Tigers have Football Bragging Rights, but is UT Best Hoops Program in State?

Yesterday the final College Football polls were released and Memphis fans were able to brag about their team’s historic top 25 finish. Among the teams ranked lower in the Associated Press poll (aka not ranked) than Memphis:

  • Notre Dame
  • Oklahoma
  • Arkansas
  • Texas A&M
  • Tennessee

That’s right. The University of Tennessee. At Knoxville. The Volunteers. They of the orange and white checkerboard end zones. Ranked lower than the University of Memphis. In football. At the end of the year.

That’s historic.

Now – it must be asked: if the two teams (Memphis and UT) were to play on a neutral field next week would Memphis actually be favored? Would they win? Let’s not get into that. It doesn’t matter. The point here is that the ranking is a wonderful accomplishment and nice bragging point for long suffering fans.

But real Memphis fans couldn’t stay excited for too long yesterday, because something else became very clear last night.

UT has the best basketball team, and maybe the best program, in the state.

Last night, UT’s men’s basketball team – under first year coach Donnie Tyndall – beat 19th ranked Arkansas for it’s 2nd top 20 win of the season. The Vols are now 10-5 on the year and 2-1 in the SEC – hardly jaw dropping numbers but pretty impressive considering Tyndall had to pretty much build a new roster from scratch when he got the job after Cuonzo Martin’s late departure for Cal last spring. Tyndall pieced together a team of JUCO transfers, Southern Miss recruits, and other castoffs and has the Vols playing his trademark brand of fast paced, athletic, in your face basketball. And they’re playing it well.

Tyndall still faces significant obstacles at UT. He’s being investigated for alleged NCAA violations during his tenure at Southern Miss and that’s a black cloud that could hang over the program for a while. But assuming the NCAA issues get worked out without major damage to Tyndall’s new employer, the Vols have a good coach on their hands. Anyone who watched Tyndall at Morehead State and Southern Miss understood that he can coach basketball.

If Tyndall is winning at this rate with a piecemeal roster, imagine what he can do if & when he has time to actually recruit and build his own. It’s a scary thought for Memphis fans, who prefer the suffering of Tennessee fans second only to success of their own athletic teams.

In the meantime, that top 25 football ranking isn’t going anywhere for several months.

So Tiger fans have that going for them, which is nice.