Show Me My Opponent, 2021-22: Memphis

OPPONENT Memphis (6-4)
(20-8, NIT champs 2020-21)
LOCATION Bridgestone Arena
Nashville, TN
Jay Bilas (analyst)
Andy Jacobson (reporter)
SPREAD KenPom: Tennessee -5
Torvik: Tennessee -2.6

Rivalries are strange. Rarely do two schools agree that both are at the same level of rival; Ohio State/Michigan or similar is the exception rather than the rule. In hockey, I’m always reminded of the Detroit Red Wings being the Nashville Predators’ main rival despite Nashville probably never ranking higher than fourth on Detroit’s priority list. This relates directly to Tennessee because neither of Tennessee’s supposed main rivals, Alabama or Florida, consider Tennessee their main rival. The only team who has Tennessee #1 on their priority list is Vanderbilt, and, well, yeah.

For some reason, we are here again. Tennessee’s main rival in basketball, for them, is Kentucky. I don’t feel that anyone comes close. Memphis’s main rival is no one, but if asked, fans would name Tennessee. These two programs cannot agree on anything. The two coaches cannot agree on anything. East Tennesseans despise Memphis and vice versa. 5.5 hours separate two programs that hate each other for reasons no one can seem to articulate why they hate the other and how much they actually do¬†hate their competition. A loss by either side turns into days, weeks of fighting online, neither side coming out on top at year’s end.

The Basketball Battle of the Somme returns, possibly for the final time this decade. Seatbelts buckled, overhead restraint firmly clamped down, hang on and enjoy the ride.

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