In the nation, there are no bigger basketball rivalries than those between in-state opponents. The nastiest rivalry in the country is probably between Kentucky and Louisville; however, rarely is a rivalry more important than the one on Friday when the Memphis Tigers play the Tennessee Volunteers.
Tennessee versus Memphis is far more important than many rivalries because Memphis is one of the most talent-rich areas in the entire country. Top players from all over the country every year hail from the Memphis area. This creates a war between the Tigers and Volunteers for the recruits. Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee’s star player, is a Memphis born player and had a choice between Memphis and Tennessee. This decision faces many of the talented athletes in this area, and, if Tennessee wants to win a national championship, the Volunteers have to lock down recruiting in Memphis. Consistently winning against the Tigers will bring recruits to Knoxville.
Tennessee, after early season close losses to Georgetown and Virginia, has quietly racked up a few notable wins against an undefeated Wichita State and a very good, young Xavier Musketeers team. A win for the Volunteers against Memphis could put Tennessee back into national talk.
With Missouri losing to UCLA, Kentucky now having four losses on the season, Florida losing to Kansas State, and LSU and Ole Miss not expected to continue their current run of form, Tennessee’s early season losses will not come back to haunt the Volunteers. The SEC is Tennessee’s for the taking, and with SEC play only one game away, a huge win against Memphis could swing the SEC in Tennessee’s favor.