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Emoni Bates checks in for Memphis in first round of NCAA Tournament

The Memphis Tigers star and likely future NBA Lottery pick plays his first minutes since January.

Memphis Tigers guard Emoni Bates dunks the ball during an open practice at the Moda Center in Portland, Ore. on Wednesday, March 16, 2022. Joe Rondone/The Commercial Appeal / USA TODAY NETWORK

The No. 9 Memphis Tigers are taking on the No. 8 Boise State Broncos in the opening game of the 2022 NCAA Tournament and there was a big surprise from Memphis at the start of the contest with Emoni Bates going through pregame warmups. Head coach Penny Hardaway didn’t expect him to play much, but Bates ultimately did end up getting into the game and wasted no time showing why he’s considered one of the top prospects in basketball.

Bates had been out since late January with a back injury, although there were some additional questions surrounding the star recruit throughout the season. If the Tigers can get past Boise State in this opening game with Bates coming back to full health, they’ll feel better about their chances to take down the top overall seed Gonzaga Bulldogs assuming they advance. We’ll see how much run Bates gets in this game, but this is a good sign for Memphis and college basketball fans.