College Basketball Insider

Weekend Look Ahead: Big rivalry renewed in Memphis-L'ville matchup


The Memphis-Louisville rivalry is back.

So is Khris Middleton.

And Jared Sullinger.

Let's do the Weekend Look Ahead.

Top game: The Memphis-Louisville rivalry was one of the nation's best in the 1970s and 1980s, but it ended when the Cards left Conference USA for the Big East. The final meeting came in the title game of the 2005 C-USA tournament. You probably remember it as the Darius Washington Game that featured the freshman guard missing two of three free throws with no time remaining and allowing Louisville to escape FedExForum with a 75-74 victory. It remains the most gut-wrenching non-injury moment I've ever witnessed a college basketball player experience on the court, and you'll see the highlight a few times Saturday when the Tigers and fourth-ranked Cardinals renew the series on CBS.

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Another interesting matchup: Texas A&M has already lost on a neutral court to one SEC team, Mississippi State. But that game didn't involve the Aggies' best player, so it comes with an asterisk. Now Khris Middleton is back. And we'll get to see on Saturday whether the 22nd-ranked Aggies can even their record against future conference members when they play 13th-ranked Florida on a neutral court in Florida.

Yet another interesting matchup: UNLV dealt North Carolina its first loss a few weeks back. On Saturday, the Rebels will try to do the same thing to the school the Tar Heels beat to win the 2005 national championship -- undefeated and 19th-ranked Illinois.

Guaranteed to be a blowout: The third-ranked Kentucky Wildcats haven't played since last week's loss at Indiana. That means they're probably eager to get on the court Saturday against Chattanooga, and by the time it's over Chattanooga will be eager to get off the court.

Guaranteed to be an upset: I'm tempted to take unranked Memphis over fourth-ranked Louisville, but that'll only bring countless emails from readers pointing out where I live, and I have no interest in reading those. So I'll stay away from the KFC Yum! Center and go with unranked BYU over No. 6 Baylor. Do I really think BYU is better than Baylor? No. But the Cougars have an all-time record of like 51,343-2 at the Marriott Center against nonleague opponents, so this is a reasonable place to pick against Scott Drew's team.

Player trying to keep rolling: Seems like every season there's a small-school guard with whom everybody falls in love. This season that small-school guard is Iona's Scott Machado, who is averaging 15.2 points and 10.9 assists per game. He got 13 points, 15 assists and six rebounds in Wednesday's win over Richmond. He's 0.7 assists per game better than North Carolina's Kendall Marshall heading into Saturday's game against Vermont.

Player trying to get rolling: C.J. Leslie grabbed just two rebounds two weeks ago against Stanford and scored just three points last weekend against North Carolina Central, point being that he hasn't played a complete game in a while. That'll have to change Saturday if North Carolina State wants to have any chance at upsetting top-ranked Syracuse.

Three things you need to know

1. Florida announced Friday that Billy Donovan's contract has been extended through the 2015-16 season. That doesn't necessarily mean he's tied to the school until 2016, but it's an opportunity to remind the country just how successful he has been the past 16 seasons.

2. Preseason National Player of the Year Jared Sullinger is expected to play Saturday when No. 2 Ohio State visits South Carolina. Sullinger missed the Texas-Pan American and Kansas games with back spasms, but played 25 minutes earlier this week against South Carolina Upstate.

3. Ben Howland ended Reeves Nelson's UCLA career last week and people immediately started speculating on where the troubled forward might enroll next. UTEP? Iowa State? Turns out, the answer is nowhere. Nelson is instead headed to Lithuania to play professionally. I wish him good luck. I wish Lithuania even more luck.

Final thought: Back to the Memphis-Louisville rivalry ...

Those who don't live in either city -- or who aren't in their 30s or older -- probably can't appreciate what this rivalry once was, but it really was terrific back in the day. I live in Memphis and am in my 30s, so I was raised on Memphis-Louisville and can remember being taught as a child that there was only one person in the world worth hating -- Denny Crum. There were actual bumper stickers on cars that read, "My favorite team is Memphis and whoever is playing Louisville." The one-time "Voice of the Tigers" -- a man named Jack Eaton -- once said, "If Louisville were playing the Soviet Union, I'd have to pull for the Russians," and pretty much everybody in the city agreed.

Russians during the Cold War were more likable in Memphis than Pervis Ellison and Felton Spencer, and that's why Rick Pitino and Josh Pastner should be applauded for renewing this series. The history will play no role in Saturday's outcome, of course. But it'll make it fun for the fans in red who used to hate blue, and for the fans in blue who used to hate red.

Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for and college basketball insider for the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts an award-winning radio show in Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two sons and two dogs.

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