#20 Memphis: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #20
Conference Rank: #1 Conference USA
2009-10: 24-10, 13-3
2009-10 postseason: NIT
Coach: Josh Pastner (24-10 at Memphis, 24-10 overall)
In the end it was the lack of frontcourt depth brought on by injuries that kept Coach Josh Pastner’s Memphis squad out of the NCAA Tournament during his first year leading the team. Expect Coach Pastner’s streak of NCAA Tournament appearances to start this year and not end for quite some time. Despite the absence of a ton of talent, the Tigers are bringing in even more and depth will not be an issue any time soon.
Key Losses: F Pierre Henderson-Niles, G Willie Kemp, G Doneal Mack, G Roburt Sallie, G Elliot Williams
The backcourt received most of the attention in this superb recruiting class. Point guard Joe Jackson is a great scorer from anywhere on the floor and will be one of the most exciting freshmen to watch in the entire country. If he turns into a leader, Memphis will be in for a great year. Antonio Barton will be a fine backup to Jackson and Charles Carmouche, a transfer from New Orleans who averaged 12.6 points per game last year and is a shutdown defender, will add experienced depth. All those guys can play the point, although Carmouche could easily spend some time at the two spot. However, freshman Will Barton is penciled in the starting lineup at that spot. Barton is another great scorer and fellow freshmen Chris Crawford, Trey Draper and Jelan Kendrick will battle for playing time on the wings.
The Tigers lost a lot out of the backcourt, but they got even more talent coming into the system. The only returning players are D.J. Stephens and Drew Barham. Stephens started three games during his freshman campaign and proved to be a decent player on the wing who can attack the basket and help out on the glass. Barham saw less playing time, but could be a shooter off of the bench. Unfortunately for those sophomores, the freshmen and Carmouche are simply more talented and will be the focus on the perimeter. Perhaps early in the year Stephens and Barham can be steadying leaders in the backcourt, but that will not last long before the newcomers take over.
It is in the frontcourt where the Tigers return some talent. Wesley Witherspoon was forced to play at the four spot at times last season due to a lack of other options. That should not be the case this year barring a rash of injuries. Instead, the 6-9 junior will be back at the small forward spot where he can use his size to shoot over smaller defenders or his quickness to drive past less mobile opposition. Either way, Witherspoon will do a lot of scoring and having a 6-9 small forward combined with a couple true big men should help the Tigers immensely in the rebounding department. Angel Garcia is certainly not a good rebounder for a 6-11, 245 pound junior, but when he got hurt last season the Tigers ran low on interior options. In the twelve games Garcia played in last year, he averaged 6.8 points per game and showed that he can be an interior scoring threat as well as a big man who can stretch out the defense. Will Coleman is not as big as Garcia, but he is the Tigers best returning interior scorer and the best rebounder and interior defender.
Who to Watch:
If Witherspoon, Garcia and Coleman are all starting, it will put a little pressure on incoming freshmen Tarik Black and Hippolyte Tsafack to play quality minutes off of the bench. With Witherspoon’s versatility, it is not a huge issue, but it could become one with another injury to the frontcourt. By most accounts, Black is one of the best interior players in this recruiting class and there is little doubt that he can handle playing 15 to 20 minutes off of the bench and give this team another tough rebounder and shot blocker. Tsafack is raw, but he should have some time to develop his offensive game. In the meantime, he can run the floor and grab some rebounds.
Few teams in the nation will match the pure talent Memphis will put on the floor every game. There will be some struggles early in the year while this young team finds its identity, but by March some of these freshmen will be eyeing the NBA and their youth and inexperience will be all but forgotten.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Joe Jackson, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Will Barton, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Wesley Witherspoon, Junior, Forward, 12.5 ppg
Angel Garcia, Junior, Forward, 6.8 ppg
Will Coleman, Senior, Forward, 7.4 ppg
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