#7 Memphis Men's Basketball Preview

Memphis Tigers

Overall Rank: #7
Conference Rank: #1 Conference USA
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2010-11: 25-10, 10-6
2010-11 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Josh Pastner (49-20 at Memphis, 49-20 overall)

Remember all of those very talented freshmen at Memphis who spent most of the year playing like freshmen? Well, now they are sophomores. The most notable are point guard Joe Jackson, wing Will Barton and forward Tarik Black. Jackson was probably the most disappointing freshman last season, but he was playing his best basketball at the end of the year after being benched for a while. Despite the issues, he averaged 9.9 points and 3.1 assists per game. Barton’s outside shot was extremely inconsistent, but he proved to be a capable scorer and a good rebounder for a guard. Black was the pleasant surprise of the group while Jackson and Black received all of the hype. The 6-8 forward averaged 9.1 points and 5.0 rebounds.

Who’s Out:
Nine different players started at least ten games and the only one gone is Will Coleman. Coleman was quite productive for playing less than 20 minutes per game and his depth in the frontcourt will be missed. The good news is that Memphis has plenty of other options.

Who’s In:
And most of those options are newcomers. Ferrakohn Hall will not be eligible until December after transferring from Seton Hall. The 6-8, 224 pound junior will not make a huge impact on this team, but he is an experienced big man who has gone up against some of the best in college basketball. Stan Simpson is in a similar situation. The 6-10 junior spent some time at Illinois before heading to the junior college ranks. He will not step into a starting role, but he will be a great backup to Black and provide Coach Josh Pastner will plenty of frontcourt depth. Hippolyte Tsafack redshirted last year and will eventually turn into a solid player. That may take some time though. Memphis fans do not expect to wait for Adonis Thomas to make an impact. The 6-6 wing is the lone incoming freshman, but he is a great freshman. If we have learned anything from Memphis it is to not expect too much from freshmen, but Thomas will likely step right into a starting role anyway. Thomas is a superb rebounder and that will be huge for a team that struggled in that department last season. He can play, and defend, a variety of positions, but he should be most effective at the three spot for now.

Who to Watch:
Jackson, Barton and Thomas will get most of the publicity, but the Tigers have a slew of perimeter players who are more than capable of coming in off the bench or starting if Coach Pastner wants to play small. Charles Carmouche started 28 games last season and averaged 7.4 points and 3.2 rebounds. Antonio Barton proved to be a superb shooter and will provide a great offensive spark off of the bench. Chris Crawford started 19 games during his freshman campaign and can do a little bit of everything. Those guys may not start this year, but they will certainly see plenty of action. Even D.J. Stephens and Drew Barham are a couple of tough wings who started a handful of games last season. If things go wrong for the highly regarded youngsters, this team has plenty of options to fall back on. Players like Stephens and Barham can even play at the four spot in a pinch and that may be the best way to get the most talented players on the court during certain situations.

Final Projection:
However, Memphis does have a pretty talented player penciled in at the power forward spot in Wesley Witherspoon. The 6-9 senior has the skills to play on the wing, but due to his size he will be the one who spends all of his minutes up front. Witherspoon can stretch out the defense with his outside shooting and attack the basket. It would be beneficial if he could be a little stronger on the glass, but Thomas should be able to help out more than enough from the other forward spot. With Black and Witherspoon in the paint, Memphis can do a ton of damage inside. But to give them space, players like Will Barton need to do a better job hitting the long ball or the opposing defense can collapse in and stop Black and the slashers.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Joe Jackson, Sophomore, Guard, 9.9 points per game
Will Barton, Sophomore, Guard, 12.3 points per game
Adonis Thomas, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Wesley Witherspoon, Senior, Forward, 9.0 points per game
Tarik Black, Sophomore, Forward, 9.1 points per game

Madness 2012 NBA Draft Rankings:
#18 Adonis Thomas
#29 Will Barton

Madness 2011 Men's Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#12 Adonis Thomas

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