The general consensus from anyone you ask, from experts to casual pundits, is that in order to make the Big Dance, the University of Memphis Tigers must win the C-USA tournament. A few weeks ago that seemed quite feasible, but after a host of disappointing performances, the likelihood has diminished considerably. Still, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. So what would it take for the U of M to cut down the nets in El Paso? Here are 5 things that would go a long way toward helping their cause.
Number one: Hit outside shots. In Conference USA play, Memphis ranks dead last in three-point shooting. They have gone a miserable 70 for 256, or just over 27 percent. This coming from a team that many thought had a chance to be one of the best outside shooting teams in the history of the school. The good thing is that there was a reason for those expectations. They have players capable of putting the ball in the basket, so maybe it’s time to start hoping for the due factor. Plenty of teams have been carried through tournaments by a hot hand or two. And now would be a perfect time for someone to step up and start knocking down a few.
Number two: Limit opponents’ offensive rebounds. As often as the Tigers have struggled on defense, things only get worse when they start allowing other teams to get multiple opportunities on each possession. It has become customary to see the Tigers fail to get both hands on a rebound on the defensive end. Most of the time it seems as though they tip ball up in the air and fail to secure it. And more often than not it seems to wind up in an adversary’s clutches. For a team that struggled early in the year to defend, it is crucial to their success that they limit teams to one shot per possession.
Number three: Avoid turnovers. Failing to value possession of the ball has been one of the main weaknesses of this young team. As good as the Tigers have been at getting steals and creating turnovers for their opponents, they have been equally bad at committing unforced errors. With the way that conference tournament games generally seem to come down to the last few possessions, it is critical that this team grow up in a hurry and realize how valuable it is to hold on to the ball.
Number four: Feed the post. Saturday’s game against Tulane showed just how effective Tarik Black can be when he gets the ball down low. When his teammates showed the patience and determination to get him the ball consistently, he was virtually unstoppable. Unfortunately, for most of the season, the team has been reluctant to get the ball to their big men down on the block. It seems as if it gets too difficult, they simply stop trying. But with what Black showed Saturday and Will Coleman’s improving post game, they would be foolish not to make every effort to force their opponents to guard them down low.
Number five: Find SOME way to get Joe Jackson involved. After starting the season out slowly, the Tigers’ diminutive point guard started to show signs of promise near midseason. There were times in games where it seemed like his man had no chance of staying between Jackson and the rim. But somewhere along the way, when his shot stopped falling, Jackson became tentative and appeared content to hold the ball and dribble hesitatingly around the perimeter. If this Tigers team wants to enjoy success in the tournament and continue on in the postseason, Jackson’s reemergence will be crucial.
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