Monday, December 8, 2008

Memphis Preview

Georgetown gets its second ranked opponent this Saturday and its last chance to really impress before the Big East season starts, massive blowouts of overmatched opponents notwithstanding.

Given how incredibly difficult the six game run of at UConn, Pitt, at Notre Dame, Providence, Syracuse and at Duke will be, a home game versus Memphis gives the Hoyas a chance to go into those games with some breathing room. I'm not sure that having one quality win before that run will actually help the team, but it will keep the fanbase from getting too neurotic.

If nothing else, the Memphis opportunity stands out because of how isolated it is. We have five days between Savannah State and the Memphis game, and it's been two weeks since Maryland. It'll be another two weeks before the Connecticut game.

So the staff has had a little bit of time to prepare. And the only thing to look ahead to are Christmas presents.

Let's break it down, NFL-style:

When the Hoyas have the ball

The Hoyas' offense is, as usual, driven by taking great shots, which is constituted of many open threes, some looks down low and plenty of cuts to the basket. Unlike prior years, however, the Hoyas have added to their arsenal more of a driving game in the halfcourt and a fullcourt fast break offense.

The offense's weaknesses have been turning the ball over and an inability to generate second chance scores, but when the Hoyas have lost, it has almost always been because of a poor shooting day in addition to those issues. In other words, the defense that can beat us is a defense that keeps up with us, contests our shots, rebounds well and forces turnovers.

But if we're shooting well, or the opponent plays man, well, it's extremely rare that our offense doesn't completely blow our opponent away.

The good news is that Memphis is going to play a decent amount of man. The bad news is that they are physically talented enough to do so.

Memphis has a strong defense (ranked 24th) that does a good job across the board. They don't allow high shooting percentages on twos or threes, they block shots and they force turnovers via steals. They defensive rebound well.

The one thing they do have a tendency to do is foul. In fact, in their loss to Xavier (which wasn't a bad defensive game), Memphis let Xavier shoot .7 FTs for each FGA. Some of that was likely end of game positioning, but Memphis also struggled to keep Seton Hall off the line. Even Chattanooga and Marist went to the line a decent amount for cupcakes.

The Hoyas need to stay aggressive and get to the line. That's Memphis' weakness on D. And they have to watch the turnovers, because only Xavier has managed to control Memphis' pressure.

When the Tigers have the ball

Memphis is a good, but not great, offensive team. They are still athletic and quick. Shawn Taggart has done a decent job of impersonating Joey Dorsey, which a few less muscles and a few more skills.

But so far this season, they haven't been able to hit the outside shot. They are shooting under 30% for the year from three. Then again, they have players like Antonio Anderson and Doneal Mack who should be better shooters, so like the Hoyas' low percentage, that may be something of a mirage.

They also struggle to hit their free throws, even with several of last year's culprits leaving the team.

The good news is that, as a team, they don't do anything particularly well, offensively. They are decent offensive rebounding team, but not a great one. Because of the Hoyas' weakness, rebounding will of course be something to watch. But Memphis isn't anywhere near as good as they were least year, or Tennessee is, or Cincinnati, or Pitt, or you know, half the Big East.

Dozier and Taggart don't draw a lot of fouls for big men, but keeping Monroe in the game is obviously a concern. Again, it's more of a concern for what Georgetown doesn't do well rather than what Memphis does particularly well, but it is still a concern.

The Tigers beat us last year by being able to break down our defenders one on one at will. They either got good shots at the rim or got fouled or missed and had a player clean up the board. Offensively, they took us out of our game in the second half just enough to allow their offense to pull away.

This Memphis team simply isn't the same team. There's no Chris Douglas-Roberts or Derrick Rose to penetrate and dish. There's no Joey Dorsey to grab the miss. Sure, they have good replacements in Tyreke Evans and Shawn Taggart, but Evans can't replace Rose, let alone Rose and CDR. And Taggart played with Dorsey last year, so even if he performs at that level, who replaces Taggart?

In short, the Hoyas should be favored here. Calipari likely won't be dumb enough to play man to man all game, so I suspect that the Hoyas' performance to date is overrating them for this game. Still, the Hoyas are at home; they are playing well; and this Memphis team simply isn't as good or as talented as last year's version.

Memphis Tigers Basketball Blog (Blogspot)


  1. As a Tiger fan, I'm looking forward to the game Saturday as it should show us whether the long break has brought about any appreciable improvements.

    You're correct when you say that we're not as good as last year, but, as I remember last year's game, it was only interesting till about five minutes into the second half when we pulled away. And as for Memphis playing zone, forget about it. When JTIII runs the 4-corner with a shot clock -- that's when we'll play a zone.

    The one thing I know I can count on is that we'll be playing a class act, because Georgetown's coaches, players, and (most of their) fans have always been that. You and Gonzaga are our best opponents in that regard. Then there's the Vols and their entourage -- different story on all three levels.

  2. Thanks for reading.

    You folks definitely took it to us in the second half last year, but I just can't see it as relevant. Your personnel was simply better, and well suited to beating us.

    With both teams losing three key players, I don't know how illustrative last year is.

    I'm interested to see Evans. He could absolutely give us fits if we play him tight and let him drive. But if we're smart enough to force jump shots, I'm not as worried about him.

    Down low will be the main battleground. If you can dominate us there -- and it's possible -- that's the way Memphis wins this game.