Memphis is playing it cool heading into Tuesday’s showdown against No. 4 Kansas. Hard to say what the Jayhawks are doing.
The Tigers are 7-0, but are coming off lackluster wins against Arkansas State (78-71 in OT) and Western Kentucky, which beat Memphis badly on the boards. As a result, coach josh Pastner is drilling focus into his young team.
After all, it’s Kansas, it’s the Jimmy V Classic, it’s New York City, Madison Square Garden, national TV, etc. The players seem to be buying it.
“Every game is just another game. Yes, it’s Kansas. They’re a top-five team or whatever and we’re ranked in the top 15,” Memphis freshman Will Barton told the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. But, like I said, it’s just another game.”
And Kansas? Well, the Jayhawks have a few distractions.
Junior guard Tyshawn Taylor hails from Hoboken, N.J., just minutes from NYC. His family will be there and he’ll be amped to play at MSG. (To say the least.)
“A lot of guys I played with back home play there (Garden) all the time,” Taylor told the Lawrence Journal-World. “It’s going to be nice to experience that, to have a lot of family there that have not seen me play in college. It’s Madison Square Garden … one of the best venues ever, storied. There will definitely be excitement.”
Guard Niko Roberts has it worse. His dad, Norm, spent the last few years coaching St. John’s. He knows the city and is pumped to show his teammates the sites.
So will Kansas be distracted? Maybe not. The two teams did face off last season when the then No. 1-ranked Jayhawks escaped with a 57-55 victory. They’re not going to be overlooking the talented Tigers.
I hope not. I want another down-to-the-wire finish.
Want more? I’m also on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller.