The season is still young however the University of Memphis Tigers basketball team is in redemption mode. After starting the season in the Associated Press Top 15, the Tigers have dropped 11 spots to No. 21 after a humbling loss at Oklahoma State.
It is not bad to lose to a higher ranked team on their home court, but it is another thing to be embarrassed on national television from the opening tip to the closing horn. The Tigers were soundly defeated by the No. 5 ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys, 101-80.
Last season, the Tigers had to defend their record because of the perceived lack of competition in Conference USA. The Tigers now are playing in the first year of the newly formed American Athletic Conference. The Tigers have gone one step further this season by scheduled a tougher non conference schools to play.
The loss to Oklahoma State was not unexpected, but it how the team lost that was shocking. Super sophomore guard Marcus Smart lit the Tigers up for 39 points. The Tigers will have the opportunity to regain some respectability in the Old Spice Tournament being played in Orlando, FL this week. The Tigers will play three games in 4 days. If the Tigers are able to get past Siena 2-4 in the opening round and defeat the winner of the LSU 3-1 / St. Joseph’s 2-1 game, the Tigers will more than likely face the Cowboys for a second time this season. The LSU Tigers are coached by former Tigers assistant and interim coached Johnny Jones.
Last season, the Tigers played in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament and had a total meltdown, only winning one game in the three-game tournament. Memphis can not afford another holiday tournament melt down this season.
3 things the Tigers can do to relieve some of the pressure from the home fans:
1) Improve guard play:
Some analysts had the Tigers’ guards rated as one the best back courts in the country. Chris Crawford, Michael Dixon Jr., Joe Jackson and Gerron Johnson shot only 8-34 and had 10 turnovers in the loss to Oklahoma State. This group can’t have such numbers in order to be successful. This team is a guard based team and as they go the team will follow.
2) Defend the perimeter better:
Defending outside shooting was a problem for the Tigers last season in the early going it is a problem this year also. The problem does not necessarily come from lack of defensive play, but because of lack of rebounding. The ineffective rebounding by the Tigers allows the opponents multiple chances and increases the energy required and ultimately affects the team’s offense.
3) Freshmen play:
The highly rated incoming freshmen class is having an immediate impact. Austin Nichols had a monster game against Nicholls State. Austin had 20 points and was the major focus of the offense for the Tigers. Nick King has scored in double digits in each of the three games played by the team. King scored a season high 23 points in the loss to Oklahoma State. King has been a vital piece in helping the team rebound better.
Terry Davis is a regular contributor for Memphis Sport. You can follow him @terryd515.
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