With Memphis losing its top four guards from last season, there’s plenty of room for newcomers and returnees alike to earn playing time in 2014-15. The late addition of Vanderbilt transfer Kedren Johnson will help matters, provided he’s granted immediate eligibility, but there’s another talented newcomer expected by some to make an immediate impact for Memphis.
Trahson Burrell averaged 25.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game as a sophomore at Lee College in Texas, and his versatility is something Memphis can use on the wing. The only issue: the NCAA had yet to clear Burrell for competition. That changed Thursday, as head coach Josh Pastner formally announced that Burrell has been cleared for game action. According to reports Burrell was on the court with his new teammates for the first time on Wednesday.
Adding a versatile player of Burrell’s caliber will give Memphis a needed boost, especially when considering the amount of perimeter experience the team lost at the end of last season. If Johnson can receive the waiver he needs to be eligible to play immediately, the Tigers’ perimeter depth concerns will have been addressed.
Among the returnees on the perimeter are Nick King, Kuran Iverson, Markel Crawford, who redshirted last season after suffering a knee injury, and Pookie Powell. Powell wasn’t available to play last season due to academic issues, but he was able to run the show for the team during its trip to Canada last month. That experience should help Powell given the fact that he wasn’t able to work out with the program in 2013-14.
SMU may be the favorite in the American Athletic Conference but they won’t lack for challengers, with defending national champion UConn, Cincinnati and Memphis considered to be the challengers. Getting Burrell cleared to play further strengthens Memphis’ status as a contender.
This post will be updated throughout the night.
Butler (KenPom: 41, RPI; 67) at Seton Hall (KenPom: 31, RPI: 37), 6:30 p.m.
LSU (KenPom: 53, RPI: 76) at South Carolina (KenPom: 45, RPI: 28), 7:00 p.m.
Nebraska at Wisconsin (KenPom: 51, RPI: 62), 7:00 p.m.
Saint Joseph’s (KenPom: 48, RPI: 30) at George Washington (KenPom: 71, RPI: 34), 7:00 p.m.
Missouri at Vanderbilt (KenPom: 35, RPI: 58), 9:00 p.m.
No. 14 Iowa State at Texas Tech (KenPom: 59, RPI: 51), 9:00 p.m.
Michigan (KenPom: 46, RPI: 56) at Minnesota, 9:00 p.m.
Washington (KenPom: 80, RPI: 57) at Utah (KenPom: 44, RPI: 16), 9:00 p.m.
San Diego State (KenPom: 65, RPI: 47) at Fresno State, 11:00 p.m.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: LSU at South Carolina, 7:00 p.m.
LSU attempts to stay atop the SEC standings when they travel on the road to face South Carolina. The Gamecocks have been very tough at home this season and they’re trying to form a potential four-way tie in the conference standings if they’re able to win this one (and Texas A&M wins tonight). It will be intriguing to see how Ben Simmons fares against South Carolina’s stingy defense.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: Saint Joseph’s at George Washington, 7:00 p.m.
An important game in the Atlantic 10 as Saint Joseph’s heads to the Smith Center to play surging George Washington. The Colonels have won three straight games as they try to stay with VCU and Dayton and make a move to tie the Hawks in the league standings. CBT’s Rob Dauster will be in the building for this one, so make sure to follow him on Twitter for updates.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
- No. 21 Baylor will have a tough one in the Big 12 when they go on the road at Kansas State. The Wildcats just knocked off Oklahoma and the Octagon of Doom is a very tough place to play, even if Kansas State is struggling in the standings.
- No. 16 SMU will try to stay in the lead in the American as they host Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane could really use a road win like this for its postseason chances.
- An intriguing Pac-12 contest tips as Washington heads to Utah. The Pac-12 standings are a mess right now, but these two teams still have a chance to make one final move for the regular season title if they start building momentum now.
- In the SEC, Alabama hosts No. 15 Texas A&M, a team that has lost three of its last four games. The Aggies will be favored in this road contest, but this one could be interesting because of Avery Johnson’s unique connection to Texas A&M. Avery Johnson Jr., a transfer guard sitting out this season at Alabama, played for the Aggies last season, so he could have some useful tips for his dad on slowing down Texas A&M’s potent offense.
- No. 20 Providence will be looking for revenge when they head to Milwaukee to face Marquette. The Golden Eagles currently sit eighth in the Big East standings, but they did win on the road by a point over the Friars earlier this season.