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 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.