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PENNY: Tiger mentality is ‘tournament or bust’

One might expect new Tigers Head Basketball Coach Penny Hardaway to pad his schedule with some lower tier teams – you know, to hopefully build some momentum with what should be easy wins.

And anyone expecting that from Hardaway would be sorely mistaken.

On Aug. 20, The Tigers announced one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation – one which will feature eight tournament teams from last season. Powerhouses like LSU, Oklahoma State and the reigning NCAA champs, the Villanova Wildcats are all early season opponents.

And if you’re wondering why Hardaway would give himself and his team such a hard row to hoe in his rookie season as a Division 1 coach, it boils down to one thing.

“We want the competition. We want to be measured,” Hardaway said during Tuesday media availability. “I want to test our guys at every level early (in the season) so that we’ll be ready late (as the tournament approaches).”

Hardaway acknowledges it may not be easy for his squad to tally wins with that slate of opponents.

“A lot of coaches wouldn’t play the teams that we’re going to play in their first year of coaching because you kind of want to build wins.

“I want to compete,” Hardaway continued. “It’s going to make me work harder. It’s going to make our staff work harder. We know what’s ahead of us and we have to be prepared.”

Hardaway said that Tiger veterans like Jeremiah Martin and Kevon Davenport have meshed well in summer workouts with Hardaway recruits like Alex Lomax and Tyler Harris.

“One thing I’ve seen out of our guys is that they really want it,” he said. “They understand what we really want and it’s tournament or bust. We really know where we want to be and we’re working hard toward that goal.”

March Madness set for Oct. 4 at FedExForum

Tigers fans have been foaming at the mouth with enthusiasm since Hardaway was introduced as coach – the hope is that he’ll help recreate the excitement that surrounded the program when he played here.

That’s why all signs point to this year’s Memphis Madness boiling over with rabid fans when it comes back to FedExForum on Oct. 4. Hardaway and Women’s Basketball Coach Melissa McFerrin will be joined by their squads in the fan-friendly event.

Live music on the plaza starts at 5 p.m., with the gates opening at 6 p.m. Both teams will be available for autographs on the concourse, and the on-court program will begin at 7 p.m.

All seats will be reserved, and tickets for Memphis Madness will go on sale to the general public on Wednesday, Sept. 5 at 8 a.m. Plaza and Club Level seats are $10 each, while all Terrace level seats are $5. There is a limit of six seats per purchase.

U of M students will receive free admission, and ticket pickup information will be released during the first week of classes.

To purchase tickets, visit www.GoTigersGoTix.com, or by call 901.678.2331.

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