Memphis Tiger Basketball – Best of the Best

With the recent unveiling of the University of Memphis Athletics Hall of Fame, the members of this year’s Tiger basketball team might well have started to envision themselves one day having their names and faces enshrined alongside one of its major founders, Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway. There are certainly lofty expectations for this season’s team, but will they end up being one of the most successful squads in the program’s history? That might end up being pretty tough to pull off, considering how some of the past teams have performed.

These are what I consider to be the top teams in the program’s history. Let the debate begin:


1985 saw the then Memphis State University capture the Metro Conference Tournament crown on the way to the school’s second Final Four appearance. Posting an overall record of 31-4 (including 13-1) in the Metro, the season was certainly one of the finest ever for Tiger basketball. The starting five was also arguably the most talented group in school history, featuring the program’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder in consensus All-American Keith Lee. If not for some questionable coaching decisions down the stretch against Villanova, this team might have won a national championship.

Considering their record, the array of talent and having had to play in an NCAA tournament field of 64 versus 32, this team could easily be placed ahead of the next team on the list.


This team featured one of the school’s most iconic figures in sharpshooter Larry Finch. Add Larry Kenon’s 20.1 points and nearly 17 rebounds per game to Finch’s 24.0 scoring average, and the school packed a tremendous one-two punch. An overall season record of 24-6 wasn’t completely overwhelming, but it was the end of the year that got fans to talking, where the Tigers made their first appearance in the NCAA championship game. And if it hadn’t been for an impossible 21-22 shooting for performance from UCLA’s Bill Walton, then Memphis State might have won its first national championship.


Though maybe not as seasoned as some of the program’s other teams, this version of the basketball Tigers was probably deeper and talented than any other. Led by All-American Chris Douglas Roberts and future NBA Rookie of the Year and league MVP Derrick Rose, the 2007-08 team started an unfathomable 26-0 before having its winning streak ended at home by Tennessee. Another streak would soon follow, however – one that would lead them once again to an appearance in the NCAA Tournament Championship Game. And with a 9 point lead with just over 2 minutes left to go, it looked as though Memphis would finally get its national championship. But an unlikely comeback, capped off by Mario Chalmer’s 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left to send the game into overtime, once again thwarted the Tigers’ title hopes.

Memphis Tigers Hoops has always driven the sports scene in Memphis. It is a school rich in basketball tradition, and though there have been many fine seasons, these have stood out above all others.

Comparing the teams statistically:



Record: 38-2

Season Finish: NCAA Tournament Runner-up

Consensus Starting Five:

Chris Douglas-Roberts

Derrick Rose

Antonio Anderson

Robert Dozier

Joey Dorsey



Record: 31-4

Season Finish: NCAA Final Four

Consensus Starting Five:

Andre Turner

Vincent Askew

Keith Lee

Baskerville Holmes

William Bedford



Record: 24-6

Season Finish: NCAA Tournament Runner-up

Consensus Starting Five:

Larry Finch

Larry Kenon

Ronnie Robinson

Wes Westfall

Billy Buford


Disagree with the choices? Please feel free to comment!


Michael Jones is the official Memphis Tiger Basketball beat writer for MemphiSport. You can follow him via Twitter @MemphisMJ.



  1. Rose was not just a future Rookie of the Year, he was the league MVP this past season.


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