Memphis (9-3) at Tennessee (8-3)
Friday, Jan. 4, 8:00 p.m. ET
Thompson-Boling Arena (21,678) • Knoxville, Tenn.
Radio: Vol Network (WGOW-FM 102.3, Chattanooga)
Series Record: Tennessee leads, 14-10
Probable Memphis Starters
F-Adonis Thomas, 6-7, 240, SO, (10.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg)
F-Shaq Goodwin, 6-9, 246, FR, (8.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg)
F-D.J. Stephens 6-5, 188, SR, (6.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.0 spg, 1.4 bpg, .417 3PT)
G-Joe Jackson, 6-1, 171, JR, (13.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 4.4 apg)
G-Geron Johnson, 6-3, 197, JR, (10.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.0 apg)
Key Reserves: Antonio Barton (6-2, 178, JR); Chris Crawford (6-4, 218, JR); Tarik Black (6-9, 262, JR).
Probable Tennessee Starters
F-Kenny Hall, 6-9, 230, SR, (6.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg)
F-Josh Richardson, 6-6, 188, SO, (7.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg)
C-Jarnell Stokes, 6-8, 270, SO, (11.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.0 spg, 1.0 bpg)
G-Skylar McBee, 6-3, 195, SR , (6.6 ppg, 1.3 rpg, .308 3PT)
G-Trae Golden, 6-1, 205, JR, (12.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 4.5 apg)
Key Reserves: Jordan McRae (6-5, 178, JR); Brandon Lopez (6-1, 178, SO); Yemi Makanjuola (6-9, 250, SO); Derek Reese (6-7, 218, FR).
The opening tip
Hold on a minute. Maybe the Tennessee-Memphis series isn't dead after all.
After Tiger coach Josh Pastner told the media on Tuesday that his team's popular series with the Vols—played on a home-and-home basis since 2005—was over and that the big non-conference game Memphis fans wanted to see was Louisville, his boss has contradicted him.
"We are re-evaulating everything," Memphis athletic director Tom Bowen told the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. Bowen also told the newspaper, "this game is very important to us."
Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart weighed in on the subject, too, telling the Knoxville News-Sentinel on Thursday: "As we have said all along, we have a strong desire to continue the series with Memphis. Over the course of the last couple of days, we've had multiple conversations with them, and I'm hopeful that we'll be able to get this resolved and continue the series."
So perhaps Friday night's game isn't the last between the cross-state rivals. But it's big, anyway, even though it won't mean another chance for the Vols to bag an RPI top 100 win before heading into Southeastern Conference play. Memphis has slipped to No. 106 this week despite not playing since Dec. 30. Tennessee is No. 53.
Memphis is likely to be without the services of post man Tarik Black, who has been out with a groin injury suffered in practice last week. Pastner told the Commercial-Appeal he expects Black to be back when the Tigers begin Conference USA play on Jan. 9.
Tennessee has been struggling to make shots—film analysis of the Vols’ game against Xavier last week showed that 18 of their 20 3-point shots were open looks—so the game could be another low-scoring, grind-it-out slugfest. Or perhaps freshman Derek Reese, one of the heroes of the Xavier game, could step up again. He made two of the Vols’ three made 3-pointers against the Musketeers.
It would help if point guard Trae Golden, who is playing with a bruised left shoulder (he shoots right handed), could get untracked. He’s made just one of his last 14 shots from the floor and didn’t make a field goal against Xavier.
Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin on playing Memphis: “We'll be ready to play. I'm sure those guys (Memphis) will be ready to play. It should be a tremendous atmosphere.”
Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes and Memphis freshman Shaq Goodwin were teammates on the United States U18 team that won the gold medal at the FIBA Americas Championship in Brazil last summer. Stokes was the USA’s second-leading scorer (14.0 ppg) and Goodwin was third (12.4). … There are 12 Tennesseans on the rosters of both teams, including seven from Memphis. … Since 2001, neither Memphis nor Tennessee has managed to win more than two consecutive games in the series. The Vols won five straight from 1996-2000. The Tigers won twice last year, including a 99-97 victory in the Maui Invitational in a game where Jeronne Maymon scored 32 points and grabbed 20 rebounds, and 69-51 at Memphis on Jan. 4, 2012. … When the two teams played at Memphis in 2008, it was a Final Four atmosphere because the Tigers, then coached by John Calipari, were ranked No. 1 and the Vols No. 2. The Vols won, 66-62, and took over the top spot in the rankings, and the game drew 5.28 million viewers, at the time the most watched game in ESPN history.