As part of its preview of the 2014 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. For more teams, click here.
Record: 23-9, 12-6 in American Athletic Conference
Adjusted offense / Adjusted Defense: 110.4 (66th) / 97.8 (53rd)
Seed: No. 8 in East
Impact player: Joe Jackson, senior point guard. 14.3 ppg. 4.5 apg. 1.6 spg.
The Case For:
Few teams can match the depth and experience Memphis boasts in its backcourt. The Tigers have four senior guards (Joe Jackson, Michael Dixon Jr., Geron Johnson and Chris Crawford) who average at least 22 minutes and eight points a game. Dixon, a transfer from Missouri, averages nearly 12 points and has posted a higher offensive rating this season than any of his teammates – yet he’s not a member of the Tigers’ starting lineup. Jackson’s shooting numbers have dipped this season, but he remains one of the better guards in the AAC (to say nothing of the incredible block he had on 7-foot-1 Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski). Memphis has also gotten solid play from forward Shaq Goodwin, who has seen his points (7.4 ppg to 11.8), field goal percentage (46.6 to 58.4) and rebound numbers (4.4 rpg to 6.6) jump from last season.
Before this season, Memphis coach Josh Pastner was 0-12 against ranked teams. He guided the Tigers to a 5-3 record against ranked foes in 2013-14, including wins over Oklahoma State, SMU, Gonzaga and a sweep of Louisville, a trendy pick to make the Final Four. The tougher opponents the Tigers faced in conference play should condition them for the NCAAs.
The Case Against:
Memphis has won just one tourney game in three appearances over the past four seasons under Pastner. In losses to Saint Louis in 2012 and Michigan State in 2013, the latter a 22-point rout, it seemed Pastner was outcoached. When the late Rick Majerus and Tom Izzo made tactical adjustments in those games, Pastner didn’t make the necessary counter-adjustments to put his team in the best position to win. There have been moments this season when Memphis has looked like a top-10 team; the Tigers’ six-point road win at Louisville in January is one example. At other times, Memphis has looked unprepared, overmatched or both. Take, for example, the quarterfinals of the AAC tournament. The Tigers submitted a poor defensive effort, seemingly unable to guard Niels Giffey (24 points, 6-of-8 on threes), and were trucked, 72-53, on their home court. Who’s to say Memphis won’t lay a stinker like that in the opening round of the tourney?
SI Prediction: Beat George Washington in second round, lose to Virginia in third roundView complete bracket predictions from SI.com’s panel of experts