Four Thoughts On Memphis’ Season-Opening Debacle

Posted by mlemaire on November 19th, 2014

Another day, another nationally televised disaster for one of the presumed best teams in the AAC. Less than 24 hours after Gonzaga blitzed SMU in Spokane, Wichita State mugged Memphis in a game where the Tigers only looked good once Shockers’ head coach Gregg Marshall emptied his bench in the 71-56 win. Although neither SMU nor Memphis should be particularly proud of the way they played, at least SMU can say it ran into a buzzsaw in a hostile environment at The Kennel. Memphis, on the other hand, lost to a team that didn’t even play particularly well and they did it in relatively embarrassing fashion. The Shockers are a good defensive team, but the Tigers only cracked 40 percent from the field once Wichita State had entered its scrubs. The Tigers also turned the ball over 24 times, many in embarrassing fashion, and they only managed four assists for the game. I wish I didn’t have to think about Memphis’ performance again, but since I sat through the snoozefest, I will toss out some observations anyway.

Josh Pastner Should Be Ready For Criticism After Yesterday's Disaster. (Photo/Memphis Commerical-Appeal)

Josh Pastner Should Be Ready For Criticism After Yesterday’s Disaster. (Photo/Memphis Commerical-Appeal)

  1. Wherefore Art Thou Kedren Johnson? It would be one thing if Johnson had just missed a bunch of shots and turned the ball over because he was being aggressive, but the transfer junior, who was supposed to be the anchor of Memphis’ young backcourt, played just 12 minutes, missed his only field goal attempt, and turned the ball over five times without recording an assist. That’s not a tough-luck performance; that’s just a really, really bad performance. I am no fitness expert, but Johnson looked wider than I remember him and appeared very slow off the dribble. Josh Pastner couldn’t justify keeping him on the floor because he couldn’t stay in front of anyone defensively. Opposing point guard Fred Van Vleet is one of the best in the country at his position and he is an absolutely pest thanks to his quick hands, but Johnson is an experienced player with a proven track record of success in the SEC. The fact that he looked so bad doesn’t bode well for the Tigers, even if it is still really early. Read the rest of this entry »
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AAC M5: 10.21.13 Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on October 21st, 2013


  1. Somewhat surprisingly, news that Louisville forward Chane Behanan is suspended indefinitely was met with a lot of shoulder-shrugs from analysts who have heard this song and dance from coach Rick Pitino before. It’s true that Pitino has developed an “all talk” reputation when it comes to suspending players, but as yesterday’s column from the Courier-Journal‘s Tim Sullivan points out, this suspension may be different. The column notes that Behanan hasn’t just been suspended from the basketball team, he has also been evicted from his residence hall, a move that’s so rare that school spokesman Kenny Klein couldn’t recall it happening before. The article also hints that the decision may not have been Pitino and Athletic Director Tom Jurich’s decision and makes the good point that “[coaches] wouldn’t normally kick a player out of the athletic dorm if your goal was to get him back in time for a specific game. You would do so to be consistent with how U of L handles similar cases.” So while it’s entirely possible that Behanan will still return some time around Christmas, assuming Pitino is going to bring him back the first chance he gets may be underestimating how serious the offense and subsequent suspension are.
  2. Although this year’s version of Memphis Madness didn’t have the same kind of star power that last year’s version did, the atmosphere helped the Tigers land two commitments over the weekend. Top-30 JuCo forwards Trahson Burrell and Chris Hawkins both pledged to the Tigers, and they will add valuable depth and experience to a team that will be young again next season. Burrell initially committed to Rhode Island all the way back in 2010 (not a typo), but after bouncing around several prep schools, the New York native ended up at Lee College in Texas where his athleticism caught the eye of the Memphis coaching staff. Hawkins is a more peculiar commitment because while the 6’5″, 250-pounder has talent and size, he doesn’t seem like a great fit for Memphis’ fast-paced style of play. Still, head coach Josh Pastner and his staff rarely hand out offers to guys who can’t help the team in a big way, so it will be interesting to watch Hawkins fit in once he gets to school.
  3. One of the main reasons folks are so bullish about Connecticut‘s return to the NCAA Tournament this season is because of the breakout year that Huskies’ forward DeAndre Daniels had last season. Daniels came to UConn as a five-star recruit, but he failed to live up to the hype during a trying freshman campaign in which he hardly saw the floor and seemed totally unsure of himself when he was there. As a sophomore, then-first-year coach Kevin Ollie needed to lean on him heavily due to a lack of depth and Daniels responded to the challenge by averaging 12.1 PPG and 5.5 RPG on the season (including 21.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG, and 3.3 BPG in the final four games of the season). Now everyone is well aware of just how much ability Daniels has but it is his consistency that needs improvement if the Huskies are going to be a threat in their new conference. Everyone knows about how talented the team’s backcourt is, but it is the mercurial Daniels who may be the team’s most important player. UConn is very thin and inexperienced in the frontcourt and although he hardly qualifies as a traditional big man despite his size and length, his rebounding and rim protection will be crucial components of the Huskies’ defense.
  4. Since we are on the topic of teams without much of a frontcourt, the only AAC team with realistic NCAA Tournament expectations and less frontcourt depth than UConn may be Cincinnati, which makes the development of center David Nyarsuk all the more important. Tragedy struck the Sudanese big man during the offseason when he was informed his father had passed away, but he is coping with the help and support of his teammates and coaching staff, while UC fans are hoping that Nyarsuk’s determination to honor his late father translates on the court. Nyarsuk  dealt with knee injuries and the acclimation to Division I basketball last season as he averaged 2.6 points and 2.5 rebounds in 11.3 minutes per game. But the Bearcats have lost nearly every legitimate post player from their roster and Nyarsuk will need to make a much larger impact in an increased role if Cincinnati is to have any hope of holding its own up front. The team has the leadership and ability to make a run at the NCAA Tournament, but it’s Nyarsuk’s development that will help determine how real that shot is.
  5. We have been saying it all offseason but let’s get it out there one more time — never doubt SMU coach Larry Brown. The elder statesman among AAC coaches still knows how to recruit and he also knows just how to leverage his connections to do it. Two weeks ago, David Robinson stopped by the Mustangs’ practice in Dallas, and on Friday, it was Allen Iverson‘s turn to show his face. You would have to be the most naive person in the world to think that Iverson’s visit at the same time that recruits William Lee,  D.J. Hogg and Chris Giles were visiting was a coincidence, and if you still needed convincing about his purpose for being on campus, the former NBA superstar also attended Prime Prep’s Midnight Madness, where SMU commitment Emmanuel Mudiay just so happens to go to school. No recruit is going to choose a school just because some famous former NBA players shows up at practice, but in a world where half the battle is generating buzz, few folks can create more of a buzz with a visit to practice (practice?) than “The Answer.”
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