Tennessee-Memphis canceled due to COVID-19 complications within the Memphis program.
Tennessee’s game against Memphis Saturday afternoon in Bridgestone Arena has been canceled due to COVID-19 complications within the Memphis program.
Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said that he got a call about the possibility of the game being canceled at 9:25 in the morning as the team was boarding the bus, about an hour and a half before tip-off.
“We got a call when we got on the bus that there was a possibility. That was it,” Barnes said. “And then we got here, we were going through our regular routine and then they called and said the game was off.”
Tennessee still arrived at the stadium and went through its regular routine like normal with the hopes of playing the game. The announcement rung over the arena's loudspeakers 75 minutes before the noon EST tip-off.
Barnes announced to the fans in the stadium shortly after the cancellation that the Vols would play an intra-squad scrimmage for everyone who stays.
"Well, it was either we could go back and do something, but our players wanted to do it too," Barnes said. "They said, 'Well can we stay and play?' And we said 'Yeah, we'll stay'".
"Number one, we appreciate the fans. They came to see some good basketball. We've got a good team, and they'll see us go at it. And they'll enjoy it, and I think our guys will enjoy it. They wanted to do it, and I said, 'Let's do it.'"
The game would have been the final matchup in the three-game contract between the two schools. Tennessee took the first game in Memphis when the series was renewed in 2018, but fell to the Tigers in the 2019-20 season at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Tennessee had not had a game postponed or canceled this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic before Saturday’s matchup, though the incident does have some similarity to the 2020 SEC Tournament in Bridgestone Arena, which was canceled before Tennessee could play.
“It feels a little bit different,” Barnes said of the 2020 cancellation. “Because right then, no one knew what was going on with the COVID. It was so totally different. The night before (in 2020), everybody felt like our tournament would be cancelled. When we got up that morning, there was a much different feel. It was real eerie because of the unknown. Our guys, back then, were really concerned about it. Then we got here and within 15 minutes they had cancelled the tournament.”
The Vols entered the day with an 8-2 record and were ranked No. 18 in the nation. Memphis owns a 6-4 record and broke a four-game losing streak last time out with a 92-78 win over No. 6 Alabama.
Barnes said that "there's no way" the game with Memphis will get rescheduled for this season. After the scrimmage, the Vols will turn their focus to No. 8 Arizona on Dec. 22 in Thompson-Boling Arena.
“We have one more non-league game, then we break for Christmas for a couple days and we are into conference play plus we have the Big 12/SEC Challenge with Texas,” Barnes said. “We have no open dates.”