This article originally appeared in the March 2012 issue of MemphiSport
As the Tiger basketball team winds up another season in Conference USA, it’s time to look ahead to how things will start to the look in the future as they move to the Big East. Here are a few things Tiger fans will want to keep an eye on in the future as the scene begins to change a bit.
1. Expectations: Automatic 20 win seasons will be a thing of the past. The prospect of an undefeated conference run will be laughable. Can Memphis fans, who are notorious for thinking their team is often better than it is, accept that finishing above .500 in conference should be considered a success?
2. Coaching: Whether it be Josh Pastner or someone else at the helm, in game decisions will become ever more crucial for the Tigers. A poorly used timeout here or there, lack of the right play called, or a bad substitution could end up costing 4 or 5 games a year. So whoever runs the team will have be on top of his game. And let’s say you do need a new coach at some point. Is the Memphis job now more or less attractive?
3. Tournament at MSG: The Big East Conference Tournament is played perennially at Madison Square Garden. Gone will be home court advantage in the postseason and along with that will likely be regular conference tournament titles. Not being able to host the tournament is also a bit of a hit on the local economy. Will that be offset by teams in big markets making consistent trips to Memphis?
4. Travel: Depending on how the conference ends up looking logistically, Memphis may end up regularly traveling to both coasts. Will this lead to tired legs and some subpar performances? And will Tiger supporters be able to make as many road games as they are used to being able to attend?
5. Scheduling: What kinds of teams will the Tigers put on their no conference slate. It now becomes less important to have national programs on the schedule, so where does that lead? Will there be more of an effort to get local rivals on the bill or will there be more cupcakes?
6. Recruiting: Memphis has been able to recruit elite talent for some time now, but it will be required to perhaps turn it up a notch to even be a middle of the pack team in the league. Will recruiting become harder or easier in the Big East? Just like the coaching aspect, selling the program to potential recruits can no longer include guaranteeing a kid that he’ll win 20 plus games just by being on the floor.
7. National Perception: It will be hard to play the woe is me card and to keep complaining about the lack of respect for the program. Memphis has tended to be a fringe team, an outsider so to speak, and now they are joining the big boys club. Many teams relish the position of being able to have a chip on their shoulder as they always seemed to get overlooked. But that situation will definitely change now. Although you may not quite be seen as Goliath, you are definitely no longer David.
8. Attendance: Memphis has long been a program that draws well, but with such a large arena to fill, there are usually seats to be had for most any game, especially against league foes. Will more big time opponents regularly visiting FedExForum actually make tickets almost virtually impossible to come by?
9. Athletic Director: Who will lead the program going forward? It is possible that more schools will still leave the Big East. Leadership will be crucial during this time. Say what you want about R.C. Johnson, he has kept the basketball program successful. From the hiring of Calipari and Pastner to finally landing Memphis a spot in The Big East, he has kept Memphis on the map.
Michael Jones is the Tiger basketball beat writer for MemphiSport. You can follow him on Twitter @MemphisMichaelJ.
-Photo courtesy of the BIG EAST Conference/American Eagle Outfitters