Memphis v Michigan State

Should Josh Pastner get out of Memphis?


If you’re one of those jumpy Memphis fans who wants to get rid of Josh Pastner because he’s failed to live up to the Calipari mythos, I’d counsel patience. If you can’t appreciate the upward trend that’s right in front of your faces, nobody is ever going to make you happy. The Tigers have won more than 20 games in each of Pastner’s four seasons, and each season the number of wins has increased. This year, Memphis was 16-0 in league play and topped 30 wins.

And all that is nice. As power-conference fans will gleefully point out, it’s easier to make it to those milestones in C-USA, and they don’t matter if you can’t win in the NCAA Tournament. I’ll cede that point even though I don’t like the snide tone of the discourse.

So let’s look beyond the numbers and go to the eyeball test. If you watched Memphis lose to Michigan State in the Round of 32, you know what I’m talking about.

I lost count of how many times a blue-clad body hit the floor in pursuit of a loose ball. Memphis’ defense was sloppy, but persistent. D.J. Stephens rising above the rim to block shots will be a recurring theme in the One Shining Moment video. Dudes were jumping out of their shoes half the game.

The Tigers played hard and loose, and never gave up. They were a reflection of their coach, who got so involved in the defensive effort he performed impromptu calesthenics in the coach’s box. Did he look like a hyperactive goofball? Sure, but ask UCLA fans if they’d prefer an energetic goober or a phlegmatic spectator on the bench when the time comes to lay it all on the line.

My colleague Rob Dauster will tell you that Pastner is not a good fit in Memphis, where his clean-cut approach is out-of-sync with the city’s inherent toughness. He’s not wrong. Pastner also has a long way to go before anyone mentions his name and gravitas in the same sentence. Finally, the time has come when his obvious recruiting ability has to be coupled with tactical brilliance, and if Pastner can’t acquire that for himself, he needs to hire it. Think Steve Lavin and Gene Keady, though, you know, with more actual winning.

In the end, Pastner probably must leave Memphis to achieve his true potential. He may have reached his pinnacle at Memphis already. But as the annual rumors of big-time programs pursuing Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens – also straight-arrows – heat up, is it really that far off the mark to imagine that Josh Pastner might be the third guy on that list of phone calls?

Keep an eye on the coaching carousel, is all I can say.

To follow along with the 2013 Coaching Carousel, click here.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.