The Tennessee Vols and Memphis Tigers are scheduled to play on December 14. They will also play in Nashville next December in the third, and possibly final, meeting of this recently renewed rivalry.
However, Vols head coach Rick Barnes recently told reporters that he does not believe the series will be renewed after next season.
Vols coach Rick Barnes said earlier today he doesn’t think UT-Memphis series will be renewed after the 3-game set is completed next year in Nashville Dec. 18 or 20. Memphis hosted last year, UT will host Dec. 14 this year. Memphis coach Penny Hardaway blasted Barnes last year.
— Jimmy Hyams (@JimmyHyams) November 18, 2019
I think that would be a huge mistake.
Barnes’ comments were likely the result of Memphis coach Penny Hardaway’s take on what happened at the end of last season’s game. Hardaway claimed Tennessee players emptied the bench and came over with “their fists balled” toward the end of last year’s contest.
Barnes may believe that is why the series should end, but I think it is exactly why these teams should play every year.
Say what you will about Hardaway’s comments, but his plan unfolded to perfection. He wanted to re-ignite a rivalry that was previously dormant.
Since last year’s tilt, the Vols-Tigers rivalry is white hot. Fans went back and forth on social media for weeks after the incident. It didn’t stop at basketball, either.
Multiple anti-Tennessee signs were spotted when College GameDay visited Memphis in early November. And just like that, opposing fans were back at it on Twitter.
— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) November 2, 2019
Vol fans countered by saying Tennessee lives “rent-free” in Memphis fans’ heads.
This is the kind of in-state rivalry that both teams, and the state of Tennessee, need. Vanderbilt is the only other team in the state on the two school’s level, and the Commodores have taken a serious step back recently.
These teams have played some classics in the past. Just look at the No. 1 vs. 2 matchup in 2008 for proof. Both teams are currently trending upward and have the potential to create more classics in the future.
This is the kind of rivalry that college basketball needs. Both these teams have bright futures and their fans hate each other. That’s the perfect recipe for an intense rivalry.
It would be a shame to the schools, the state of Tennessee, and the sport college basketball to end this series after next season.
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports