Tennessee-Memphis is a more expensive ticket that New England-New York for the Super Bowl.
Asking price for courtside tickets: $5,000 to $7,500.
The game is considered one of the biggest sporting events in Memphis history, ranking up there with the heavyweight fight between Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis, the 1982 Liberty Bowl which featured Bear Bryant's last game as Alabama's coach and a recent PGA Championship.
``Tickets are going like Super Bowl tickets,'' Memphis coach John Calipari said. ``It's incredible.''
``It's being hyped up more than it needs to be, to be honest with you,'' Calipari said.
Calipari wouldn't blame a Memphis fan for scalping his ticket for profit, as long as he sold his tickets to another Memphis fan.
``I would tell anybody, if they can pay for their child's tuition for a year with their tickets, sell it,'' Calipari said. ``Get yourself a big-screen TV.''
Makes sense. You need a big screen for a big game – if you're not in attendance.
The game has taken on epic proportions. But Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl doesn't want his players playing uptight. And that starts at the top.
``I'm as intense for Tusculum as I am for Memphis and the kids won't see any difference in the coaching staff,'' Pearl said of UT's preparations this week. ``But we'll probably have to play better against Memphis than we would against Tusculum.''
Interestingly, Pearl said he doesn't think Memphis is difficult to scout.
``They're not a complicated team to prepare for,'' Pearl said. ``They're talent based, very strong. They drive the ball to the basket extremely well. They pound the boards and do a good job defensively with their athleticism. If they're making 3-point shots and free throws, they'll be tough to beat.''
Tennessee has seen Memphis' dribble-drive motion offense for a couple of years. It didn't bother the Vols in last year's 18-point win in Knoxville. But Memphis might have a more effective offense this year, thinks to freshman point guard Derrick Rose, a potential one-and-done player to the NBA. Rose leads Memphis in assists and is second in scoring (13.6) and steals.
``We've had some recent success against it, but they're good at it, really good at it,'' Pearl said.
But it's not the scheme. It's the players.
``They're a Final Four team,'' Pearl said. ``They've got four or five NBA players on that team.
``It's step-up time I've got to step up. The players have got to step up. The bench has got to step up. Our fans have got to step up.''
Calipari is equally lavish in his praise of Tennessee (24-2).
``I can see us getting beat,'' Calipari said of his Memphis team that is 26-0 after routing Tulane 97-71 in New Orleans.
``They beat our brains in in Koxville (last year). They've got two of the best perimeter shooting guards in (JaJuan) Smith and (Chris) Lofton. They've got a great athlete in (Tyler) Smith. They've got point guard who is solid as heck and will make open shots. They've got guys that transferred in that have elevated their game. They've got the inside guys. They've even got a young freshman who I think is good.
``They're deep, they're talented, they shoot. They've got a little bit of everything.''
``Well,'' he said, ``we didn't a year ago. If you ask me, I'd say no. But we've got a team that plays hard and a style of play they're comfortable with. It unleashes players. It puts players in position to make plays. It's not running plays. Our style of play is something we're comfortable with.''
There has been controversy regarding the series. Pearl wants to play home-and-home. Calipari wants to play for a Governor's Cup with several Tennessee teams playing a round robin in Nashville, a neutral site. That would keep UT out of Memphis, the most fertile recruiting ground in the state, and territory Pearl would love to invade by signing a key player or two.
``We obviously put a premium on kids here, but we can't recruit all of them,'' Pearl said. ``We help kids go to other schools. … But the ones we want, we go after hard, and in most cases we get those kids.''
Calipari does not think the outcome of the game will sway recruits.
``I don't think it has an impact on the kids,'' he said. ``The kids we're recruiting I don't think would say, `Memphis beat Tennessee, so I'm going to Memphis.' That's not why they're going to come here.''
While the coaches disagree with how the series should be played, they do agree the 1 vs. 2 matchup is great for the state.
``If I'm a high school basketball player, currently or formerly, if I'm coaching in high school, I'm proud of what's going to take place on Saturday,'' Pearl said. ``An event like 1 vs. 2 is reserved for Tobacco Road or Indiana or Kentucky.
``But it's right here in Tennessee, and I'm very proud to be representing.''