#90 Memphis Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

Memphis Tigers
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #90
Conference Rank: #5 American
After missing the postseason two years in a row, following a 15 year NCAA or NIT streak, Memphis has gone in a new direction. The Tigers finished last season with an 8-10 record in AAC play and finished in seventh place in the conference. So gone is Coach Josh Pastner and the Tigers hope Coach Tubby Smith can come in and right the ship. It will take some time though and this team is seriously lacking on depth.
2015-16 Record: 19-15, 8-10
2015-16 Postseason: none
Coach: Tubby Smith
Coach Record: 0-0 at Memphis, 557-276 overall
Who’s Out:
The biggest losses are Shaq Goodwin and Ricky Tarrant. Goodwin averaged 14.7 points and added 7.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per contest. Tarrant ran the show, averaging 11.7 points and 3.4 assists. Trahson Burrell was also a double digit scorer who was a tough rebounder for a wing. Avery Woodson was far and away the team’s best outside shooter. He connected on 43.0 percent of his three-point attempts. While Woodson knocked down 77 three-pointers on the year, nobody else hit more than 38. And nobody returning hit more than 28. Sam Craft started a handful of games as well, but he only averaged 12.7 minutes per game in 18 contests. Caleb Wallingford, Dante Scott, Kedren Johnson and Nick Marshall are also gone after seeing limited action last season. While none of them are huge losses individually, collectively they leave Memphis with very little depth.
Who’s In:
There is not nearly enough coming in to help replace all of the departures, but Keon Clergeot, Christian Kessee and Jimario Rivers will all get an opportunity to play. Kessee is a graduate transfer from Coppin State who should help with the shooting issues Memphis will have in 2016-2017. He averaged 14.6 points with Coppin State last season and hit 88 three-pointers at a 39.5 percent clip. Jimario Rivers is technically a big 6-8 wing, but he will have to play in the frontcourt and not on the wing for Memphis this year. The junior college transfer is not likely going to score ten points on a nightly basis, but he is a tough rebounder.
Who to Watch:
The story is the same for fellow wings Dedric Lawson and K.J. Lawson. Dedric is 6-9 and 228 pounds and ideally he would play at the three or four spot. He will have to spend some time at the five spot this year due to lack of frontcourt options on this team. Technically nobody on the roster is listed as a true forward or center. Lawson, no matter where he plays, is a very good basketball player though. Last season he led the Tigers with 15.8 points and 9.3 rebounds. He also blocked 55 shots on the year. K.J. Lawson is 6-7 and missed most of last season. But in the ten games he played, he proved to be a very dangerous slasher. Jake McDowell, at 6-5, is big for this team too. The former walk-on is not going to play more than he has to, but he may have to more than Memphis fans would like. Guard Markel Crawford is also 6-5 and he too could move all over the floor depending on how Coach Smith wants to run his team. Crawford averaged 5.3 points and 3.2 rebounds a season ago and he is a very good perimeter defender.
Final Projection:
Craig Randall, a 6-4 sophomore, and Jeremiah Martin, a 6-2 sophomore, round out the roster. Randall never found his shot last season, but he could develop into a capable shooter and Martin will get the chance to run the point. Coach Smith has his work cut out for him when it comes to subbing what can at most be an eight player rotation. Expect the Tigers to play extremely small at times and use their athleticism to get the best of the opposition. That may work against some teams and there is talent here, but Memphis will also run into some teams they simply cannot match up with and that will continue Memphis’ streak of missing the NCAA Tournament and the NIT.
Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI / CIT / V16
Projected Starting Five:
Christian Kessee, Senior, Guard, 14.6 points per game (at Coppin State)
Markel Crawford, Junior, Guard, 5.3 points per game
KJ Lawson, Sophomore, Forward, 8.8 points per game
Dedric Lawson, Sophomore, Forward, 15.8 points per game
Jimario Rivers, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 76.6 (87th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 70.3 (131, 7)
Field-Goal Percentage: 41.3 (290, 9)
Field-Goal Defense: 40.0 (31, 4)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.1 (268, 10)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 32.4 (272, 8)
Free-Throw Percentage: 72.2 (86, 2)
Rebound Margin: 2.1 (113, 6)
Assists Per Game: 15.0 (69, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.1 (121, 6)