#24 Memphis Tigers: College Basketball 111 in 111

memphis-dance-team

Welcome to The Sports Bank’s third annual college basketball season preview series.  Two years we looked at 99 teams in 99 days.  Last year, we were slightly more aggressive and expanded to 111 teams in 111 days and will do so again as we look ahead to the 2012-2013 season.

We will rank the 75 power conference teams and top 36 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order.  We’ll break down rosters, transfers, incoming freshmen, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.

New season, same old story in Conference USA as the Memphis Tigers are undoubtedly the team to beat.  It will be their final season in C-USA before heading to the Big East.

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Memphis Tigers joining the Big East

memphis-dance-team

So what do the Memphis Tigers bring to the Big East table? Well, they were recently a power in national college basketball, and for years they were kind of held back by their conference in that regard. The Big East is still a major hoops conference, but this move does help replenish the league after the recent defections.

In national college football, Memphis has become somewhat of a bit player, as the Tigers have made a few bowl games. They will strengthen the league on the gridiron as Big East football is pretty awful.  And of course, all conference alignment shifts are always all about football.

From the AP:

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#10 Memphis Tigers: College Basketball 111 in 111

memphis dance team

Welcome to The Sports Bank’s second annual college basketball season preview series.  Last year we looked at 99 teams in 99 days.  This year, we are being slightly more aggressive and expanding to 111 teams in 111 days.  We will rank the 74 power conference teams and top 37 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order.  We’ll break down rosters, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.

As expected, the Memphis Tigers went through their share of growing pains last season with a very young, but extremely talented roster.  After dominating Conference USA from 2006-2009 in which they only lost one league game, their reign of terror in the conference has hit a bump in the road the past two seasons.  Expect a new era of supremacy to begin this season for Josh Pastner and company.

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Derrick Rose inspires Pride, Awe in Former Memphis Tigers Teammates

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Derrick Rose has become a force of nature this year. The man-crush of all Bulls and greater Chicago sports fans alike, he’s a runaway front-runner to win the NBA MVP award.

His breakout season has of course inspired pride and awe in the Memphis Tigers college basketball community; and among those who have moved on to the NBA, including Joey Dorsey of the Toronto Raptors, and Chris Douglas-Roberts of the Milwaukee Bucks.

By Paul M. Banks

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Is Tyreke Evans the next Big Thing?

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By Paul M. Banks and David Kay

I wouldn’t call it “love at first sight”, but when I was in Milwaukee for the 2008 McDonald’s All-American High School Basketball game, I was enamored by what I saw.  At the time, Tyreke Evans was undecided as to where he would play his college basketball, but I knew that his impact at whatever University was fortunate enough to land him would be felt immediately.

That certainly was the case as Evans eventually became the catalyst for John Calipari’s dribble-drive motion offense at Memphis.  A few weeks into the season, Coach Cal made the decision to put the ball in Evans’ hands and let him run the team as their point guard instead of playing him at the two; a move that catapulted the Tigers back into the national title picture after they had fallen out of the Top 25. “I felt comfortable getting my teammates the ball making other people better. I think I’m a better player with the ball in my hands, but I’ve also been playing the two all my life. So either one, it won’t really matter to me,” Evans said at the NBA Draft Combine.

It was no surprise that Evans was a “one and done” at Memphis.  If the NBA didn’t have their current rule, Evans likely would have made the jump from high school straight into the NBA.  And you wouldn’t have blamed him for doing so.  His physique is NBA-ready as demonstrated by his measurements at the NBA combine; 6’5” in shoes, 220 pounds with a 6’11” wingspan, the longest of any guard prospect in the draft.  Evans’ ability to attack the basket seems almost effortless, to the point where I have no problem comparing his game to that of a young Dwyane Wade.  (That’s quite the comparison coming from a Marquette grad.)  Similar to Wade, Evans has a fearless mentality when taking the ball to the basket and tremendous instincts when it comes to scoring.

“I studied Penny Hardaway and Tracy McGrady. They were two of my favorite players growing up. But I watch LeBron, D. Wade now everybody and try to take a little piece of their moves,” Evans said before later adding that T Mac is the probably the most accurate player to compare him to.

Evans also has the same knocks against him that Wade did when coming out of college; most notably the inconsistency with his jumper and questionable shot selection.  Like most young college players, both of those areas should improve over time as Evans matures.  The former Tiger is also sometimes careless with the basketball, often trying to do much by himself which resulted in a less than desirable 1.1/1 assist-to-turnover ratio.tyreke-evans

Evans is still learning the importance of being a nuisance on the defensive end.  He has a great read on the ball and uses his length to get in passing lanes and create fastbreak opportunities off steals.  His strength and size also allows him to be physical against equally strong opponents.  If the work is put in at the next level, Evans could develop into a Wade-type defender, able to be a factor on the perimeter or in the paint.

Since the lottery was determined, I have thought Evans would be a perfect fit in Minnesota.  The T-Wolves already have a combo guard in Randy Foye, but Evans could step onto that team and take over some of the ball-handling duties, opening up Foye for more perimeter shots.  Evans could potentially go as high as #4 to Sacramento and won’t slip past Toronto who owns the ninth pick.

While the comparisons to Dwyane Wade are admittedly quite hefty, I have no doubt that ten years from now when we look back at the NBA Draft class of 2009, Evans will be one of the top 3 players to come out of this class.

Derrick Rose Explains his Flashing of Gang Sign

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By Paul M. Banks

As if the University of Memphis needed more bad PR. Headlines surrounding the program lately have been dominated by questions over whether former player and current Chicago Bull star Derrick Rose had someone take his SAT for him; as well as other stories of institutionalized corruption and malfeasance within the Memphis Tigers family.

Then the USC scandal broke and the men of Troy took the spotlight off the basketball mercenaries (well, maybe that’s a bit unfair- mercenaries are actually paid) affiliated with Memphis. So just when everyone had forgotten about Rose’s possibly cheating and coasting his way through his one year of school (seriously, doesn’t this mandated one year of college in order to get drafted rule seem even more incredibly stupid now?) we were reminded that “every Rose has its thorn.” Apologies to the ’80s hair band Poison.

I’ll let Derrick Rose explain the picture above in his own words. This is a statement released from the Bulls at 5pm  Thursday June 11th.

“Recently, a photo has been circulating on the Internet which appears to depict me flashing a gang sign.  This photo of me was taken at a party I attended in Memphis while I was in school there, and was meant as a joke…a bad one, I now admit.  I want to emphatically state, now and forever, that Derrick Rose is anti-gang, anti-drug, and anti-violence.  I am not, nor have I ever been, affiliated with any gang and I can’t speak loudly enough against gang violence, and the things that gangs represent.

In posing for this picture, I am guilty of being young, naive and of using extremely poor judgment.  I sincerely apologize to all my fans for my mistake.  I pride myself on being a good citizen, and role model, that young people can look up to and I want to urge all my young fans to stay away from gangs and gang-related activities.”

The image of Rose wilts from a minor gaffe that seems slightly offensive at worst, juvenile at best. Of course, this will blow over in a few days and Bulls fans will go back to having a man-crush on him. In the bigger picture, it’s yet another lesson about life in the internet/web 2.0/social media era. Remember, there are cell phone cameras and Blackberrys around everywhere you go, and if you get caught doing something that’s unfavorable to your public perception, it’ll spread like a virus.

West Regional Bracket Breakdown

By: David K.

West Regional Bracket Breakdown
In the up-coming days leading up to the NCAA Tournament, I will breaking down each of four Regionals.  Yes, I have watched 242 college basketball games this year and have a pretty good understanding of the teams.  As a disclaimer, I will not be held responsible if you copy my picks and they are wrong.  So don’t yell at me if you take my advice and it backfires on you…

Overview: Outside of the obvious, Marquette being in the West, this Regional does not excite me very much.  UConn was awarded the number one seed instead of Memphis, and it’s possible the two teams will meet in the Elite Eight if the bracket plays out as expected.  Outside of the Huskies and Tigers, I can only see one other team realistically making it to the Final Four.

My Elite Eight Prediction: (5) Purdue beats (2) Memphis
I was high on the Boilermakers to start the season, picking them as one of my Elite Eight teams, and I am sticking to my guns.  They have been inconsistent this season due to injuries to starters Robbie Hummel and Chris Kramer, but showed their potential now that they are healthy by taking the Big Ten Tournament title.  I think they have what it takes on both ends to knock off a UConn that I am just not very high on come tourney time.  Memphis has won 22 games in a row fueled by their overwhelming defensive effort.  The Tigers have a pretty easy path into the Elite Eight.

Sleeper: (6) Marquette

Purdue’s my real sleeper, but since I have already talked about them, I’ll throw out my thoughts about Marquette. I am glad the Selection Committee did not punish them for losing five of their last six games; with those losses coming to Louisville, Pitt, and UConn (all #1 seeds), and Syracuse and Villanova (both #3 seeds.)  MU was in each one of those games and has a fairly favorable second round match-up against offensive-minded Missouri.  I spoke with Wesley Matthews on Saturday night and he said this team still believes they can get to Detroit (site of the Final Four.)  They have played well against some of the top teams in the nation since Dominic James’ season-ending injury and could still make some noise.

Early Exit: (4) Washington
The Huskies have the four seed in this regional and a tough opening round game against Mississippi State.  The Bulldogs have won six in a row including the SEC Tournament, which was their only chance of in the Big Dance.  Mississippi State has a big man inside in Jarvis Varnado who can limit Washington’s double-double machine Jon Brockman, and also has the guards to slow down the Huskies talented duo of Isaiah Thomas and Justin Dentmon.  Even if Washington gets past the first round, I don’t like their chances against Purdue in the second round.

Most Intriguing First Round Match-up: (7) California vs. (10) Maryland
In my opinion, both of these teams were over-seeded.  The Terps finished 7-9 in the ACC, 20-13 overall and were considered by many as more of a bubble team than they actually ended up being.  Neither team is playing great basketball right; Maryland has lost five of their last nine while Cal has dropped four of their last six.  Both teams rely on their guard play and this game will likely come down to whether or not Greivis Vasquez can carry Maryland like he has had to do much of the season.

College Hoops 101

By David K.

Welcome to a weekly article at thesportsbank.net where I will give you the 101 on what has happened in the week of college basketball and what is to come in the days ahead.

Rewind

-I had a bad feeling heading into Marquette’s game at South Florida on Friday night and unfortunately, I was right. That’s what happens when you convert on just 10 of 23 free throws and Dominic James thinks he is actually a three-point shooter. Am I worried? No. One hiccup through ten Big East games is certainly better than anyone expected.

-Funks continue for a pair of expected Big East powers. Notre Dame lost at Cincy and then was demolished by UCLA. Suck it Harangody! That’s seven straight losses. Georgetown ended their five-game skid by beating Rutgers, but then lost at Cincinnati. Both teams are on the wrong side of the bubble right now.

-Also in a surprising rut is Texas. Losses to Mizzou and at Nebraska now has the Horns in a three-game funk. For a team that I picked to be in the Final Four, this is very surprising. But teams have been locking down on A.J. Abrams and the rest of Rick Barnes’ team has not been able to pick up the slack.

-It was a strange Wednesday of blow-outs. Clemson embarrasses Duke by 27 on the same day that Wake Forest is waxed by Miami (FL) by that exact same amount. Without Raymar Morgan, Michigan State stomps Minnesota by 29. No rhyme or reason whatsoever there.


My AP Top Ten (if I actually voted in the poll)

1. UConn (22-1)
2. Oklahoma (23-1)
3. North Carolina (21-2)
4. Pitt (21-2)
5. Duke (20-3)
6. Wake Forest (18-3)
7. Clemson (19-3)
8. Memphis (20-3)
9. Louisville (19-4)
10. Marquette (20-3)

Nipping on their heels:

UCLA (19-4)
Michigan St. (19-4)
Villanova (19-4)
Xavier (20-3)

Footlocker.com

Fast Forward

Marquette at Villanova (Tuesday, 6:00 ESPN)
Big bounce back chance for Marquette. Nova is playing good basketball having won five straight and are clicking offensively as they put up 94 points on Providence and 102 on Syracuse last week.

North Carolina at Duke (Wednesday, 8:00 ESPN)
Dickie V’s wet dream game. I don’t even need to pimp it any further.

Xavier at Dayton (Wednesday, 6:00 ESPN2)
Despite the fact that both teams were upset this past week, this game still has a lot of meaning in the A-10 race. Dayton has flown under the radar for a 21-3 team and could get a big boost come seeding time with a win over the Musketeers.

UCLA at Arizona (Saturday, 12:00 CBS)

Don’t look now but Zona has won five straight and is back in the NCAA Tournament picture. A win against UCLA would be a huge boost for their argument to make their 25th trip to the Big Dance.

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The Drive to 225

To update my goal of watching 225 college basketball games this season… By the way, I am going to hit 225 before the conference tournaments even begin. I think I need a girlfriend.

Games watched through 2/8: 170

Games watched this past week: 17
UConn at Louisville
Marquette at DePaul
South Carolina at Florida
West Virginia at Syracuse
Duke at Clemson
Minnesota at Michigan State
Illinois at Wisconsin
Arizona at Oregon State
Gonzaga at Portland
Marquette at South Florida
Villanova at Syracuse
Notre Dame at UCLA
Michigan at UConn
Memphis at Gonzaga
Charleston at Davidson
Purdue at Illinois
Wisconsin at Penn State