Photo: David Butler II, USA TODAY Sports

 

The University of Texas-Arlington Mavericks have only made the NCAA Tournament once in school history. That was in 2008. That year they ran into the eventual national runner-up, Memphis Tigers, and lost in the first round 87-63. On Monday night they achieved some measure of revenge on the Tigers by knocking them off, in FedEx Forum, 68-64.

UT-Arlington is not a complete basement dweller in the ranks of division one basketball. They did beat Ohio State in Columbus on Friday night. So they were completely capable of putting together a performance good enough to beat Memphis. But this Mavericks team is also the same team that narrowly squeaked by Fordham at home, and lost by 12 at Louisiana Tech.

Neither team shot the ball well on Monday as the Mavericks were 26-of-78 from the field and 5-of-28 from beyond the arc. The Tigers were even less impressive going 16-of-54 from the field and 4-of-21 from deep. If there was one shooting stat to contribute the Tigers loss to however, it was free-throws. Memphis went to the line 44 times and only made 28 of them. This is also quickly becoming an apparent Achilles heel of the Tigers freshman phenom Dedric Lawson. Dedric was 4-of-10 from the free-throw line. The bright side for the Tigers is their floor leader Ricky Tarrant Jr. was 12-for-12 from the free-throw line.

The Tigers defensive pressure was also not as successful as you would hope on your home floor against a Sunbelt opponent. Memphis turned the ball over 16 times while UT-Arlington committed 11. Another simple but key stat is shot attempts. How do the Mavericks get 24 more shot attempts than the Tigers on their own home floor? A fast paced tempo and defensive pressure is going to be key to any success the Tigers have this year. While neither team played particularly well, one team has to win the ball game and the Tigers simply failed to take advantage of opportunity.

 

My take…

I may have been duped. I was buying in after the Oklahoma game. I don’t mean buying into to Pastner finally after seven years, but to the players knowing their identity and playing fast paced, unselfish basketball. With eight freshmen and nine new players, none of them being typical low post players, and the departure of Nick King and Austin Nichols, there was only one way to play this season…fast. While the level of talent is just not what it was, I still believe this should be Josh Pastner’s easiest coaching job of his tenure. There is no guess work as to style of play or tempo. It’s pretty obvious who the seven or eight guys are that should be playing so your not having to juggle a bunch of different rotations. You know what you have to do, just go do it.

In fairness to Pastner, he can’t step on the floor and make shots. This is just not a good bunch of shooters, whether from downtown, or from the free throw line. But what was apparent last night, once again, is the Tigers have no semblance of a half court set. Just playing unselfishly does not count. I am talking about spreading the floor and guys knowing where they should be in the set, and what the ultimate goal is for where the ball needs to end up. Under Pastner’s tenure, we simply haven’t seen that. The Memphis offense was a complete mess under Tic Price and a young Johnny Jones. Calipari came in and immediately cleaned that up. It was very obvious with Cal’s teams that they were running an offense. It was very refreshing and something a fan could at least take comfort in. In his early years, Pastner took Calipari level talent, and ran more of a Tic Price style offense. His teams underachieved.

Now that the recruiting well is drying up, the inefficiencies of Pastner are starting to scream out at fans. Watching the game last night, all I could think is, this is who we are now. We are having to scrap and claw against Sunbelt teams on our own home floor. That is who we are now. We are not a program that throws four and five star guys at you anymore. We are playing with a whole bunch of three star, Juco and transfer players. If you can put the high level of success we saw under Calipari behind you, then we at least should have a lot more exciting games because no game will be a given win. We can win 20 games this year against subpar talent and we may even sneak into the NCAA Tournament. We may even pull off a big first round upset, only to get molly whopped in the second round. That’s who we are now.

 

 

Brandon Reid covers NCAAB and the Memphis Tigers for MyFantasySportsTalk.com, you can follow him on Twitter @New_Breid

 

Brandon ReidAmerican AthleticAnalysisBasketballNCAABNews and UpdatesRecent PostsSun BeltDedric Lawson,Josh Pastner,Memphis,Memphis Tigers,UT-Arlington,UTA Mavericks  The University of Texas-Arlington Mavericks have only made the NCAA Tournament once in school history. That was in 2008. That year they ran into the eventual national runner-up, Memphis Tigers, and lost in the first round 87-63. On Monday night they achieved some measure of revenge on the Tigers...Why go anywhere else for sports and entertainment?