Last NCAA Appearance: 2008, National Championship loss to Kansas
Coach: John Calipari (23-10 in 10 NCAA appearances)
Why They Can Surprise:
Memphis will cause a lot of problems with their aggressive defense. The guards will tally quite a few steals, but it works so well because of the big guys under the basket. Robert Dozier and Shawn Taggart are both quality shot blockers and that is why the opposition shoots just 37.6 percent from the floor. The best way to score against the Tigers defense is by hitting the long ball since they will not give up many easy baskets.
Dozier and Taggart are more than just shot blockers. Dozier, a 6-9 senior, is second on the team in scoring with 12.1 points and Taggart has been hovering around the double-digit mark in scoring all year long. The frontcourt duo also does a superb job hitting the glass. It is simple to say that Memphis’ impressive rebounding margin is due to their relatively easy games in Conference USA, but it is more complicated than that. This is a team that outrebounded Georgetown, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Tennessee and Gonzaga during the regular season.
Why They Can Disappoint:
The Tigers free-throw shooting woes were well documented heading into the last year’s NCAA Tournament. This year’s numbers are much better, but still not that great. In Memphis’ early season loss against Xavier the Tigers hit just 15 of 30 attempts from the charity stripe. In a five-point loss, that could have made the difference. However, the bigger concern is in the backcourt. Willie Kemp, Antonio Anderson, Wesley Witherspoon and Tyreke Evans have all started at the point guard position this year. Coach John Calipari has settled on Evans. The freshman is comfortable with the ball in his hands, but his decision making is occasionally in question. However, Evans makes up for any freshman related mistakes with his great scoring and defense.
Who To Watch:
With Evans at the point, Anderson has moved to the off guard spot. He is not much of a shooter for a shooting guard, but Anderson does hold this team together and scores by getting to the basket. He is a great rebounder, a solid defender and can always help out Evans with the ball handling duties. If the perimeter group needs to find a shooter, Doneal Mack is really the only option. Mack has knocked down nearly two three-pointers per game, but he only hits 32.3 percent of his attempts. And if his shot is not falling, Mack does not provide much else to the team on the offensive end. He can drive to the basket, but his free-throw shooting is a major liability. If Evans and Mack are not making outside shots, the Memphis offense becomes much easier to contain.
Tyreke Evans, Freshman, Guard
Antonio Anderson, Senior, Guard
Doneal Mack, Junior, Guard
Robert Dozier, Senior, Forward
Shawn Taggart, Junior, Forward
Pierre Henderson-Niles, Junior, Forward
Willie Kemp, Junior, Guard
Roburt Sallie, Sophomore, Guard
Wesley Witherspoon, Freshman, Forward
+ Following final Bracket announcement, more team info will be added, including final RPI, final team statistical rankings, Joel's prediction, and more!