It’s official: Tennessee is a basketball state.
Well, it is this week.
In case you haven’t been paying attention (I mean, really haven’t been paying attention), No. 1-ranked Memphis will play No. 2-ranked Tennessee on Saturday. As of right now, the two best college basketball teams in the country reside in our state. Not North Carolina. Not Kentucky. Not Indiana. Right here.
Of course, ever since both teams got out to good starts this season, Feb. 23 got circled on the calendar. Everyone knew it would be a great game, a big game.
Nobody knew it was going to be quite this big.
How big is it? Well, it’s probably the biggest college basketball game in the history of the state. Only two other states have had schools within their borders face off as No.1 and No. 2 — North Carolina and Ohio (Cincinnati and Ohio State back in the day).
It’s so big it’s starting to attain a Super Bowl-like atmosphere around here. As of last night, there were bids on ebay.com as high as $600 for tickets to the game. Some jokers were even asking for as much as $3,000 a ticket.
Everybody is going to be there, apparently. Peyton Manning is reportedly trying to get tickets and you know former Memphis superstars like Penny Hardaway and Keith Lee try to be there to be seen.
Yes, there is a lot of hype for this one. But here’s the thing: This game deserves it.
These are two really great and exciting college basketball teams. Tennessee’s Chris Lofton was in a funk for much of the season, but now he’s coming around and has put up some amazing performances recently. Memphis freshman superstar Derrick Rose has some jaw-dropping highlights. Memphis’ Chris Douglas-Roberts and UT’s Tyler Smith are two of the most athletic players you’ll see this year.
Heck, they even have two of the best fight songs in the country with “Go, Tigers, Go” and “Rocky Top.”
So it will be a historic game with a sellout, electric crowd and two awesome teams on national television (ESPN, 8 p.m.) If you’re not excited, you should be.
I wonder if it’s too late to get tickets?
Matt Wilson is the sports editor of The City Paper.