The third game of Tennessee and Memphis three-game basketball series has a makeup date after this December’s scheduled matchup was canceled due to scheduling struggles related to COVID-19.
The teams will still meet in Nashville as the third matchup will now take place Dec. 18, 2021. The two teams believed the third matchup should take place in a sold out, neutral site, Bridgestone Arena. With that not being realistic this winter, the two sides decided to postpone a season.
"This was the right thing to do, and it's the best thing for both teams' fanbases," Tennessee Associate Head Coach Michael Schwartz said. "We're appreciative of Bridgestone Arena working with us to keep this game in Nashville. It should be a great statewide showcase for college basketball."
"Thank you to coach Rick Barnes and coach Hardaway for their commitment to bring this big game to Bridgestone Arena," Nashville Predators/Bridgestone Arena Senior Vice President for Entertainment and Marketing David Kells said. "We are looking forward to hosting the next chapter in this great intrastate rivalry in a packed arena in December of 2021."
Tennessee won the first matchup of the three game series in Memphis in December of 2018. The third ranked Vols cruised past Memphis for a 102-92 win, but the drama occurred postgame.
After a scuffle between Tennessee’s Jordan Bone and Memphis’ Alex Lomax in the game’s last minutes, Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway called Bone out for starting the fight and claimed that Tennessee’s bench came over trying to fight Memphis.
After Bone called Memphis out for flopping and Rick Barnes joked with the Vol Network’s Bob Kesling about “balling his fist” at the Memphis’ radio announcer, the incident amplified with Hardaway calling out Barnes, “Rick Barnes. … Get the f*** out of here.”
Memphis edged out Tennessee in the rematch in Knoxville last season, 51-47, and Hardaway apologized for his actions in 2018, saying listening back to it “made him cringe,” and he showed respect for Barnes.
The future of the series remains unclear. The three game contract ends after the 2021 meeting and while Memphis has shown an eagerness to renew the series, Barnes and Tennessee have been non committal, stating that whether they schedule Memphis would depend on the rest of its non conference schedule.
While the future of the rivalry is unclear, Hardaway expressed support for the instate series in a statement released about the third matchup’s new date.
"The University of Memphis is looking forward to continuing what is a great intrastate series against Tennessee," Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway said. "The neutral-site game at Bridgestone Arena will provide an incredible atmosphere, and I know our fans will be excited about going to Nashville to support the Tigers. I want to thank Bridgestone Arena for their willingness to work through a tough situation with the pandemic to host this game in December 2021. It is a game that is great for national television and brings a lot of attention to the quality of basketball in our state."
The series has been a competitive one with the two schools each winning five of the last 10 matchups in the series.