Memphis should not be held responsible for helping out Tier 2 and 3 teams by scheduling them even if they're within the state.
Soon after Mike Anderson was hired at Arkansas, a report surfaced claiming that his Razorbacks would play a game at Memphis next season. Well not according to Tiger coach Josh Pastner.
“There were some talks with Coach (John) Pelphrey and his staff, who had reached out to us,” Pastner said. “Originally they had talked about playing here and then returning it in Little Rock, or returning it in Fayetteville. There were talks, but nothing more than that.”
And the gist? “Arkansas really wanted to play us. If I was in Arkansas, I would want to play us, too, but if you (tried) to pin me to it, I would not do the game.”
Of course not. Memphis is a recruiting hotbed and the Razorbacks only want in so they can lure some top prospects out. John Calipari — while at Memphis — pushed for the Memphis-Tennessee series to be moved to Nashville… with the obvious intention of keeping the Vols out of the Bluff City. So Pastner knows the score.
“The bottom line is, where I stand, a lot of these teams want to recruit in Memphis. Why do I want to help them out? We play Tennessee, but if it was up to me I’d like to get rid of that series,” Pastner said.
“Tennessee wants to recruit people in Memphis. Arkansas wants to recruit people in Memphis. Ole Miss wants to recruit people in Memphis. Mississippi State wants to recruit people in Memphis. People want to recruit our young men in Memphis because, to me, it’s the top or one of the three best cities in terms of basketball talent.”
That might be overstating it a bit, but Pastner’s right in believing there’s nothing in it for him to allow SEC programs to gain a foothold in his city.
Luckily for Tennessee, the Memphis administration wants/needs games with the Volunteers in football in order to raise the Tigers’ profile in that sport. That gives UT enough leverage to keep the basketball series running as a home-and-home battle. It also helps UT’s cause that the state legislature wants the Tigers and Vols to play.
Without those built-in advantages, Arkansas will likely have to do a bit more work it wants to gain entry to Beale Street.