There certainly is a lot going on in
MemphisLouisville on Saturday as No. 4 LouisvilleMemphis heads to town to visit.
Charles Carmouche will rejoin the Tiger team after he was suspended for four games by the NCAA following a charge of $100 that he put on his hotel room in Maui. Seton Hall transfer Ferrakhon Hall will be eligible as well after sitting out the first six games of the season. Hall will provide some size inside that Memphis desperately needs. They are 281st in the country in OR%, a number that won’t be helped by a potentially season-ending injury to DJ Stephens. Louisville will also have Kevin Ware available, even though the freshman was in a boot after rolling his ankle in his first practice.
But all of that?
That’s nothing compared to the tradition that will renewed.
Its quite obvious who Louisville’s biggest rival is — yes, Kentucky — but the same cannot be said for Memphis. Tennessee seems to be the biggest rival these days, but their head coach doesn’t even want to play the game anymore. That doesn’t exactly scream “rivalry”, considering that Xavier and Cincinnati don’t want to cancel their series even after a bench-clearing brawl.
Memphians undoubtedly hate Kentucky, but that has more to do with who the head coach is than with any game the two programs have ever played. UAB and Southern Miss may be their, ahem, “rivals” in Conference USA, but rivalries cannot be manufactured by league affiliation.
They can, however, be ruined.
That’s what happened with Louisville and Memphis, whose rivalry — which will be 86 games strong once the final buzzer sounds on Saturday — has taken two hiatuses. After sharing membership in the Metro Conference and playing each other every season from 1967-68 through 1990-91, the two clubs took a three-year break before they both became members of C-USA. That set up an 11-year stretch — 1994-95 through 2004-2005 — where Louisville and Memphis were the cream of a very good crop, staging battles that piqued when Rick Pitino took over Louisville while John Calipari was coaching the Tigers.
Getting these two programs back on the court together is something that should have happened a long time ago.
This is a rivalry in every sense of the word, one that can only have gotten stronger in the past six years. Have you forgotten what happened the last time these two teams were on the court together?
I’ll set the stage for you: a brazen freshman point guard named Darius Washington led the Tigers up against Louisville in the C-USA Tournament title game. At the time, Louisville was ranked No. 6 in the country, but Memphis hung with the Cardinals. With just 5.3 seconds left on the clock and down two points, Washington grabbed a missed free throw and went the length of the court, getting fouled while shooting a three.
After he hit the first free throw, Washington said to his bench “I got this”. He proceeded to miss the next two, crumpling to the ground in tears as the Tigers lost by a single point:
You don’t think Memphis fans have wanted to run that back for the better part of the last decade?
They’ll get the chance on Saturday.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.