averages around three attempts per contest.

  • F Kyvon Davenport: 14.0 PPG, 53.4 FG%, 6.8 REB, 55.8 FT%, 36.4% 3PT, 1.9 TO, 0.6 BLK, 24.3 MIN

Much like Brandon Clarke of Gonzaga last week, Davenport is averaging more points on less playing time in 2018. Memphis’ big man is an effective rebounder and he can even shoot the three when needed.

Memphis will also need him to score a lot of points. Like a lot. The good news for them is that Davenport has averaged close to 13 points per game over the last five games. The bad news is that none of those teams field a defense anywhere close to Tennessee’s caliber.

Most Recent

A 94-76 romp over the UAB Blazers gave Memphis their fifth win of the season and they are now 4-0 at home. Harris (24) and Davenport (21) both eclipsed the 20-point threshold and Davenport led the team in rebounds.

NCAA Basketball: South Florida at Memphis
Davenport can become a big thorn in the Vols’ collective side if he gets going.
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Offensively, the team was on fire. Outside of the 94 points, they hit 53.6% of their shots that included a 45.8% hit rate from three.

The Blazers were able to crash the board at a much more successful clip and doubled up the Tigers’ offensive rebound mark (16 to 8) and tied them in defensive rebounds (23 for each team).

Outside of rebounds, Memphis led every other statistical category except one - turnovers.

It was a rough night for the Blazers.

Game Outlook

It’s obvious that Hardaway’s vision is still a work in progress, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t thrilled with what he has done so far.

The fact that FedEx Forum is sold out tells you all you need to know about how the fans feel about the current state of the program.

They won’t be feeling so well after the game, however, because unless Tennessee comes in and lays an egg, the odds are definitely not in Memphis’ favor to win this game.

Regardless, it should be a fun contest that sets up many more battles as the years pass.