MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Year two under head coach Penny Hardaway tips off Tuesday for Memphis basketball, and there’s more buzz and excitement surrounding these Tigers than any in recent years.
Hardaway put the Tigers back on the national map last season, but they didn’t have the raw talent to perform like a championship-level team.
This year, that won’t be an issue, as the Tigers are bringing in the No. 1-ranked recruiting class to an already skilled roster. The potential is nearly unlimited, just like fans' hopes and expectations.
With freshman phenoms like James Wiseman and Precious Achiuwa making their debuts and talented Memphians like Alex Lomax and Tyler Harris returning to the team, fan expectations are through the roof as the 2019-20 Tigers take the court Tuesday against South Carolina State.
“We hope to go all the way," University of Memphis student Thomas McDaniel said. "We don’t want to lose .We don’t want anything less. We want to go all the way.”
“It’s really exciting," U of M student Coltin Oliver said. "I’m planning on going to as many games as I can. I’m trying to watch. We ain’t been that good in a minute.”
The Tigers had the 17th-best attendance in the country last year, despite finishing fifth in the American Athletic Conference and missing the NCAA Tournament for the fifth year in a row. But this team has championship hopes, and the crowd should match.
Looks like he’s set to play @BigTicket_JW James Wiseman getting up shots before tonight’s @Memphis_MBB game against SC State @MCeide_WREG3 with highlights tonight @ 10 @3onyourside #wreg pic.twitter.com/q5q6EV3lmz
— Jeff Woods (@JWoodsWREG) November 6, 2019
If attendance stays strong through the year, the Tigers should draw more than 15,000 fans per game, a number that should land them inside the top-10 in attendance across the entire NCAA.
“We gotta show up and show out," McDaniel said. "For all the seniors that are graduating this year, we gotta show up. And we gotta let everyone know that we gotta support our team this year.”
With seven of their first eight games at home, the Tigers’ young roster should have some time to adjust to the bright lights of big expectations and will have plenty of chances to show its fans the world-class talent across the roster.
Tuesday's game against South Carolina State tips off at 7 p.m. and can be streamed on ESPN3.