No. 14: Memphis Tigers

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Midnight Madness is Friday. So we’re kicking off our college basketball coverage with our men’s preseason Top 25. Look for five teams posted a day, all this week.

2010-11 record: 25-10 (10-6), 3rd in Conference USA
Lost in NCAA tournament first round

Coach: Josh Pastner, 49-20, 2nd year

Last NCAA miss: 2010

2011-12 roster [click here]
2011-12 schedule [click here]
2010-11 team stats [click here]

The good: Youth didn’t always serve Memphis well last season. That’ll change in 2012.

The Tigers’ anemic offense and average defense can only get better since nearly everyone is returning and since nearly everyone has pro potential and since they add yet another star player in Memphis native Adonis Thomas, things can only get better.

Point guard Joe Jackson spent the summer killing it for Team USA. Will Barton’s more worried about winning than making the NBA. And Tarik Black is a guy ready to break out nationally.

Maybe Memphis isn’t back to the point before John Calipari left, but it’s getting closer.

The bad: Did I mention the offense?

The Tigers didn’t even score a point per possession during Conference USA play. How it’s possible to do that and win the automatic berth to the NCAA tournament speaks to the Tigers’ talent. But unless the 3-point shooting, free-throw shooting, turnovers and poor inside play improve, the offense will prevent Memphis from becoming a Top 10 team.

Sure, the defense could become silly good again, but that’s asking a lot of a group that fouls a lot and is mediocre on the defensive glass.

The unknown: Bob Knight would hate this team. Hate, hate, hate. Thankfully, Pastner’s the coach. And it’s important to remember that he’s still learning about how to coach. Recruiting, he can handle. But the teaching’s tougher, especially when you have a young staff around you.

But Pastner’s too smart to let the offense flounder again and to not get the most out of his players. Memphis will win games and get to the dance. It’s just a matter of how far it goes.

Counting down the preseason Top 25

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