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Old Spice Classic Preview: Memphis
Location: Memphis, TN
Conference: American Athletic Conference
Home Venue: FedExForum
Head Coach: Josh Pastner (5th season, 108-35)
Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2013
2012-13 Record: 31-5 (16-0)
2012-13 Postseason: NCAAs, Round of 32 loss to Michigan State
2013-14 Record: 2-1 (results below in order)
- W, 95-69 vs. Austin Peay
- L, 101-80 at No. 7 Oklahoma State (non-bracketed Old Spice Classic game)
- W, 98-59 vs. Nicholls State
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
G Joe Jackson (6-1, 174, Sr.)
G Geron Johnson (6-3, 197, Sr.)
G Michael Dixon Jr. (6-1, 200, Sr.)
F Austin Nichols (6-8, 212, Fr.)
F Shaq Goodwin (6-9, 242, So.)
BY THE NUMBERS
Leading Scorer: Nick King, 16.0
Leading Rebounder: Geron Johnson, 7.0
Leader in Assists: Geron Johnson, 4.7
Team Points Per Game: 91.0
Points Conceded Per Game: 76.3
STATE OF THE TEAM
Outside of consensus top-eight team Oklahoma State, who drubbed Memphis 101-80 last week in Stillwater, Josh Pastner's Tigers enter the Old Spice Classic as the only other ranked squad in the eight-team field, coming in at No. 21 in the AP poll and ranked 19th in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
Pastner's posse is loaded with talent in 2013-14, starting with an all-senior starting backcourt of Joe Jackson, Geron Johnson and Micahel Dixon Jr., a Missouri transfer. Jackson is the smallest of the group in stature, but he's also the headliner, considering he led Memphis in scoring (13.6 ppg) and assists (4.8 apg) a season ago. Through three games this campaign, Jackson is averaging 13.3 points while Dixon is averaging 12.7 points and Johnson has picked up Jackson's slack in distribution, leading the Tigers with 4.7 dimes a game.
But it's not all about who's returning for Memphis. Pastner landed one of the nation's top recruiting class, and the true freshmen are taking to the court quickly and demonstratively. The team's leading scorer in the early going is 6-foot-7 frosh wing Nick King, who's also second in rebounding average with 6.3 boards. Then there's 6-foot-8 freshman forward Austin Nichols, who like King is a native of Memphis. Nichols is scoring 11.0 points per game, pulling down 4.3 rebounds on average and blocking a shot per contest.
From top to bottom this Memphis bunch is as talented and deep on paper as any team playing in Orlando Thanksgiving week, including Okie State. The numbers bear it out, too. The Tigers rank in the top 14 teams in America in three major offensive categories – scoring (91.0 ppg), rebounding (46.0 rpg) and assists (19.0 apg). But talent is only so much, and Pastner's troops have had a tough time in recent years proving they can beat the best in the country. Memphis' opening-round tilt with Siena won't provide too steep a challenge, but it will be interesting to see how the Tigers fare against either LSU or St. Joseph's in the second round and then possibly in a rematch with the Pokes on Sunday.
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