Late last week, the American Athletic Conference announced that the Memphis Tigers home game vs #9th ranked Houston scheduled for this Sunday will instead be a road game.
Per the terms of a preseason agreement made by the league’s athletic directors, if there is failure to reschedule a game missed due to Covid, then the remaining game defaults to the home site of whichever program did not have the prior Covid issue. The rule seems decently fair, yet the enforcement rather selective.
“I never spoke directly to the commissioner, but they said that you are supposed to try to reschedule games that you miss because of Covid,” Hardaway said. “The season is still going on. They have seven days off before they play us and I think we have four or five, so there was a time to play them Thursday at their place to make up for Valentine’s Day, and then come back to our place and finish the season. Houston did not like that because they felt like if they were going to play for a championship, it should be at home and I don’t understand that.”
While Memphis Athletic Director Laird Veatch expressed his disappointment that a more creative resolution could not be realized, the outcome is one that should not come as a surprise to Tigers fans. It certainly did not to coach Penny Hardaway.
“It’s always been Memphis vs everybody,” Hardaway said. “We get the short end of the stick in everything. It’s just unfortunate because there is no way, if the roles were reversed, that they would have given us a home game. We would have had to play at our place and then go to Houston, I guarantee you.”
At such a pivotal point in the season, with the AAC tournament less than two weeks away, to just lose any game off the schedule entirely hurts when trying to make a last-ditch effort to pad an NCAA tournament resume. To lose out on even playing a home game vs a top-ten team, that is a brutal break. With just two games remaining, Memphis likely finds itself in the NCAA field.
“We have a business mindset,” sophomore big man Malcolm Dandridge said. “We’re just taking it one game at a time, staying locked in.”
Turbulence has been the name of the game during this Covid-impacted season. Across the country, team everywhere have seen games cancelled or postponed. Still, the AAC’s decision to put all its eggs in Houston’s basket, while unsurprising, just makes it that much more difficult for Memphis in its attempt to finally return to the NCAA tournament.
After Tuesday’s matchup at South Florida, the Memphis Tigers will close out the season Sunday at Houston. With the final AAC standings up in the air, Sunday’s meeting could potentially be for the regular season championship and top seed in the league tournament next week. Still, all they can do is try to control their emotions and stay focused on the task at hand instead of outside factors.
Tip-off vs the Cougars is set for 11 a.m. Sunday.
Although dealing with the short end of the stick, the Tigers have no choice but to push forward and try to rack up as many wins as possible to have a shot at the NCAA tournament.