Top rivalry for Vols is a slam dunk: Memphis

'Braggin' rights in the state' and more at stake along with national spotlight

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Men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl talks about the 2008 match-up between Tennessee and Memphis.

Men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl talks about the 2008 match-up between Tennessee and Memphis. Watch »

Tennessee's J.P. Prince grew up with it, center Wayne Chism hears about it when he calls home and captain Tyler Smith says it's braggin' rights.

It's Tennessee (12-5) versus No. 22 Memphis (15-3), the biggest basketball rivalry in the Volunteer State, and perhaps the hottest roundball grudge match in the South.

The game tips off at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in sold-out Thompson-Boling Arena with a national CBS television audience looking in.

"I thought when I came down here that Kentucky was our biggest rivalry,'' said UT junior college All-American transfer Bobby Maze, who hails from Maryland.

"But in every class this week, all they talked about was Tennessee-Memphis,'' Maze said. "Judging from my peers and all the students that got people coming in for the game, it's not even close, Memphis is bigger.''

UT freshman Scotty Hopson, from Hopkinsville, Ky., was surprised by the hype.

"I could just feel the tension building up this week,'' Hopson said. "Just the guys' attitude against the scout team, and even around campus. The fans are more excited about this game than any other game.''

So the cliche applies: throw the records out, even if both teams have firm NCAA Tournament footing.

The Vols had arguably the finest moment in UT men's basketball history last season when they knocked off previously unbeaten Memphis 66-62, snapping the Tigers' 47-game home-court win streak.

UT ascended to the No. 1 ranking for the only time in the school's 100-year basketball history.

And yet, for Tennesseans Prince, Chism and Smith, nothing was more important than braggin' rights.

Memphis used the loss to fuel its drive to the second national championship game appearance in school history. It was a game Prince, Chism and Smith hoped the Tigers would win.

The trio remembers playing on a 2004 Memphis-based AAU team with Pierre Niles and Willie Kemp of the Tigers, along with former Memphis standout Shawne Williams, who plays for the NBA's Dallas Mavericks.

"Playing guys you know and have gone against is special,'' said Chism, who won a state title at Bolivar Central with Kemp. "I call home, and my mom tells me people at her job are always talking to her about this game.''

Prince's father, John, served as a Memphis assistant under then-coach Larry Finch in the mid-1990s.

"Memphis raised me, and I root for Memphis every game they aren't playing us,'' Prince said. "But you hear the talk from this game all year, and that talking fuels a build-up.''

Smith knows the implications.

"It's braggin' rights in the state of Tennessee, and it's something you'll talk about in the summertime,'' Smith said. "Our goal is to get another SEC banner, but years down the road, you'll look back on this game.''

As personal as the game is for the players, it's all business for UT coach Bruce Pearl and Memphis coach John Calipari.

"Why do we play them in January? Three reasons: C-B-S,'' Pearl said. "It's a huge resume builder for us. I think it means a lot to our fans, too.''

It means a lot in the living rooms Pearl and Calipari will be visiting in their attempts to woo prospects, too.

"When you're competitive with Memphis, it brings credibility to your program," said Pearl, who has won the past two meetings with the Tigers.

Calipari suggests playing the series in Nashville with the schools splitting the profits.

That would also lessen the recruiting impact of the series for UT; Pearl benefits from the exposure in Memphis, while Calipari hasn't and won't make a living recruiting East Tennessee.

Calipari, however, doesn't undersell the game's value or popularity.

"I try to get us a January (non-conference) game and a February (non-conference) game that will show us where we're at,'' Calipari said. "This game becomes a rivalry game in how it's been played the last few years.

"Last year's game was the highest rated game in the history of ESPN; not only do the people in the state want to watch it, but the people around the country want to watch it, too.''

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Comments » 114

IdahoVol writes:

Let's go hand another loss to Tiger High!

gohawks1 writes:

Make it a 3-peat, guys!

volfan1985 writes:

in response to CLEMSONVOL716:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

don't disagree with the fact about DUKE and NC but i would say that TENN and Memphis are one of the newest, hottest rivalries!! GO VOLS!

bmaples writes:

Wow -- lots of things this old Knoxville-boy-turned-Louisvillian has to say about this:

First of all, the biggest basketball rival for Tennessee HAS to be Kentucky. After all, we have the best record against UK of any team in the SEC. From the UT sports site -- "Tennessee's 65 wins against the Wildcats are more than any other Kentucky opponent ... Kentucky's 140 wins against Tennessee are the most of any Volunteer opponent ... The Kentucky series is Tennessee's oldest and most-played among SEC opponents ... The Vols and Wildcats first met on Feb. 5, 1910 ... That was just the second season that the University of Tennessee sponsored a varsity a basketball team."

Secondly -- the most fierce basketball rivalry in the South? No way. You can make a case for UNC-Duke ... but I'll go with Louisville-Kentucky. The two teams aren't in each other's league, so unlike the Two Shades of Blue rivalry on Tobacco Road, The Ville and UK only play once a year. The buildup lasts for weeks, and the bragging rights last all year. These two teams recruit each other's back yards constantly. They have just as strong a rivaly in football. To top it all off -- the title-winning coach from UK (Pitino) now coaches at U of L.

UT-Memphis is a great rivalry -- but it's not on par with UT-UK, and it doesn't come close to UK-UofL.

All that being said ... this old Knoxville boy will be glued to the set on Saturday, hoping for the Orange Crush! Go Vols!

Down_The_Field writes:

in response to bmaples:

Wow -- lots of things this old Knoxville-boy-turned-Louisvillian has to say about this:

First of all, the biggest basketball rival for Tennessee HAS to be Kentucky. After all, we have the best record against UK of any team in the SEC. From the UT sports site -- "Tennessee's 65 wins against the Wildcats are more than any other Kentucky opponent ... Kentucky's 140 wins against Tennessee are the most of any Volunteer opponent ... The Kentucky series is Tennessee's oldest and most-played among SEC opponents ... The Vols and Wildcats first met on Feb. 5, 1910 ... That was just the second season that the University of Tennessee sponsored a varsity a basketball team."

Secondly -- the most fierce basketball rivalry in the South? No way. You can make a case for UNC-Duke ... but I'll go with Louisville-Kentucky. The two teams aren't in each other's league, so unlike the Two Shades of Blue rivalry on Tobacco Road, The Ville and UK only play once a year. The buildup lasts for weeks, and the bragging rights last all year. These two teams recruit each other's back yards constantly. They have just as strong a rivaly in football. To top it all off -- the title-winning coach from UK (Pitino) now coaches at U of L.

UT-Memphis is a great rivalry -- but it's not on par with UT-UK, and it doesn't come close to UK-UofL.

All that being said ... this old Knoxville boy will be glued to the set on Saturday, hoping for the Orange Crush! Go Vols!

good point.

as far as the VOLs go, Kenlucky and Peebody are much bigger rivals to us than Mempus. at least to me they are.

WE__ARE_MEMPHIS writes:

The vul players say it all. Your weak minded fans can fight all they want, but thier furry coach and players know the deal. How funny was this article. Dont you know the vul nation loved this. Hahahahaahh, tooo funny. so much for those vaunted suc(sec) rivalries.

ravensearay writes:

in response to WE__ARE_MEMPHIS:

The vul players say it all. Your weak minded fans can fight all they want, but thier furry coach and players know the deal. How funny was this article. Dont you know the vul nation loved this. Hahahahaahh, tooo funny. so much for those vaunted suc(sec) rivalries.

Don't you have anything better to do????

WE__ARE_MEMPHIS writes:

what did bmaze say again??? His first year on campus and he said what? his classmates said what?? Too funny. Just goes to show you most that post on here probably didnt even go there. There like cowboy fans. Bunch of posers. Its a home game against a glorified high school team right? the team picked to win the suc(sec) against a weak conference also ran right?? please dont lose. just dont lose or we will be here all year.

WE__ARE_MEMPHIS writes:

in response to IdentityTheftVictim09:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

my mom died four years ago you freak, but help yourself. i understand if you live in the hills, sheep,toothless and I guess dead people. To each his own.

cdonsbach writes:

GO VOLS

TommyJack writes:

Memphis State. Easy to hate. But I would rather beat Kentucky.

WE__ARE_MEMPHIS writes:

in response to TommyJack:

Memphis State. Easy to hate. But I would rather beat Kentucky.

too late for that tommy. I think Jodie Meeks just scored again.

Down_The_Field writes:

in response to IdentityTheftVictim09:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

rich, if i've seen it once, i've seen it a hundred times. you can have any dialogue with a mempus fan before they melt down and result to insults. pitty.

don't really care about bmaze and the rest of the kids on this team say. he's an outsider who will more than likely never even graduate. however, most of us on this site were born and raised here in tennessee. and most of us grad-e-ated from ut. when these 19 year olds have come and gone we'll still be hear and our rival will still be kenlucky and peebody. mempus is becoming a rival but will never surpass the big two. funny, i was straight shooting tennessee whiskey and married when these punk kids were born.....mua....ha....ha...ha....

oh, by the way.......ut 12 mempus 7....if mempus wins tomorrow the kitty cat fans will be hear crowing, we know that 4 sure.....but if they loose, i wonder if they have the guts to show their faces? we'll see..

oasis3#214380 writes:

The bottom line is that Tiger High has only one sport to take pride in. And the Vols kick their asses in that sport too. Must be real frustrating for Tiger fans, which is why that have to come to Vol sites to cry, female dog and vent. Keep on reading, keep on screaming and keep on losing to the Vols.

overatedvols writes:

Sounds like the entire vol campus is star struck. Understandable when an elite program comes to a small time programs gym. Tiger players have already stated that they are not giving autographs after their victory so forget about that.

Down_The_Field writes:

in response to Lostballnhighweeds:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Lostball, speaking of toothless, I'm gunna take mine out and hit the rack.

Oh, one last thing.......

Here's to Ol Tenn-e-see.
Never we'll sever.
We'll pledge our loyalty for ever and ever.
Backing our Football team.
Faultering never.
Cheer and Fight with All Your Might for..
TENNESSEE...

YEEEEEAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!! GO VOLS!!!!

WE__ARE_MEMPHIS writes:

in response to IdentityTheftVictim09:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Rich, dont worry about. You couldnt have known. I was talking smack all day. All is good. In all truth, both teams want this one bad. I will promise this to all, if we lose, I will be back to take my medicine. God, please smile on the Tigers!

Down_The_Field writes:

in response to overatedvols:

Sounds like the entire vol campus is star struck. Understandable when an elite program comes to a small time programs gym. Tiger players have already stated that they are not giving autographs after their victory so forget about that.

The time for glorifying yourself will soon come to an end......get some sleep.

WE__ARE_MEMPHIS writes:

in response to Lostballnhighweeds:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Great screen name.

WE__ARE_MEMPHIS writes:

I am out ladies. hers to no injuries for either team and a TIGER win. See ya there.

VOLKING writes:

in response to overatedvols:

Sounds like the entire vol campus is star struck. Understandable when an elite program comes to a small time programs gym. Tiger players have already stated that they are not giving autographs after their victory so forget about that.

Same post as last year, kid. Same result tomorrow too. You lose...and it gets under your skin...doesn't it. Gotta actually back up your empty words before anyone takes you seriously. If you are the better team, then why haven't you beat us the last 2 years? Anyway, your players have to sign an X for their autograph. It's Memphis, for crying out loud. Basketball, crooked politicians, drugs, gangs, crime....what's not to like?

DrJCrown_theMagicMan writes:

This would be a great win--GOVOLS!

GNELSON writes:

GO TIGERS GO!!!

DrJCrown_theMagicMan writes:

I think everyone on this site has like 5 screen names--LOL!

DrJCrown_theMagicMan writes:

This stuff is funny to read man. I like all the diffrent RENAMEs of good old MEMPHOOEY--LMAO!

EarlyReader writes:

VOLS...History is important but the hottest rival is the next game on the schedule then it shifts to the next game on the schedule, etc. Keep your focus.

AppStVol writes:

Get the troops ready Pearl, we need this win more that anything, I just want to shut these dumb MEMFRICA fans up I mean get real. Pearl is bringing a new dog in town and the Tigers need to take a seat. But lets hope for the best TOM I am so excited I cant see straight. THUGS vs. UT. Lets go BIG ORANGE!! GET SOME SLEASE BAG!

ozzman writes:

in response to volfan1985:

don't disagree with the fact about DUKE and NC but i would say that TENN and Memphis are one of the newest, hottest rivalries!! GO VOLS!

Exactly what I thought/Vol fan

txvolsfan writes:

in response to WE__ARE_MEMPHIS:

The vul players say it all. Your weak minded fans can fight all they want, but thier furry coach and players know the deal. How funny was this article. Dont you know the vul nation loved this. Hahahahaahh, tooo funny. so much for those vaunted suc(sec) rivalries.

It's just basketball, It's a filler before National Signing Day and Spring Ball.
It just is kinda there before football. Oh, I forgot you guys don't play football!!! Sorry

ozzman writes:

in response to IdentityTheftVictim09:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

UT66 memphis62

WeLoveTennesseeVols writes:

in response to bmaples:

Wow -- lots of things this old Knoxville-boy-turned-Louisvillian has to say about this:

First of all, the biggest basketball rival for Tennessee HAS to be Kentucky. After all, we have the best record against UK of any team in the SEC. From the UT sports site -- "Tennessee's 65 wins against the Wildcats are more than any other Kentucky opponent ... Kentucky's 140 wins against Tennessee are the most of any Volunteer opponent ... The Kentucky series is Tennessee's oldest and most-played among SEC opponents ... The Vols and Wildcats first met on Feb. 5, 1910 ... That was just the second season that the University of Tennessee sponsored a varsity a basketball team."

Secondly -- the most fierce basketball rivalry in the South? No way. You can make a case for UNC-Duke ... but I'll go with Louisville-Kentucky. The two teams aren't in each other's league, so unlike the Two Shades of Blue rivalry on Tobacco Road, The Ville and UK only play once a year. The buildup lasts for weeks, and the bragging rights last all year. These two teams recruit each other's back yards constantly. They have just as strong a rivaly in football. To top it all off -- the title-winning coach from UK (Pitino) now coaches at U of L.

UT-Memphis is a great rivalry -- but it's not on par with UT-UK, and it doesn't come close to UK-UofL.

All that being said ... this old Knoxville boy will be glued to the set on Saturday, hoping for the Orange Crush! Go Vols!

This is all smoke and mirrors, if we win this game OK, but Memphis is gunning for us bad! We've got it make and we'll try to coast on it and it will cost us. We'll loss by 20! Are we mature enough to overcome the Memphis Tigers? Will the crowd control the game? Could be.

cwisenhower#637741 writes:

This year, the UT/Memphis won't be as big as the UNC/Duke rivalry, but we made a strong case for it last year. Hell, the UNC/Duke rivalry is much, much more well-known and almost always has more on the line than our rivalry with Memphis. Take it for what it's worth, but this is my biggest basketball rivalry. Go Vols.

VolJunkie writes:

It is always special walking across the UT campus to TBA on game day. Neyland Stadium, the 3rd largest collegiate stadium in the country on the left; to the right, some of the finest athletic facilities in the country where NC caliber UT athletes compete in swimming, diving, track & field, baseball, soccer and softball. Reminders of a long tradition of athletic excellence at UT. The renovations at TBA reflect the renewal of UT's men's basketball program. Playing in the SEC, UT is used to playing against schools with basketball credentials and multiple national titles that Memphis can only dream of. Memphis is not the end-game, only a step towards achieving larger goals, for this season and beyond. Win or lose today, we have much to be proud of and much to look forward to.

We are UT ... Go Vols!

Couchdummy writes:

in response to bmaples:

Wow -- lots of things this old Knoxville-boy-turned-Louisvillian has to say about this:

First of all, the biggest basketball rival for Tennessee HAS to be Kentucky. After all, we have the best record against UK of any team in the SEC. From the UT sports site -- "Tennessee's 65 wins against the Wildcats are more than any other Kentucky opponent ... Kentucky's 140 wins against Tennessee are the most of any Volunteer opponent ... The Kentucky series is Tennessee's oldest and most-played among SEC opponents ... The Vols and Wildcats first met on Feb. 5, 1910 ... That was just the second season that the University of Tennessee sponsored a varsity a basketball team."

Secondly -- the most fierce basketball rivalry in the South? No way. You can make a case for UNC-Duke ... but I'll go with Louisville-Kentucky. The two teams aren't in each other's league, so unlike the Two Shades of Blue rivalry on Tobacco Road, The Ville and UK only play once a year. The buildup lasts for weeks, and the bragging rights last all year. These two teams recruit each other's back yards constantly. They have just as strong a rivaly in football. To top it all off -- the title-winning coach from UK (Pitino) now coaches at U of L.

UT-Memphis is a great rivalry -- but it's not on par with UT-UK, and it doesn't come close to UK-UofL.

All that being said ... this old Knoxville boy will be glued to the set on Saturday, hoping for the Orange Crush! Go Vols!

Good post. I would contend, however, that the reason Memphis supplants KY as the # 1 UT rivalry is that we now look beyond just SEC teams since we do now go to the Big Dance! Before Pearl, our national championship was a possible SEC crown--hence KY being our number 1 foe!

TommyJack writes:

Ignore the richard-head interlopers.

VolJunkie writes:

in response to Down_The_Field:

The time for glorifying yourself will soon come to an end......get some sleep.

Nice ... great "Gladiator" reference!

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

guys, ease up. when most people talk about 'the south' in basketball, they are NOT referring to the ACC. I know, I know, geographically and politically that doesn't mesh, but when you refer to sports, the ACC is not really a 'southern' conference, especially in basketball.

TommyJack writes:

in response to Timed_vol:

guys, ease up. when most people talk about 'the south' in basketball, they are NOT referring to the ACC. I know, I know, geographically and politically that doesn't mesh, but when you refer to sports, the ACC is not really a 'southern' conference, especially in basketball.

Exactly right. Especially the laCross playing University of New Jersey at Durham.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

not much on here about basketball today. lot's of hate tho' so I guess this is a big rivalry!?

khonea1553 writes:

Sorry folks..I hate to say it but in the Bruce Pearl era this is our biggest rival and this time we don't have a chance. I think this team could be good eventually but right now we don't play at full speed, all of the time, and our defense is really not sound.

dvols writes:

we need to recruit more memphis, calipari doesn't really do well there. today we need to rebound or it will be a long afternoon!!!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to khonea1553:

Sorry folks..I hate to say it but in the Bruce Pearl era this is our biggest rival and this time we don't have a chance. I think this team could be good eventually but right now we don't play at full speed, all of the time, and our defense is really not sound.

i think we're better every game and this will be an interesting match. however their young guys may be more mature (gamewise) than ours...probably... well yes.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to BolivarBob:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

ilovebasketball!!!!!!!!!!!

ctownvol writes:

in response to WE__ARE_MEMPHIS:

Rich, dont worry about. You couldnt have known. I was talking smack all day. All is good. In all truth, both teams want this one bad. I will promise this to all, if we lose, I will be back to take my medicine. God, please smile on the Tigers!

You? Talking smack? Nah. Couldn't be.

Couchdummy writes:

The title of the article is: "Top rivalry for Vols is a slam dunk: Memphis." That is what I was addressing. Somehow my fellow interloping posters takes the conversation as being the biggest basketball rivalry game, period. Apples and Oranges. Apples and Road Apples.

khonea1553 writes:

The sad thing is people around here won't give this team a little time to grow. What will happen is that fans will get upset and start saying Bruce Pearl is overated and in turn will make Thompson a bad place for our team to play. This is what happened with the football team and this again will hapen with the basketball team. If you want to start a movement then this is the place to start it. If Tennesse gets walloped at home again how about staying positive and support the youth of this team and understand that basically with this team we are completely switching playing styles and that takes time.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to CLEMSONVOL716:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I see your point, but surely you would agree that most people who post on this site care more about UT v. UM than about UNC v. Duke. However, "Hottest roundball grudge match in the South" IS a BIT excessive, IMHO. But yeah, GO VOLS!!! TAME THE TIGERS!!!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to overatedvols:

Sounds like the entire vol campus is star struck. Understandable when an elite program comes to a small time programs gym. Tiger players have already stated that they are not giving autographs after their victory so forget about that.

Who could tell one X from another anyway?

ETNTigerFan writes:

in response to BolivarBob:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

If you don't think there is any jealousy or hatred from UT fans towards the UM you must be new to the boards.

Down_The_Field writes:

in response to Studly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Wow! You've got the basketball tradition of the University of South Florida and the arrogance of Duke. Hummmm......funny.

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