College basketball has always had its share of heated rivalries. Duke versus North Carolina and Georgetown against Syracuse always come to mind. Now you can definitely add Memphis and Tennessee to that list.
The Tigers and Volunteers have always had an in-state rivalry, but it has never been that intense. Thanks to Memphis first-year head coach Penny Hardaway, it just got kicked up a notch.
Hardaway went IN on Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes after the Vols escaped with a 102-92 victory Saturday night.
Hardaway says some of the Vols players were trash talking to a few of his players, which started a scuffle between the two teams at the end of the game.
Tennessee players came over during the scuffle “with their fists balled, talking trash to our guys.” Hardaway also added that UT’s Jordan Bone “said something to Alex Lomax disrespectfully.”
Barnes, on the other hand, blew off the incident and joked about it on his talk show Monday, which didn’t sit too well with Hardaway.
Additionally, Hardaway also took exception to accusations of his players flopping during the game and addressed the situation again at his Tuesday press conference.
“If you just watch the film, I’m not making anything up. I don’t know who Rick Barnes thinks I am, but I’m not a dude that likes to just mess around about anything. I just call it like I see it. No matter how he’s trying to make things seem, and I think it’s kind of low-class how he’s trying to downgrade my guys for flopping and all that. Man, come on, give me a break.” — Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway
No matter what happens next, one thing is certain: This once quiet rivalry isn’t quiet anymore and that might be a good thing for not only the state of Tennessee, but also college basketball.
College basketball needs more rivalries like this to generate more interest in the sport during the regular season, which is something college football has managed to do masterfully.