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Kentucky Basketball: Penny Hardaway is still working to get UK on Memphis’ schedule

Penny wants to fast-track the Tigers’ route to the big stage. Will Calipari help him do that?

FloSports: FloHoops City of Palms Basketball Classic- Showcase Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Memphis Tigers were ranked No. 1 in the country and played for a national championship under John Calipari. Since he left town in 2009, the Tigers’ program has been on a steady decline.

Back in March of this year, Memphis administrators were convinced that they had signed the savior of the program in coach Penny Hardaway. He would return the basketball program to national prominence.

A Memphis native and alum, Hardaway has been a juggernaut on the AAU circuit in recent years and is very connected to the recruiting world. He already has Memphis on the final lists for multiple top 50 recruits, including top target James Wiseman.

In addition to making a splash in recruiting, Hardaway is also hoping to land some prime time games that will be nationally televised. His dream match-up? A home-and-home series with the Kentucky Wildcats.

“I don’t know if that would be realistic, but any game, we want to play Kentucky,” Hardaway told Drew Hill of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “We’ve been talking about it, and I’m going to continue to talk to (John Calipari) about it. Because them, Duke and North Carolina, those are teams you want to play on national TV because it’s going to be watched.”

Hardaway has talked about this possibility before, saying that Calipari once promised him he would play against Penny’s team if he ever became a head coach. If that promise was indeed made, I would imagine it was meant for a scenario where Penny was not pulling recruits away from Kentucky.

While no blue blood programs appear on Memphis’ 2018-2019 schedule, the Tigers will host in-state rival Tennessee and face Villanova on a neutral court. He is obviously making strides in getting his program more exposure, and so far he seems to be living up to expectations.

However, he has yet to coach a single minute of college basketball. Once the season begins and the rubber meets the road, Hardaway’s impact on Memphis basketball will be a little easier to assess. Perhaps that is what Calipari is waiting on before he decides to put the Tigers on Kentucky’s schedule.

Do you think Kentucky should add a home-and-home series with Memphis to the Wildcats’ already brutal non-conference schedule?