The Memphis-UT game was on course to be a measuring stick for the Tigers and the Vols and a resume builder as each chases a birth in this year’s NCAA tournament.
Terry Davis

NASHVILLE — The Memphis Tigers-Tennessee Vols basketball rivalry is on a losing streak, with today’s planned showdown at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville now canceled due to COVID-19 protocols applied to the Memphis program.

It was the second straight year that the much-anticipated game between the in-state rivals has been a no-go because of COVID-19 concerns.

Vols coach Rick Barnes told media the game would not be rescheduled.

The game was on course to be a measuring stick for the Tigers (6-4) and the No. 18-ranked Vols (8-2) and a resume builder as each chases a birth in this year’s NCAA tournament.

Memphis was headed into the game fueled with its best performance of the season – an upset home win over the then-No. 6-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide on the heels of four straight losses and the Tigers’ season teetering severely.

The game was to feature highly-touted former Briarcrest Christian High School player Kennedy Chandler up against his hometown team. It also was set up to be a test of whether the newfound chemistry of Memphis was a sign of more to come or just a one-time flash.

Kennedy Chandler (center), a star at Briarcrest Christian High School in Memphis, and his Tennessee teammates put on a mini-scrimmage for a few of their fans. (Photo: Terry Davis/The New Tri-State Defender)

Additional details about Memphis’ upcoming schedule will be announced at a later date. According to a UofM social media post, All tickets will be refunded via the original point-of-purchase, with processing times dependent on the method of purchase.

The Volunteers had warmed up and were ready to play when the game was called off at 9:54 a.m. with several hundred fans already in attendance. Tipoff had been scheduled for 11 a.m.

Memphis players did not enter the arena. It was not clear exactly how many players were in the COVID-19 protocols.

The game was to be played in Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, a midway point between the two programs’ campuses.

Barnes decided to hold an intrasquad scrimmage for Vols fans in attendance. The pep band entered the floor and played “Rocky Top.”

Once the game was canceled, security didn’t let anyone else in the arena, upsetting some Vols fans who wanted to watch the scrimmage.

The UT program tweeted an apology, saying: “When this tweet was sent, we were of the belief fans could still access the arena. That was not the case + we apologize for the confusion. Like you, we’re disappointed in today’s outcome. Y’all showed up in force. We hate to have lost an opportunity to play in front of #VolNation.”

The Tigers have a game scheduled against Alabama State on Tuesday (Dec. 21) at the FedExForum. Following that scheduled game, the next is set to be against Tulane on December 29. The Green Wave is currently on pause due to COVID issues.

(This story reflects a report by the Associated Press.)