Memphis Basketball Preview: #8
Overall Rank: #8
Conference Rank: #1 C-USA
2007-08: 38-2, 16-0, 1st
2007-08 postseason: NCAA
Memphis lost three starters from a team that reached the NCAA Championship game, but Coach John Calipari still has enough talent on this roster to make another run at a national title. With a seemingly improved Conference USA, the Tigers should be well prepared come March. Over the last few years, as their 16-0 conference record of a season ago signifies, Memphis has dominated C-USA. And that can leave a team not playing their best basketball at the end of the year. If teams like UAB, Southern Miss, UTEP and Tulsa can battle for a spot in the big dance, Memphis will actually be playing some important and tough conference games in January and February.
More importantly than the strength of the conference is finding a way to replace Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose. Douglas-Roberts led the team with 18.1 points per game and Rose added 14.9. Finding somebody who can score from the wing like Douglas-Roberts will not be easy. Finding another freshman point guard who can score, grab some rebounds and lead the team in assists will also be difficult, but Coach Calipari has a capable replacement in mind. High flying forward Joey Dorsey is the third starter that needs to be replaced. He was an inconsistent scorer, but led the team with 9.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per contest. The depth in the backcourt also takes a hit with the departure of Andre Allen.
Memphis is replacing one freshman point guard with another. Tyreke Evans might not be another Rose, but he will not be a big drop off either. Like Rose, Evans can do just about everything. Unlike Rose, Evans is 6-6 and he will use that size and strength to his advantage and score around the basket. Evans is not as quick as Rose, but he is a capable ball handler who can use his strength to drive to the basket and either score or find his teammates. The biggest negative about his game is his jump shot. He is not a bad shooter, but his shot selection can be a problem. C.J. Henry, Roburt Sallie and Wesley Witherspoon will add depth on the wings. Sallie, a sophomore transfer from City College of San Francisco, is a versatile player who can play any position on the perimeter. His defense and rebounding will make him a valuable contributor off of the bench. Witherspoon might not have to contribute off the bench. The 6-8 small forward is a great scorer and could be starting at some point this season. He has a decent jumper, but he needs to continue to add more strength before he can battle in the paint and emerge as a solid inside-outside player. Power forwards Angel Garcia and Matt Simpkins will need a little time to adjust to the level of play, but both are capable big men who are expected to be major contributors in the near future.
Who to Watch:
Antonio Anderson started all 40 games last year, but he was pretty much a glue guy who left the scoring and leadership to others. Now this is the 6-6 senior’s team. Anderson is a capable scorer when given the opportunity and he will hit the outside shot and drive to the basket effectively. After averaging 8.6 points per game last year, Anderson could be a consistent double-digit scorer this time around. Willie Kemp and Doneal Mack could be starters on this team if they can hold off Witherspoon. Either way, Kemp and Mack will be major contributors in the backcourt. Jeff Robinson and Pierre Henderson-Niles give the group on the perimeter plenty of options.
Averaging 9.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks last year, Robert Dozier is the team’s returning leader in all of those categories. It will be his ability to score in the paint and stretch out the defense with his mid-range jumper that will keep the Memphis offense effective. Shawn Taggart will replace Dorsey in the starting lineup. Taggart started nine games last year and if he can develop into a presence in the paint and manage to stay out of foul trouble, something he did not do last year, Memphis will be a team that can make another run in March.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Tyreke Evans, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Antonio Anderson, Senior, Guard, 8.6 points per game
Wesley Witherspoon, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Robert Dozier, Senior, Forward, 9.2 points per game
Shawn Taggart, Junior, Forward, 5.9 points per game