Photo: Twitter, @p_mcclellan

 

The Memphis Tigers were one of six teams playing on opening day of American Athletic Conference play today. Memphis (9-3) hosted Tulane (7-7) and trailed the Green Wave 37-35 at the half, but eventually pulled away for a 77-65 win.

Trahson Burrell led the way for Memphis with 21 points, 13 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 blocks. Malik Morgan shouldered the load for the Green Wave with 18 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks and a steal.

Josh Pastner flipped the starting lineup on it’s head for this game while his star freshman Dedric Lawson sat out with a reported abdomen issue. With Dedric Lawson out, Josh also played Shaq Goodwin and Markel Crawford off the bench giving Jake McDowell and Jeremiah Martin rare starting opportunities. They finished with a combined 2 points in 29 minutes.

Shaq Goodwin did end up getting his minutes. He had 17 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals in 33 minutes of play. K.J. Lawson, filling in for his brother, had 15 points and 7 rebounds. Ricky Tarrant Jr., playing against one of his former teams, also had double-digit points with 16 and 6 assists in 34 minutes of play.

Memphis shot right at 40% for the game while holding Tulane to 35%. And once again, the Tigers hit more free-throws than their opponent attempted.

This game played out as most of Memphis’ games have, to this point in the season. The Tigers come out slow against a sub par team, then pull away because they have the better collection of talent. In most cases, over a span of 40 minutes, the team with the most talent will wear the other team down, get to the free-throw line more often, and eventually win the game. That speaks well of the Tigers 2015 fall resume, but what does it say about 2016?

While the Tigers are 9-3 and scoring 79 ppg, their strength-of-schedule is 337 out of 351 Division I men’s basketball programs. They have played some of the worst offensive teams in the nation to this point. The Tigers SOS against opposing offenses collectively is 348 out of 351 Division I men’s basketball programs.

Memphis also went the whole 2015 fall calendar without playing a road game. They did have one neutral court game in Miami when they beat Ohio State 81-76 in OT. So outside of that one neutral court game, the rest of the Tigers resume to this point is made up of 11 home games. They have losses to Oklahoma, which was by far the most impressive the Tigers have looked all year, UT-Arlington, and Ole Miss. They have wins against Southern Miss, Grambling St, Louisiana Tech, Southeast Missouri, Manhattan, Southern, IUPUI and now Tulane.

The Tigers will not have to wait very long into 2016 before their first road game, that comes Saturday against South Carolina who is 11-0 and ranked #20 in the USA Today poll (#23 AP poll). It’s been hard to gauge just who the Tigers are so far this year, without playing enough competition and seemingly refusing to play unnecessary road games. They played really well in a home loss to Oklahoma, and really well in a win against Ohio St in Miami, which is the only game that has not been in the FedEx Forum. They didn’t play so well in dropping home games to UT-Arlington and a sub par Ole Miss team who let Troy take them to OT in their very next game at the Tad Pad.

You can look at the Tigers record so far and say, I think we are where we were projected to be at this point. I wouldn’t disagree. The problem is your wins to this point mean relatively nothing and the team is not prepared for tough games, or road games period for that matter. And we are halfway through the season. Memphis scheduled the same way last year and didn’t play a true road game until the calendar flipped. So now two years in a row, the pattern appears to be intentional, and I have a problem with that. And this year’s team is about to have a problem with it.

The Memphis Tigers are #1 in the nation in free-throw attempts per game. They are also hitting right at 80% of those attempts. That stat is such the antithesis of Tiger basketball. Never-the-less, an incredible stat and one to be proud of. Here is the problem…you have played 11 of your 12 games at home! Your not going to get those calls on the road and in conference play. Also, it’s going to be harder to hit those free throws when the road crowd and student section is yelling at you. It will not be as easy as when the 7,000 fans all get quiet for you in the FedEx Forum.

The bottom line is no one knows exactly who the Tigers are this year. They have shown moments of being an AAC contender, and they have shown moments of being a possible Sunbelt contender. What we do know is they are about to have to take their act on the road, and against consistently better competition. I just don’t think the first 12 games have prepared them for that.

 

My 2016 Prediction

  • The Tigers will continue to beat the teams they should while in the FedEx Forum, and half the teams they should away from home
  • They will pull off one upset against a Top 50 AAC team
  • Offense will struggle when not getting foul calls
  • Final regular season record 19-12
  • Win one in conference tourney
  • NIT birth

 

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

Brandon ReidAmerican AthleticAnalysisBasketballNCAABNews and UpdatesRecent Posts#Tigers,AAC,American,American Athletic Conference,Green Wave,Memphis,Tulane  The Memphis Tigers were one of six teams playing on opening day of American Athletic Conference play today. Memphis (9-3) hosted Tulane (7-7) and trailed the Green Wave 37-35 at the half, but eventually pulled away for a 77-65 win. Trahson Burrell led the way for Memphis with 21 points,...Why go anywhere else for sports and entertainment?