The Memphis Tigers-Tennessee Volunteers match up has been the talk of college basketball over the last 24 hours and not because of the game.
Tonight was supposed to be the end of the basketball series dating back to the 2005-06 basketball season. The series has grown from being an instate rivalry broadcasted regionally to now being a nationally televised game on ESPN.
However, Memphis Tigers coach Josh Pastner has been very vocal about ending the series, which many fans had simply accepted. I know I did.
In surprising fashion, less than 24 hours from Pastner saying, once again, to the media that the series was dead, Memphis athletic director Tom Bowen says that it will continue.
Former Vols head coach and current ESPN analyst Bruce Pearl brought up some key points in a special to ESPN.com in why he thinks the series should continue.
Here is an interesting point from Pearl from the RPI angle.
“The Volunteers’ RPI has been higher six of the eight seasons (including this year), and as the Big East’s future remains uncertain, the Tigers will need to continually add quality opponents to boost their résumé in order to get into the NCAA tournament. This season is a great example. Both teams need a quality win, and this is really Memphis’ last chance to get one, whereas UT still plays Florida, Kentucky and Missouri.”
Memphis is a hotbed for talented players. So eliminating the series would stop the Tigers from assisting the Vols with exposure for recruiting. However, Pearl thinks it is contradictory to stop the Tennessee series, yet continue one with the Louisville Cardinals.
“Louisville, which is almost the exact same distance from Memphis as Knoxville, is a perennial Final Four contender. Those recruits that Memphis feared would leave for Tennessee wouldn’t go to the Cardinals? In fact, Pitino’s top recruiting commitment for 2013, Chris Jones (the best junior college point guard in the country) hails from Memphis.”
Pearl makes valid points. However, it looks as if the person whose opinion matters the most is AD Bowen and it looks like the series will be continuing beyond the 2012-13 season.