Josh Pastner has had Conference USA's most talented roster each of the past two seasons, but those teams were short on experience. The top three scorers two years ago were all freshmen, while the top five scorers last season were either in their first or second seasons with the program. This year will be different.
Shaq Goodwin should help solve some of Memphis frontcourt woes. The McDonald's All-American was a member of the USA Basketball team that won the gold medal in the FIBA Americas U18 Championship last the summer. He's expected to start at power forward, with junior Tarik Black back at center.
Adonis Thomas will start at small forward after an ankle injury cost him most of the C-USA schedule and convinced him to delay entering the NBA draft. Ferrakohn Hall, a former transfer from Seton Hall who started 23 games last year, will come off the bench as a senior.
The Tigers' backcourt will be led by a pair of local guards in Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford. Jackson, the MVP of the past two C-USA tournaments, averaged 11.0 points and 3.9 assists last season, while Crawford averaged 9.1 points and 3.8 assists. Antonio Barton, another junior, projects as a steady reserve. The wild card is Johnson, regarded by some as the best junior college prospect in the country. The 6-foot-3 guard's talent is undeniable, but he was dismissed from two different junior colleges and has had legal issues. Can Pastner get Johnson on the right path?
Goodwin is a big, strong, skilled and capable of solving the Tigers' rebounding woes. Junior college transfer Geron Johnson could be a big contributor, but he must stay out of trouble off-the-court. His addition is a risk that will be interesting to follow. Damien Wilson will struggle to break into the rotation.
Pastner has done a tremendous job keeping Memphis relevant post-John Calipari, but he's still looking for his first NCAA tournament win. And though that might not be a problem nationally, it's an issue locally and why Memphis needs to not only win C-USA but also advance in March. Otherwise, the program will be facing lots of questions as it transitions into the Big East next year.