Early in the week, the Memphis Tigers tasted an 8-point defeat in their first real challenge of the season in Portland against the Oregon Ducks. Memphis phenom James Wiseman was called for two early fouls and never really found his way into the flow of the game — despite earning a double-double in limited minutes. The experience of the Ducks outlasted the youth of the Tigers, who as a team shot 37% from the field, including 17% from three.
One tough thing about having such a young team is figuring out which lineups mesh the best and who needs to be in the game when it comes down to nut cutting time. Coach Hardaway may have reached down into his well of players just a little too deep, as 11 guys saw the floor for the Tigers in Portland.
Three players saw the floor for 6 minutes or less. Throwing them into the game for such a brief moment really didn’t provide anything positive. Currently, Memphis has 8 players averaging over 18 minutes per game and no one who plays over 30. However, I am confident that the coaching staff will re-evaluate their minutes distribution and find a way to put the best groupings on the floor.
For the foreseeable future, Memphis will be without James Wiseman, their star center. He, and the rest of the nation, are anxiously awaiting the outcome of his ineligibility settlement with the NCAA.
Until we have resolution in that area, coach Hardaway will have to alter his rotations and gameplan accordingly.
The first person that needs more minutes is freshmen guard Damion Baugh. His assist rate of 43% is top 30 in the country and he is averaging the most assists (6.3) and steals (1.7) on the Tigers roster despite only playing 21.7 minutes per game (T-5th). Baugh is an incredible athlete on both sides of the ball and has a knack for distributing and finding the open teammate.
In addition to Baugh, DJ Jeffries has also been overlooked. He is 8th on the Tigers in usage rate through 3 games this season, but owns the highest offensive rating on the team. When he is involved in the offense, good things happen. ESPN’s Jay Bilas even said himself that he thinks Jeffries could be the second best player on this Tigers team behind Wiseman. Jeffries is sneaky efficient, shooting 52% on only 7.7 attempts per game. So even though he has a lower than desirable usage rate, he is still averaging over 10 points per game. Get this man the ball and let’s see what he can do.
One last player I want to glance at is Boogie Ellis. The former Duke commit is holding it down from the outside and — I’m sure coach Mike Miller is excited — letting it fly. Ellis is taking the highest percentage of the Tigers shots when he is on the floor at a clip of 27.2%. He is knocking down 3 of his team high 7 three point attempts per game. In fact, he is truly hanging out at the perimeter and making his mark there as he has only taken an average of two shots per game inside the arc.
Alcorn State comes into Saturday’s matchup with Memphis at 1-2. They have 5 impact players to keep an eye on. Their leading scorer is 6’4” junior guard Troymain Crosby. Crosby is averaging 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. He averages 13 shots per game with less than three of them from deep.
The Braves second leading scorer is senior DeShaw Andrews who is averaging 11.7 points and 5 rebounds per game. He has taken 11 three-point attempts this season, but in that small sample size has knocked down 6.
Maurice Howard and Corey Tillery are also seniors and averaging 10 points apiece. Both of these guards are listed at 6’1”. They each put up 7 or more three point attempts per game and shoot a tad over 30% on those attempts.
Kobe Wilson is a 6’9” big man who doesn’t appear to play much of a role on offense, but averages 9 rebounds per game and is top 100 in the country in offensive rebound percentage. There is also a 7 footer names Alonzo Campbell on the Braves’ roster but he is only averaging 13 minutes per game.
The game tips off at 1:00 pm inside FedExForum. The Tigers are 25-point favorites.
On the recruiting side, 4-star forward from West Memphis, Chris Moore, will be announcing his college decision between 2:30 and 4pm according to Rivals. As of now, Hardaway does not have any commitments for the 2020 recruiting class. Schools like Duke and Kentucky have been putting in hard work on the recruiting trail and appear to have their classes locked up.
More College Hoops Content
- Theater In College Hoops (Ep. 37) – Kentucky collapse, SEC stinks & Gavitt Games
- Theater In College Hoops (Ep. 36) – Eligibility issues, injuries and coaching critiques
- Theater In College Hoops (Ep. 35)- Champions Classic
- Theater In College Hoops (Ep. 34) — Pac 12 Preview
- Theater In College Hoops (Ep. 33) — Big East Preview
Zak (@BarnBurnerBro) is a native Memphian who covers the Memphis Grizzlies, Tigers, and St. Louis Cardinals for The Barn. He spends his free time exploring breweries, restaurants, and leading the Ivan Rabb stan club.