Report card time for Tigers basketball

The University of Memphis basketball team has played a third of the way thru their season.  There have been highs and lows so far.  The strength of the Tigers’ team is by far the collection of guards on the team.  The play of the guards has been inconsistent and has not dominated as most fans would have hoped they would.

Chris Crawford, Michael Dixon Jr., Joe Jackson and Gerron Johnson all individually have had played well this season, however they have not all play great at the same time.  If the Tigers’ are going to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament this spring they are going to have to improve their play on the court.

The National Champion Memphis Pom Pom squad entertains the crowd during breaks in the action.  Photo by Terry Davis

The National Champion Memphis Pom Pom squad entertains the crowd during breaks in the action. (Photo by Terry Davis)

The following is the report card on the team:

Guard play: Jackson at times has been a victim of his own success.  He does things with seemingly little effort it appears that he is not a part of the game and then you look at the final game statistics and he has 17 points and 8 assists.  When Jackson is on the court the offense appear to be free flowing.  Crawford has been slowed by an ankle injury, but he is still deadly from behind the 3-point line.  Johnson has shown flashed of greatness this season and does not mind getting physical with the opponents’ guards.  Dixon adds an offensive spark from the bench and isn’t afraid to be a leader on and off of the court.  GRADE B

Freshmen: Austin Nichols and Nick King have been good additions to the team.  Nichols has shown that he is not afraid to take inside shots and to rebound.  Once he is able to add some additional pounds on his frame he could be a force to be reckon with on the inside.  King has great hops and likes to rebound.  King started the season as the best freshman on the team, but Nichols has steadily improved and has closed the gap.  King is not afraid to take the big shot and has great upside.  GRADE A

Team defense:  The team has the same weakness as it did last year; they are not great in defending the long outside shots.  Another problem has been lack of consistent rebounding.  If the Tigers are able to address these two issues they will be very hard to defeat.  We are still waiting on the full court press that was promised in the preseason.  GRADE C

Team post play: Shaq Goodwin has upped his intensity this season and at times he has played with All-American effort.  When Goodwin is on his game he appears unstoppable.  Nichols and King have added to the improved post play.  The team does not have a legitimate shot blocker on defense.  If the two freshmen players are able to improve their play and Goodwin is able to sustain his play the Tigers will be a hard team to prepare for. GRADE B

Overall grade:  The Tigers under coach Pastner are 1-2 against ranked teams this season.  After the 25 point loss to Oklahoma State the Tigers defeat Oklahoma State and lost to Florida in New York City.  The team has a tendency to start slow and does not have the spark to start the game.  This was a problem last season that the team could not put together a complete game.  This team has a reputation from their past performance, but they are not garnering much national respect so far this season.  However the Tigers can solve that problem by getting some big wins in January.  GRADE B+

Terry Davis is a regular contributor for Memphis Sport.  You can follow him @terryd515.

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The Week Of Redemption For Tiger Basketball

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.

Michael_Dixon_vs_Nicholls_State

Micheal Dixon Jr. is looking to lead the Memphis Tigers’ in the right direction. (Photo by Terry Davis)

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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Game Preview: Texas Longhorns host Ole Miss Rebels

The University of Texas Longhorns (1-1) are returning home to play the Ole Miss Rebels (2-0) at Darrell K Royal Stadium Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, TX at 7:00 pm CST.  The drama of this game will not match that which has led to this game.

The No. 25 ranked Ole Miss Rebels travel to Austin, TX to gain some national traction.  Photo by Terry Davis

The No. 25 ranked Ole Miss Rebels travel to Austin, TX to gain some national traction. (Photo by Terry Davis)

 

After an embarrassing effort by the Longhorns’ defense against the BYU Cougars last week, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was relieved of his duties. The Cougars manhandled the Longhorns defense by gaining 679 total yards.  The Cougars’ sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill rushed for 259 yards and sophomore running back Jamaal Williams rushed for 183 yards.

Texas head coach Mack Brown came into the season already on a very hot seat. Not making it to a Bowl Championship Series game would be considered an unsuccessful year to the Longhorns faithful fans.   Another loss by the Longhorns will not sit well with the Texas’ fans before they open up Big 12 conference play next week.

The Longhorns defeated the Rebels 66-31 last season in Oxford, Miss.  However after the loss to the Cougars there was some concern about the availability of starting quarterback David Ash.  Ash will be a game time decision.  If Ash is not able to start, Case McCoy will lead the Longhorns.  In the game last season, Texas was able to have their way with the Ole Miss defense compiling 676 total yards.

The Rebels return this season with one of the best college recruiting classes in the country.  Most of those incoming freshmen are already having a major impact on the team.  Robert Knemdiche at defensive end has 7 tackles in two games and Tony Conner has an interception thru two games.  There has also been three freshmen that has an impact wide receiver Laquon Treadwell tight end Evan Engram has racked up respectable receiving yards.

The key to the Rebels having a good chance to win this game will fall clearing on the shoulders of quarterback Bo Wallace.  Wallace only played in a quarter and a half in the Rebels’ 31-17 victory last week over Southeast Missouri.

The Longhorns will have to rely on their running game in order to keep their defensive unit off of the field.  The defense lost a few key members to the National Football League.  Texas has been ranked near the top of the nation in recruiting classes over the past ten years, but those rankings has not led to realization on the field.  The Longhorns major weakness over the past few years has been at the quarterback position.  Just when Ash was solidifying his position, he suffered a setback during the BYU game with a injury.

In the game last year against the Rebels, the Longhorns’ wide receivers were able to get past the Rebels’ defensive backs.  Wide receiver Mike Davis is back for the Longhorns and he was the leading receiver in last year’s game with 124 receiving yards and one touchdown.  Davis will have to another quality performance for the Longhorns this year.

ON TV: The game can be seen on the Longhorns Network (WREG News Channel 3 in Memphis and Oxford).

AFTER THIS WEEKEND: The Longhorns will host the Kansas State Wildcats in their Big 12 opener next week.  The Rebels will have an off week before traveling to face the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Terry Davis covers the Ole Miss Rebels for MemphiSport.  Follow him @terryd515.

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What Does Ole Miss Need To Do To Improve This Season?

The Ole Miss Rebels’ first full week of fall football practice is in the books and the overall grade for the team is an incomplete.  Because of minor injuries, eight players were held out of the last open practice for the season.

Last season, the Rebels lacked depth and size.  Those two areas have been addressed.  The Rebels definitely look bigger, and the lack of depth on defense is being addressed in during the practices.

Wallace is slowing regaining his chemistry with his Rebels receivers.  Photo by Justin Ford MemphiSport

Wallace is slowing regaining his chemistry with his Rebels receivers. (Photo by Justin Ford)

“Meet the Rebels Day” is Saturday, August 17 at 11:30 am CT. Rebels fans can meet the entire team at the Rebels’ indoor practice facility in Oxford. It will be the last time to meet the team before their road opener in Nashville, Tenn against Vanderbilt on August 29 at 8:10 PM CT on ESPN.

Here are a few questions that will be answered during fall practice:

Is bigger better?  Last season, the Rebels’ offensive and defensive line were outweighed by 20 to 40 pounds per player depending on who the opponent was.  Head coach Huge Freeze said, “We are much bigger than what were last year.  We look good, but how does that translate in talent on the field time will tell.”

How good is the freshman class?  The incoming freshman class has earned respect all across the nation, but will that be seen on the field this season.  Two freshmen who are making their presence felt so far are defensive end Robert Nkemdiche and wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo.

Can the defense build depth?  Last season, the defense had trouble getting off of the field on third downs late in games.  That was because starters had to play extended snaps.  The secondary is still an area of concern for the Rebels.  However, with the addition of freshman Nkemdiche to play alongside his older brother Denzel, the defense upfront will have additional depth.

Has Bo Wallace fully recovered from his injury?  At the beginning of last season, Bo Wallace and Donte Moncrief were unstoppable.  That was until Wallace suffered a shoulder injury that greatly impacted his throwing ability.  Wallace had surgery on his shoulder this past off season.  He has not fully recovered, but is slowing making progress to return back to the great form he had last season.

Will the Rebels be able to run the football?  The Rebels were one of the best teams in the SEC last season in running the football.  However, that stat is misleading because a big part of those yards came from the quarterback position.  The Rebels will not have the luxury of putting Wallace in harm’s way by exposing him to additional hit by running the football.  There is a big drop off from first string to the second string quarterback.

Terry Davis covers the Ole Miss Rebels for MemphiSport.  Follow him @terryd515.

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Which Ole Miss freshmen will have an impact this season?

olemiss logoThe Ole Miss Rebels reported for fall practice this week in preparations for the 2013 season. After coming off of a 7-6 season and reigning in a consensus Top 5 recruiting class in the nation, expectations are high in Oxford.

Rarely is it that one freshman would have an immediate impact on a college team’s season.  Most incoming freshmen normally sit out their first season so they can get use to the college game and add weight if necessary.

There are four true freshmen that could have an immediate impact for the Rebels at some point this season.  Wide receiver Qunicy Adeboyejo (pronounced Add eh boy Jo) from Cedar Hill, Texas, tight end Evan Engram from Powder Springs, Ga, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche from Loganville, Ga, and quarterback Devante Kincade from Dallas, Texas.

#8 Qunicy Adeboyejo Wide Receiver:
Quincy was a 4-star recruit and was ranked the No. 42 wide receiver in the nation by Rivals.com. Adeboyejo had 91 catches for 1,265 yard and 17 touchdowns as a senior and was an All-State honorable mention by the Associated Press. Adeboyejo will not have to try to be the main receiver for the Rebels because junior Donte Moncrief will be the go to receiver this season. However, if Quincy is able to step in be production it can make the potent Rebel’s offense even more dangerous.

#17 Engram Tight End:

The tight end position is the weakest part of the Rebels’ offense.  Engram has great hands and has good blocking technics.  However at 6’3” and 217 pounds, he is a little light in the pants to try to compete with SEC defensive linemen and linebackers.  Engram is currently practicing with the second unit. Engram was a 3-star recruit, named first team All-State by the Georgia Sportswriters Association and the Associated Press. Engram had 40 catches for 975 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior.

#2 Devante Kincade Quarterback:

With the health of starting quarterback Bo Wallace uncertain. Kincade may have to be on the fast track to leaning the system.  Despite being a freshman he has one of the best arms on the team and he is pinpoint accurate with his passes. Kincade was a 4-star recruit by ESPN.com and Scout.com. He is listed as a dual treat which means he has good passing and running ability. He completed 178-of-281 passes for 2,856 yards, 38 touchdowns and eight interceptions while rushing for 861 yards and 12 TD’s in his senior year.

#5 Robert Nkemdiche Defensive End:

Robert is considered the cream of the Rebels incoming freshman class. He is the picked as the SEC Newcomer of the Year by Lindy’s was the consensus No. 1 overall recruit and top defensive end in the nation. He was the Under Armour, USA Today, MaxPreps and SuperPrep All-American selection as a senior. He was a 3-time All-State selection. He had 59 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks. He is currently running plays with the second defensive unit, but is getting additional individual coaching on a regular basis. The Rebel coaching staff is doing everything possible to have him ready to play at a high level early. Nkemdiche already has an SEC impressive body at 6’4” and weighs 297 pounds without an ounce of fat on his body.

The Rebels’ practice will be open to the public Monday, August 5 – Saturday, August 10. Ole Miss will travel to Nashville, TN to play the Vanderbilt Commodores on Thursday August 31 on ESPN at 8:15 pm CT.

Terry Davis is a regular contributor for MemphiSport. Email him at jafod@bellsouth.net or find him on Twitter @terryd515.

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Mike Conley following the Western Conference Finals: ‘We will be back’

Photo by Justin Ford

Photo by Justin Ford

The historic run by the Memphis Grizzlies came to end after the San Antonio Spurs swept the Grizzlies 4 games to none.  Some people will make jokes about how the Grizzlies got swept, but that is not how most of the Grizzlies players and fans are looking at it.

When Lionel Hollins arrived as the head coach, he had to change the attitude and chemistry of the team.  This off season will dictate the immediate future of the franchise.  The two building blocks of Mike Conley and Marc Gasol will be back on the team next season.  However, there are still questions about Tony Allen and Zack Randolph.

Here are the Grizzlies in their own words:

Tony Allen:  “I BLEED BLUE”

  • If you are not back here next year, how do you see the transition for next year?

“It is all in God’s hands, I bleed blue.  One thing I have done is, I’ve made a name for myself  a lot of teams around the league know who I am.  I am focused on being here.  I have built relationships with the guys.  I mean real bond with the guys.  I’ve showed the guys what that grit and grind is all about.  It will be hard to leave the city, where they have shown me so much love.”

  • How special has this year been for you?

“It has been great one.  We lost “Double D” (Dana Davis) and I know he was looking down on us.  I think everything that took off for us.  I am happy with the season we had.  There is no reason to hold our heads down.  We fought hard. We showed the city what winning is all about.  It is just unfortunate to lose four in a row.”

  • On the Grizzlies fans:

“They are the best sixth man of the year.  They have been with us from day one every since I got here.  The fans have always shown us love and we would not have been here without them.  Salute to the fans.”

  • Did you get a cut from all of the growl towel slogans you suggested?

“I really did not care about money or nothing like that.  I just felt like my presence and laying down the foundation on how to win games on the defensive end.  The Grit and Grind should forever live forward in the Grindhouse aka the FedExForum.  I’ve got to thank Chris Wallace in showing to give me that vision.”

Mike Conley:  “WE WILL BE BACK!!!”

  • Describe the love that this city gave you and you give them.

“This city has been great.  They have to endure the good and the bad and they have stuck with us.  They are loyal. They have been there for us.  It means the world to us. I am proud of them for being there to push us through and supporting us when we were not good.  It is tough on us on letting them down.  We will be back.”

  • This team is known for their defense, why were you not able to contain Tony Parker?

“He was in a zone they play so well together.  Any adjustment we made they made another one.  We played well for 18 seconds on the shot clock and he would make a play.  That is why he is one of the best and they are heading to the finals.”

Zack Randolph,I WANT TO RETIRE A GRIZZLY

  • How does it feel to know that it is over?

“It is difficult.  I don’t know what to say they beat us.  The two overtime games could have went either way.  It could have easily being tied up.  We gave it 110 percent.  You have got to take your hats off to the Spurs they have a great team from their bench to their starting five.”

“The city has been great. This ride has been great I hate that it ended like this, but we got to keep our heads up for the things we accomplished for the city and the organization.  Hopefully this core will stay in place and we are able to add a few more pieces some shooters and some depth.”

Marc Gasol: “TOMORROW WILL BE A BETTER DAY!”

  • What were the Spurs doing to keep you from cutting their lead?

“They were getting stops and they were executing well offensively.  They made some tough stops and ran when they had to.”

  • What can you take from this series?

“Tomorrow will be a better than it is right now.  We wanted to win and play another game.  We were not able to put it out.  We played and hustled, but we did not have enough to get over the hump.  They taught us a lesson on how to execute.  We are going to create habits that will work for us”

Coach Lionel Hollins

  • Question: When you came here came here you were able to put your stamp on this team?

“Every coach tries to establish an identity with a team and try to get a team to buy into it.  What I am proud of is I was blessed to have a group that wanted to win.  They did not know how, because they were young.  They did not know how to work hard, because they have never had to.  I tried to show them the way and to put them in an environment that they could be successful.  They did not come smiling saying that great, this is great they came they were kicking and scratching not to do it, because it is easier to do it in a manner which is easier.  They could have chosen to quit and rebel as well, but they choose to fight and they are reaping the rewards for us right now.”

Terry Davis is a regular contributor for MemphiSport. Follow him @terryd515.

Top 5 Sporting Events That Memphis Has Ever Hosted Besides The Western Conference Finals

Memphis_skylineMemphis has a very strong sports history.  For decades, the University of Memphis has been an elite team on the national stage.  However, Tiger basketball is not the only big time event that Memphis has played host to.  The St Jude Classic is an annual event that always has signature moments.  But does anything come close to the Memphis Grizzlies hosting the Bluff City’s first ever NBA Western Conference Finals?

Here are a few events that have catapulted to the top of the Memphis sports scene:

Mike Tyson vs. Lennox Lewis, Heavyweight Championship, June 8, 2002 at The Pyramid.

World championship boxing matches always bring out the A-list in the entertainment world and this was no exception.  Some of the celebrities in attendance were Samuel L. Jackson, Denzel Washington, Tom Cruise, Britney Spears, Clint Eastwood, Ben Affleck, Hugh Hefner, Halle Berry, Richard Gere, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, LL Cool J. Wesley Snipes and many others.

This fight was originally scheduled for April 6, 2002 in Las Vegas, but Las Vegas and other states refused to issue Tyson a license to box.  Tickets sales were slow at first because of the high cost of $2,400, but 15, 327 show to see Lewis defeat Tyson in eight rounds.

Memphis vs. Tenneseee, No. 1 vs. No. 2,  February 23, 2008 at FedExForum.

The Tigers entered the game with a 26-0 record and the Vols were 24-2.  Memphis was ranked No.1 in the country and  Tennessee was No. 2. Justin Timberlake and Peyton Manning were among the stars to show up for this time.  There was plenty of tension in the building for an in-state rivalry game on a national stage.  John Calipari and Bruce Pearl were opening taking verbal jabs at each other.  The Tigers had the longest home active winning streak in the country (47 games).  The Vols won the game 66-62. Entertainment Tonight television show was in attendance with the 18,629 fans for the game.

Derrick Rose and Robert Dozier were not able to contain Memphis native J. P. Prince and Chris Lofton off in order to keep their undefeated record alive.  The Tigers did go on to play in the National Championship game against the Kansas Jayhawks.

Illinois vs. Alabama, Bear Byrant’s last game,  December 29, 1982 at Liberty Bowl Stadium.

After the 1982 season, the legendary coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide decided to end his coaching career. He announced his last game as coach would be at the Liberty Bowl. The Tide lost their final regular season game to the Auburn Tigers.  Bryant stated,”This is my school, my alma mater. I love it and I love my players. But in my opinion, they deserved better coaching than they have been getting from me this year.”   The Tide won the Liberty Bowl 21-15 over the Illini in front of 54,123 and and what was described as a media “circus” from around the country.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. the Memphis Grizzlies, The Triple OT Game, May 10, 2011 at FedExForum.

The Memphis Grizzlies were coming in off of upsetting the number one seeded San Antonio Spurs and came into this game with a 2 games to 1 advantage over the Thunder.  Zach Randolph 34 points and 16 rebounds and Marc Gasol 26 points and 21 rebounds were not event to defeat the Thunder.  This133-123 triple overtime thriller won by the Thunder was led by Kevin Durant’s 35 points and Russell Westbrook’s 40 points.   The Thunder went on to win the series in seven games.  It took three-hours and 52 minutes to play the game. This was the only sporting event ever held in Memphis to be nominated for a ESPY.

Andy Kaufman vs Jerry “The King” Lawler, April 5, 1982 at the Mid-South Coliseum.

Kaufman was a frequent guest on Saturday Night Live (SNL) were he would wrestle women as part of his skits.  Kaufman came to Memphis and offered any woman $1,000 if they could beat him.  Lawler became tired of his antics and they began a verbal feud.  They finally fought and Kaufman won the fight on a disqualification, because Lawler used an illegal move (the piledriver).

The two would meet again on July 28 on the David Letterman show and Lawler would give Kaufman the slap heard around the world.  During Lawler’s appearance on the show Kauffman threated to sue Lawler for injuring him in their match and got tired of listening to Kaufman babble and he slapped him.  This confrontation between the two actually brought wrestling the national stage.  This was the first time wrestling and Hollywood to crossed paths. Memphis was selling out the Mid-South Coliseum every week back then. Lawler vs. Kaufman has been featured in movies (Man on the Moon) and on various TV specials.

These are just a few of the top sporting events that Memphis has hosted.  There are plenty of other events that the city has played host to.  What are some of your favorite sporting events of all time that has occurred within the city limits of Memphis?

Terry Davis is a regular contriburtor for MemphiSport. Follow him @Terryd515.

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Game Preview: Memphis Tigers battle Michigan State in Auburn Hills

“Survive and advance” is the theme for March.  The University of Memphis Tigers escaped with a narrow two-point win over the Saint Mary’s Gaels 54-52 in the NCAA Tournament Round of 64.  With the win, the Tigers earned their first tournament and Top 25 victory under head coach Josh Pastner.

The prize for this accomplishment is facing the Michigan State Spartans in Auburn Hills, MI just 80 miles from the MSU campus.  If The Tigers can get on a roll, the Spartans cross-state rival the Michigan Wolverines fans could become temporary Tigers fans.  Michigan plays VCU in the same building prior to Memphis-Michigan State.

The Spartans defeated Valparaiso in 65-54 in their opening round game of the NCAA Tournament.  Derrick Nix had a monster game scoring 23 points and grabbed 15 rebounds 9 of which were offensive.

The Tigers will enter the game as a prohibitive underdog. The Tigers played their best basketball this season when they played with a chip on their shoulder.  The last time Memphis played Michigan State in the tournament the Tigers defeated the Spartans on their way to the Final Four.

Chris Crawford long range shots have to return in order for Memphis to advance. Photo by Justine Ford.

Chris Crawford long range shots have to return in order for Memphis to advance. Photo by Justine Ford.

How the Tigers can advance to the Sweet 16:

Exploit the Spartans weakness.

The Tigers are one of the fastest teams in the country.  The guard play of Joe Jackson is the reason why.  The Spartans biggest weakness is their guard play.  If Jackson, Gerron Johnson and Chris Crawford are able to push the tempo and force turnovers it will be a long day for the Spartans.

Play with no fear.

All season the Tigers have been checking items off of their list that they have never accomplished.  The latest checked item on their list was never having won a NCAA or Top 25 game under Pastner.  In order for the Tigers to advance to the Sweet 16, they will have to play forty minutes of basketball like they play in their first twenty minutes in the Saint Mary’s game.

Team play.

There is no time like the present to have just average games.  If Chris Crawford, Johnson and Adonis Thomas can all have just their average game at the same time, the Tigers would win most games in blowout fashion.  It has been very rare this season when every member of the team has clicked at the same time.  The Tigers are capable of defeating the Spartans, but can they execute their game plan with perfection?

Make free throws.

The Tigers have been a good free throw shooting team for most of the season.  However ,they have not been shooting free throws well of late.  The Tigers have a history of not receiving favorable calls in most games and the recent history of not shooting free throws well means the Tigers need to take care of business early.  The team needs to experience a blowout victory to eliminated any chances of ending their season prematurely.

ON TV: Memphis vs. Michigan State airs Saturday at 1:45 pm on CBS

Terry Davis covers the Memphis Tigers for MemphiSport. To reach Terry, email him at terry@memphisport.com. Follow him @Terryd515.

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Game Preview: Tigers open up NCAA play with St. Mary’s

The respect that the University of Memphis was looking for from the NCAA Selection Committee was received when the Tigers were placed as a sixth seed in the tournament.  However, the Tigers will be at a slight disadvantage in only having only 36 hours to prepare for the 11-seed Saint Mary’s Gaels.

The Tigers will have to do some late night cramming to find out their game plan for the Gaels.  St. Mary’s defeated the Middle Tennessee State University Blue Raiders 67-54 in the  First Four game in Dayton, OH and will travel to play the Tigers in Auburn Hills, MI at 1:40 Central time on Thursday March 21.  The Gaels are 28-6 and three of their losses have been to Gonzaga.

Joe Jackson looks to get the Tigers their first NCAA tournament win under Coach Josh Pastner.  Photo by Justin Ford

Joe Jackson looks to get the Tigers their first NCAA tournament win under Coach Josh Pastner. Photo by Justin Ford

Memphis’ keys to a their first NCAA Tournament victory with Josh Pastner:

Joe Jackson being the leader.

Jackson has had his best season as a Tiger.  He has made other players on the team better.  Jackson does not look to be the top scorer every game.  Since the tournament in the Bahamas, Jackson has been the motor that has driven the Tigers.  Jackson has not complained when he was not in the game and gives the team what it needs at critical times.

Adonis Thomas.

Thomas has the ability to take over a game at any point.  In the game at Tennessee, he came out with a killer instinct from the opening tip.  He needs to have that commitment for the rest of the season in the opening minutes of every game.  Thomas is not dependent on relying on other players to get him the ball in certain spots.  Thomas can be effective as a long to mid-range shooter or as a cutter to the basket.

The big men have to play big.

Tarik Black and Shaq Goodwin have got to play more physical, but yet smarter.  The Tigers will be bigger than most teams the play.  However the Tigers have had a tendency to be out rebounded in most games.  Black and Goodwin can be dominating forces for the Tigers, when they are not in foul trouble. Neither player can afford to continue to commit silly avoidable fouls.

Must stop Matthew Dellavdova.

Dellavedova is the heart and soul of the Gaels.  If the Tigers are able to disrupt him, they will be able to get the team out of character.  Dellavedova is one of the best players in the country and he can score from all parts of the floor.  Dellavedova is the leading scorer in the Gaels’ history and is the second leading active assist leader in NCAA with 757.

Control tempo.

When the Tigers play at their pace, they can play with any team in the nation.  The Tigers are very explosive and can score points in quickly.  When the Tigers are clicking with Jackson, Chris Crawford and Gerron Johnson, their pressure defense will cause turnovers and quick layups or killer 3-pointers.

Vegas has St Mary’s favored over the Tigers by 1.

ON TV: Memphis vs. St. Mary’s airs at 1:45 pm on CBS

Terry Davis covers the Memphis Tigers for MemphiSport. To reach Terry, email him at terry@memphisport.com. Follow him @Terryd515.

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What seed will the Memphis Tigers get in the NCAA Tournament?

No matter what happens in this week’s C-USA Tournament, the Memphis Tigers are expected to receive an invitation to participate in the NCAA basketball tournament this season.  The only two questions remaining: Where will the team go?  and What seed will they receive?

The three mostly likely destinations that the Tigers will land  for the first round  are Austin, TX, Lexington, KY or Philadelphia, PA.  The other first round sites are Auburn Hills, MI, Dayton, OH, Kansas City, MO, Salt Lake City, UT, and San Jose, CA.

The NCAA selection committee has stated in previous years is that they will try to make every effort to keep teams as close to home as possible.  Given the history of how well Tigers fanbase travels, the committee will make an effort to ensure a manageable trip for fans.  The Tigers lead Conference USA (CUSA) in total average attendance with over 16,000 tickets sold to each game.  This fact will not be lost on the selection committee.

DJ Stephens and the Tigers looks to go Dancing.  Photo by Justin Ford

DJ Stephens and the Tigers looks to go Dancing. (Photo by Justin Ford)

As far as seeding goes, a couple of things in the Tigers’ favor are their rankings in the latest polls. The Tigers are ranked No. 20 in the Associated Press poll, No. 17 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, 19 in the ESPN Basketball Power Index and 21 in the more well-known Ratings Percentage Index (RPI).

Hear what some of the Tigers’ faithful feel were the team will land in the 2013 tourney:

The Tigers all-time scoring leader Keith Lee feels the Tigers deserve a sixth seed, but because of the lack of respect for the conference he feels they will be no higher than an eighth seed.

The “Little General” aka Andre Turner jokingly stated that the Tigers will get a 63rd seed, but came around that said they will probably get a sixth seed.

Bank of Bartlett president Harold Byrd will very high on the Tigers and feels because of what the team did this year they deserve a fourth seed because of the body of their work.

Former Athletic Director for the Tigers RC Johnson thinks the team will receive a sixth seed.

Coach Josh Pastner feels his team deserves to be seeded fourth and at worst a sixth seed.  This was said after the Conference USA regular season finale.  Pastner reiterated that at this time, because there is still a lot of basketball yet to be played.  In the end, Pastner stated it doesn’t really matter we are seeded we will have to take care of business.

Most national experts have the Tigers hovering around the 8th thru the 11th seed for the tournament.

The selection committee will meet in Kansas City, MO starting in the next few days to begin the hard deliberations on which teams will be selected and where they will play.  Early in the season, some experts had the Tigers seed in the first four in Dayton, OH.  It is safe to say even with an early exit in the C-USA tournament that is unlikely to occur.

The final determination will occur on selection Sunday, March 17.

Terry Davis covers the Memphis Tigers for MemphiSport. To reach Terry, email him at terry@memphisport.com.  Follow him @Terryd515.

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