The Tennessee — Memphis basketball series provided us with perhaps one of the greatest moments in program history in 2008. No. 2 Tennessee beat the No. 1 ranked Tigers on the road to climb to the top spot in the rankings. With Bruce Pearl and John Calipari running each program, that rivalry seemed destined to produce fireworks over the next decade.
That didn’t happen though. Calipari moved on to Kentucky, while new coach Josh Pastner openly campaigned against continuing Memphis’ series against Tennessee. The series saw their contract expire in 2013 and the two sides haven’t played since.
That’s about to change, however. Both Rick Barnes and new Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway confirmed that the teams would play over the next three seasons. It’s a home and home, along with a neutral site meeting in Nashville.
“We had been working with Tubby Smith since we got here,” Barnes said. “Don’t hold me to this, but I think we go there first, then they come here. Then we have a meeting in Nashville. Even though we like the home and home, we would like to make it a big day of basketball in Nashville. Not just us, but bring in other teams from across the state.”
It’s cool to see this rivalry get back going once again. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be playing every year. Hopefully this is a spark that will grow the series for years to come.
Tennessee currently holds a 14-11 lead in the series.