Can Memphis Basketball Snap Sweet 16 Drought in 2024?

Can Memphis Basketball Snap Sweet 16 Drought in 2024?
Fact Checked by Michael Peters

It’s been an enigmatic season for the Memphis Tigers’ men’s basketball program, which currently sits in the 80th position on after its big win over Charlotte on Wednesday — which followed back-to-back road losses at North Texas and SMU.

The Tigers entered Wednesday night’s home game against Charlotte as a 6.5-point favorite at ESPN BET Tennessee and came away with a 76-52 victory.

Despite the win, it’s worth wondering whether Penny Hardaway’s team will even make the NCAA Tournament’s field of 68 next month. At the moment, Memphis is nowhere to be found in ESPN bracket guru Joe Lunardi’s latest update, with Memphis likely having to win its way into the field by capturing next month’s American Athletic Conference tournament.

If Memphis comes up short, it would guarantee the Tigers extend their record long streak of NCAA Tournament disappointment. Memphis last reached the Sweet 16 under John Calipari in 2009.

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Longest Memphis Sweet 16 Droughts

  • 15 seasons: (2008-2009 to 2022-2023) 
  • 11 years: (1994-95 to 2005-06) 
  • 7 years: (1985-86 to 1991-92)

Memphis is no longer in contention for the American regular season title. South Florida is the favorite to win the AAC at Tennessee betting apps with -115 odds. Despite the loss to the Tigers on Wednesday, Charlotte is +250.

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Can Hardaway Get Memphis Over Hump?

Through six seasons at his alma mater, Hardaway has seen plenty of success on the court, winning 68.3% of his games with an all-time record of 129-60. But the Tigers have not made it past the tournament’s second round in his two previous trips to the Big Dance.

Last year, Hardaway and the Tigers were bounced in the first round as an eight seed by No. 9 FAU, which went on to reach the Final Four. The 2021-22 Memphis squad beat No. 8 seed Boise State as a nine seed before losing to top seed Gonzaga in the second round, 82-78.

In Memphis’ last three trips to the second round of the tournament (2013, 2014, and 2022) the Tigers have lost to Michigan State, Virginia, and Gonzaga by a combined score of 230-186, with only one of the three contests being decided by single digits (the Tigers’ 82-78 loss to the Bulldogs two years ago).

For now, Hardaway’s No. 1 task is getting Memphis back in rhythm down the stretch, so the Tigers have a chance at stealing a bid in their conference tournament. Memphis has five AAC contests remaining against the 49ers, Florida Atlantic Owls (twice), East Carolina Pirates, and Alabama-Birmingham Blazers.

Some of the best Tennessee sportsbooks list Connecticut as the favorite to the NCAA men’s basketball national championship at +500 odds. While their odds may vary across different betting sites, Purdue typically follows up behind UConn for the second-shortest March Madness odds on apps like FanDuel Tennessee.



Christopher Boan

Christopher Boan writes for and has been covering sports and sports betting for more than seven years, with experience at, the Tucson Weekly and the Green Valley News.