Josh Pastner has a highly-touted recruiting class, couple that with recent news that Missouri transfer Michael Dixon is eligible to play this season, and Memphis once again has high expectations in the preseason.
Though, during Monday’s media session, Pastner made it clear that for all the potential this team has, still has a lot of room for improvement.
“We have some work to do,” Pastner said. “We have a long way to go. We’re not near a finished product at all. There’s some strengths, and we have some weaknesses. We’ve got to get a lot better in a lot of different areas.”
The strength is clearly the guard play with Dixon, Joe Jackson, Geron Johnson and Chris Crawford, a quartet that some argue is the best in the country.
“I don’t think if I could (coach) another 35 years, that I will have another team where I have four senior guards,” Pastner added. “Not just senior guards, but these are four guys who have been on teams that won 30 games and have played major minutes.”
The Tigers will still be matched up with some of the nation’s other top guard play including UConn and Louisville, who are now conference foes in the brand-new American. The Tigers face the Huskies and Cards twice this season, and their inaugural conference schedule is anything but favorable from the start. Memphis begins league play on the road in South Florida, then the four following games include home against Cincinnati, on the road at Louisville and Temple, wrapping up against UConn in the FedEx Forum.
Before the Tigers even get conference play, they have an out-of-conference slate that features Oklahoma State (another premier backcourt), Florida and potentially an improved LSU team.
Memphis is predicted to be at the top of the conference and rightfully so. Though Pastner and his Tigers have succumbed to preseason hype in the past (remember last season’s Battle 4 Atlantis performance?). He took some heat off when he won an NCAA tournament game, though he still doesn’t have a top-25 win under his belt. He has several tough out-of-conference games and a much more difficult conference schedule, so maybe calming the hype around his program this preseason isn’t the worst decision.