You know what’s killing regular season college basketball? Sure the one-and-dones hurt. The lack of continuity hurts. But tonight’s Memphis-Tennessee matchup is what’s really killing regular season college basketball.
It could be the last Tennessee-Memphis basketball game, at least for awhile. The contract runs out after tonight and the week has been filled with mixed messages over whether it will be renewed.
Memphis coach Josh Pastner has said he has no interest in continuing the series because he wants a home-and-home with Louisville to be the program’s “first priority” with regards to non-conference scheduling. Then Thursday, Pastner’s boss appeared to go behind the coach’s back and strike a deal with the cross-state Vols to continue the rivalry. By Thursday night, however, Pastner and Tom Bowen claimed to be on the same page and re-evaluating the situation.
Here’s my question: So Memphis can’t play Louisville and Tennessee in the same season? A school can only manage one high-profile non-conference opponent per year? What’s up with that?
Why, as Geoff Calkins writes in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, are schools applying fear-based principles to their scheduling? And what are they scared of really?Unlike college football, a regular-season loss in college basketball is no big deal, even if it is to your hated rival. The aftermath of last Saturday’s Kentucky-Louisville game proved that. Louisville won, but Kentucky felt like it took a giant step forward. And we got to see awildly entertaining game.
Bad enough that Kentucky and Indiana have canceled their series because the powers that be at both schools can’t put their personal agendas aside long enough to do what’s best for the sport.
Let’s be honest here. National interest in college basketball is on the decline. Attendance is down. TV ratings are down. These made-for-TV matchups in neutral sites are nice, but they shouldn’t totally replace the look and feel of a great non-conference matchup between two great programs in front of a rabid fan base. The sport needs more of those games, not less. This Tennessee-Memphis controversy isn’t helping.