Last season the Memphis Tigers won 24 games and finished in a three-way tie for third place in the American Athletic Conference due in large part to the presence of four senior guards. With those guards, led by Joe Jackson (14.5 ppg, 4.5 apg), having moved on the perimeter play is the biggest question that head coach Josh Pastner has to address before the regular season opener against No. 11 Wichita State on November 18.
Wednesday night the Tigers played their lone exhibition game, and the biggest takeaway from their 74-70 loss to Christian Brothers University is that they have a lot of work to do in advance of their meeting with Fred Van Vleet, Ron Baker and the rest of the Shockers in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Memphis committed 21 turnovers, with transfer Kedren Johnson responsible for six and junior forward Shaq Goodwin committing four. Johnson also dished out four assists, with Markel Crawford being Memphis’ best distributor from a numbers standpoint (five assists, one turnover). Add in a 5-for-22 night from beyond the arc, and it should come as no surprise that Memphis had its hands full with the Division II Buccaneers.
Memphis has just one guard who enters this season with any experience at the Division I level, Johnson, so the growing pains are to be expected.
And in Christian Brothers, it isn’t as if the Tigers were taking on your standard rec league team either. Head coach Mike Nienaber welcomed back four starters from last season’s team, led by All-Gulf South Conference guard Trey Casey (17.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg). Casey scored 19 points Wednesday night and senior forward Sidy Sall played very well inside, accounting for game-highs of 20 points and 11 rebounds.
Goodwin and sophomore forward Austin Nichols led the way for Memphis, accounting for 18 and 17 points, respectively. Goodwin also grabbed a team-high ten rebounds.
Given the amount of production lost from last season, areas such as turnovers will be key for Memphis if they’re to contend in the American. The Tigers struggled to take care of the basketball Wednesday night, and when combined with their struggles shooting the basketball the end result was their first loss in an exhibition game since 1996.