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August 22, 2013The University of Memphis Tigers men's basketball team's 2013-14 schedule was released to the public Wednesday afternoon. After spending the last few seasons in an average Conference USA, the Tigers get a boost in the level of competition in the league slate with their move to the American Athletic Conference.
Fans should not have a problem finding Memphis on the tube, as 25 of their 31 regular season games are set to air on national television.
"First of all, I think it's a great schedule," head coach Josh Pastner said. "You're looking at those home games, we haven't had those type of home games here, I mean, maybe ever. It is an absolute awesome schedule. Secondly, it is critical, critical, that we pack the FedExForum. I want the fans to understand that Tiger nation is the best."
Last year, Memphis played their season-opening tournament in the Battle 4 Atlantis, stumbling to a 1-2 record. They will look to get off on a better foot this time around in Walt Disney's Wide World of Sports Old Spice Classic, which will include matchups against the Oklahoma State Cowboys (Nov. 19) in a non-bracketed game in Stillwater and an opening round clash with the Siena Saints. Depending on the outcomes in the tournament, the Tigers could face Butler, LSU, Purdue, Saint Joseph's or Washington State.
Additionally, the Tigers also play a game in the Jimmy V Classics in Madison Square Garden against the Florida Gators (Dec. 17), as well as host ESPN's College Gameday on Feb. 8 for their contest versus the Gonzaga Bulldogs, who were No.1 in the final regular season Associated Press poll and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Pastner said it is because of the fans that the Tigers were able to land so many nationally televised games.
"We got Gameday coming, which is tremendous," Pastner said. "They only do eight a year and we got one of the spots. I know the ESPN network absolutely loves Memphis. I mean people talk about the passion of the fan base. That's one of the reasons we were able to get Gameday here, because of the fan base."
Pastner also credited the fan base as one of the main reasons the AAC will hold its inaugural conference tournament in the Bluff City, which is scheduled from March 12-15 at FedExForum.
Memphis plays its lone exhibition game against Christian Brothers on Nov. 8, followed by the regular season opener on Nov. 14 against Austin Peay. The December slate includes four home games, with Northwestern State (Dec. 7), UALR (Dec. 13), Southeast Missouri State (Dec. 21) and Jackson State (Dec. 28). The Tigers close out the month with their AAC opener at the South Florida Bulls on Dec. 31.
January opens with a crucial four-game stretch, with the Cincinnati Bearcats at home (Jan. 4), road games at the Louisville Cardinals (Jan. 9) and Temple Owls (Jan. 11), followed by another home match verse the Connecticut Huskies (Jan. 16). In what many saw as a surprise, the Tigers host local Division II foe Lemoyne-Owen (Jan. 18), their first DII opponent since they faced Christian Brothers in the regular season in the 2001-02 campaign.
"Both Christian Brothers and Lemoyne-Owen I gave my word to that we'd play, but I also felt it was important that we had a scrimmage," Pastner said. "That was critical for us and to have a scrimmage to be tested early before we start our accountable games and to be able to see our strengths and weaknesses and things we need to work on. So it was just honoring a commitment to both schools."
Memphis closes out Jan. with home games verses Houston (Jan. 23) and South Florida (Jan. 26), followed by a trip to Orlando to face Central Florida (Jan. 29). The Tigers then play SMU on the road Feb. 1, with Rutgers (Feb. 4) visiting Memphis before ESPN College Gameday comes for the Gonzaga game. The remaining schedule for the month includes home games against Central Florida (Feb. 12) and Temple (Feb. 22), and road matches at Connecticut (Feb. 15), Rutgers (Feb. 20) and Houston (Feb. 27).
The Tigers close out the regular season schedule with three games in March, leading off with Louisville at home on March 1. Memphis then travels to Cincinnati (March 6) and welcomes SMU (March 8) before hosting the AAC Tournament.
In all, Memphis plays 18 conference games, the most in the program's history, and could face up to 10 teams that made a postseason tournament. The loaded schedule is filled with top-tier programs and should prove to be the toughest slate for the Tigers since the days of John Calipari. With the official start of preseason practices on Oct. 3 rapidly approaching, Pastner knows he and his Tigers will have to be at the top of their game come tip-off time.
"You're looking at possibly five to six bids from this league," Pastner said. "I think this is a great league. I mean this is a high-level basketball league. We're going to have to bring it every night. This is going to be big-time basketball."