They're no longer hearing stories about each other in the neighborhood. Now they meet face to face.
"If this were a nonconference game, I know it would be sold out, packed and rocking," said Memphis coach Josh Pastner, who called on his fans to fill the 18,000-seat FedExForum Thursday night. "It's a conference game, so it's that much more important."
The stakes are high enough for this to be the start of something big. Unranked UConn (13-3) is recovering after an 0-2 start in the conference. No. 17 Memphis (12-3), along with defending national champion Louisville, which comes to Gampel Pavilion on Saturday, provide a 48-hour opportunity for the Huskies to return to the national conversation. Both games are on ESPN.
"Memphis is going to stay in the league, Louisville is leaving [for the ACC]," UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. "Memphis is going to be here, Cincinnati is going to be a rival of ours. But I don't see Memphis, with Josh Pastner there, going down any time soon and I don't see UConn going down any time. Hopefully, we'll be battling for some championships and that will lead to a rivalry."
When John Calipari coached Memphis, the Tigers won the school's only meeting with UConn, at Madison Square Garden in 2007. The Tigers were undefeated in C-USA last season yet were unhappy with their tournament seeding. They had never beaten a ranked team under Pastner before knocking off Oklahoma State, and more recently Louisville, this season.
The Tigers and Huskies have more in common — style. Both want a fast-paced game, so this matchup could be a test of endurance and of ball security.
"They want to get up and down the court, and that's our style of play," UConn guard Ryan Boatright said. "That's to our benefit."
Before the season, Louisville was the coaches' pick to win the American. Cardinals coach Rick Pitino, unable to vote for his team, had UConn first and Memphis second. "They're more like 1 and 1A," he said.
Both teams have an emerging big man. Memphis' Shaq Goodwin is the AAC player of the week, and at 6 feet 9, 245 pounds, he presents an imposing inside presence. The Huskies got a breakthrough game from freshman Amida Brimah, who is 7-0 and more lanky at 217 pounds.
"He's big," Brimah said of Goodwin. "I'm going to have to stay out of foul trouble playing against him."
Ollie said that he would "play it by ear" when it comes to a starting lineup, but one imagines Brimah, the AAC rookie of the week after getting 20 points, eight rebounds and five blocks against Central Florida last Saturday, will get as many minutes as the refs allow.
"The second half of that UCF game is what I envisioned our team to be about," Ollie said. "Inside-out, balance."
The Tigers, who lost at home to Cincinnati, have goaded opponents into 249 turnovers, 16.6 a game; UConn, which also takes pride in ball pressure, has helped force 207 turnovers, or 12.9 a game.
"In don't think we're going to face a team with the athletes they have at every position," Ollie said. "These are different kinds of athletes and they're going to push the ball at every opportunity. They're an unselfish team, averaging 16 assists a game, and they feed off turnovers. We're going to have to take UConn shots, not let their pressure bother us into taking quick shots."
After losing at Houston and Southern Methodist in their first two AAC games, the Huskies are trailing No. 19 Cincinnati, No. 18 Louisville and Memphis in the conference, but have rebounded with wins over Harvard and UCF.