“I always tell my guys to be ready, so I’ll be ready,” he said.
His Tigers (3-0) are set to face Michigan (3-1) Wednesday (4 p.m., ESPN2) in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. The multi-team event features a strong field that also includes No. 14 North Carolina, 20th-ranked Arkansas and Villanova. Stanford, Texas Tech and Northern Iowa round out the remainder of the tournament’s contenders.
The NCAA ordered Hardaway to watch Memphis’ first three games remotely since he violated recruiting rules in 2021. Assistant Rick Stansbury handled head coaching duties on game days with Hardaway out.
Hardaway admitted having to be away from the team for three games was “weird.” But it didn’t do anything to shake his confidence.
“Just watching them score effortlessly and bond together during defensive stretches, really good stretches, I see greatness in us,” he said. “And it’s just starting.”
Since beating Alabama State on Friday, Memphis has had several practices where progress has been obvious to Hardaway. Senior point guard Jahvon Quinerly admitted Tuesday that there’s been “a little bit of extra bounce in our step.”
“Each practice is getting better, because it’s more buy-in to understanding what we’re trying to do on both ends of the floor,” he said. “The know-how, to me, makes us faster.”
Hardaway said the Tigers enter the tournament in the Bahamas relatively healthy, outside of a few minor bumps and bruises.
Being part of a field as strong as this year’s Battle 4 Atlantis affords Memphis a wealth of opportunity. A strong showing could improve the Tigers’ standing in the eyes of the NCAA tournament selection committee. It could also give them the boost they need to finally crack the AP Top 25 poll.
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Memphis (which sits at No. 23 in the USA TODAY Sports Coaches Poll) has been the top team outside the AP Top 25 each of the past two weeks.
“It’s gonna take a lot for us to get some respect,” Hardaway said. “They’re going to make us earn every single thing that we get. And I like that. I think, with FAU already being in the top 25, they don’t want to have another AAC team.
“So, we’re just gonna have to do what we’re gonna have to do, and that’s go win. When you win, they can’t deny you. They’re saying we’re not good enough to get in. We have to prove that we are – continue to prove that we are.”
Reach sports writer Jason Munz at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him @munzly on X, the social media app formerly known as Twitter.
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Why Memphis basketball has some ‘extra bounce’ ahead of Michigan game