The University of Tennessee hasn’t played Memphis in men’s basketball since 2013. But that will end starting next season.
Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes confirmed during a press conference on Monday that the Vols and Tigers will renew their in-state rivalry in basketball starting next season. The two schools have agreed to a three-year contract that will see the Vols travel to Memphis in the 2018-19 season, Memphis travel to Knoxville in 2019-20, and the two play a neutral site game in Nashville in 2020-21.
“It’s something we had been working on with Tubby Smith since we had gotten here,” Barnes told reporters on Monday. “Don’t hold me to it, but I think the way the contract sets up, we go there first, then they come here, then we have a meeting in Nashville.”
New Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway confirmed the news in an interview on a sports radio show on Monday. Hardaway was hired to replace the aforementioned Tubby Smith earlier this month.
The two teams will exchange home games for the first two years of the deal, then they’ll each play in Nashville. And according to Barnes, the whole state may get involved for that third and final meeting of the contract.
“Even though we like a home-and-home, we would like to make it a big day of basketball in Nashville,” Barnes told reporters. “Not just us, but bring in other teams within in the state and just make it a day to really promote basketball. That’s the we’re going there that third year.”
It’s unclear at the moment what other in-state teams would participate in the event, but the state of Tennessee boasts a wide selection of solid state schools. Vanderbilt, MTSU, ETSU, Belmont, Lipscomb, Tennessee Tech, and Tennessee State are among the teams who could be in consideration for the big state-wide event.
As for the Vols-Memphis rivalry, this upcoming season will mark the first time the two teams have played each other in half a decade.
Memphis and Tennessee have played each other 25 times in basketball, and nine of those meetings came in a seven-year window from 2006 till 2013. The Tigers have won three straight against the Vols, and they defeated Tennessee 85-80 in Knoxville the last time the two teams met in 2013. Tennessee’s last victory against Memphis came on January 5th, 2011 when the Vols crushed Memphis 104-84. Tennessee holds an edge in the all-time series, beating Memphis 14 times to the Tigers’ 11 victories.
The biggest game between the two schools, of course, happened in 2008 when No. 1 Memphis hosted No. 2 Tennessee. The Vols won a thriller, dethroning Memphis with a 66-62 victory. Tennessee would claim the No. 1 spot in the AP Poll after the win, giving them their first No. 1 ranking in school history.
This season marked the 10th anniversary of that historic rivalry game.