Thursday, October 16, 2008

No. 12 Memphis: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Team Preview: 38-2, 16-0 C-USA (1st)

Key Losses: Derrick Rose (14.9 ppg, 4.3 apg, 4.5 rpg), Chris Douglas-Roberts (18.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg), Joey Dorsey (6.9 ppg, 9.1 rpg)

Key Returnees: Antonio Anderson (8.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.4 apg), Robert Dozier (9.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg), Shawn Taggart (5.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg)

Newcomers: Tyreke Evans, Wesley Witherspoon, Angel Garcia, Matt Simpkins, Roburt Sallie, CJ Henry

Memphis lost Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and Joey Dorsey to the NBA (with Rose and CDR leaving early), but Memphis still got a bit lucky with Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier pulling their names out and returning for their senior years. Anderson is a big, strong guard that can run the point as well as play off the ball. He does a lot of things well - he is a decent shooter, fairly athletic, a solid defender, but more than anything Memphis will probably count on him for leadership. Also returning in the back court for Memphis is Doneal Mack and Willie Kemp. Mack and Kemp will be two of the best long-range shooters for the Tigers, although the rest of their games are very different - Mack is an athletic, 6'5" slasher where Kemp is more of a steady point guard that makes plays without turning the ball over (20 turnovers in 40 games, 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio).

The Tigers return a lot in their front court. Dozier is as athletic as they come. He is 6'10", long, and very mobile, and can knock down a jump shot when he is open. His handle and post game leave much to be desired, but he can slash to the basket and finish at the rim, which is perfect for Coach Cal's system. Sophomore Shawn Taggert is a similar player to Dozier, with a little less athleticism but a little more polish offensively - better back-to-the-basket moves, better stroke. Also returning is junior Pierre Niles, who was a fairly highly touted recruit coming out of high school but has battled attitude, weight, and behavioral issues since he has stepped foot on the Memphis campus. But word out of Memphis is that Niles has a new work ethic and has lost around 45 lbs, and if that is true than Niles is good enough to be a force in the paint.

Now to the newcomers. Tyreke Evans is the best of the bunch. He is an athletic and highly skilled 6'5" scoring guard that knows how to score. He is very aggressive, and has a tendency to be too selfish, but if he can accept his role, he is the perfect player for the Memphis system. Wesley Witherspoon is a 6'8" athlete, and while he still is very raw offensively, he has the potential to be a game-changer if he can develop. Again, another guy well-suited to the Memphis system. Angel Garcia is a 6'11" forward with a lot of perimeter skills (handle, jump shot), but he is not quick enough to play the three yet and probably needs to bulk up to be effective in the post. Matt Simpkins, a 6'9" forward, is athletic, mobile, and a good finisher around the basket - think Dozier.

The other two newcomers are Roburt Sallie and CJ Henry. Sallie originally committed to Nebraska out of high school, but couldn't get eligible and spent a year at the City College of San Francisco. CJ Henry is the older brother of Xavier Henry, who we've written about before. CJ was a top-10 recruit in 2005, but decided to play baseball for the last three years. He wasn't getting anywhere, and since the Yankees (who signed him) had agreed to paying for his education in his contract, CJ walked on to Memphis. It may take a while to get back into game shape, but if his skills are still there, the 6'3" Henry should see a lot of time on the wing for Memphis.

Outlook: Memphis is loaded with talent and athleticism, but more importantly they are going to be big at every spot on the floor, so their defense should be as tough as ever. Losing the Dorsey to protect the rim will hurt, but they have enough big guys that it shouldn't be that big of a problem. The biggest issue I see is going to be that they have no real playmaker. Derrick Rose was able to break people down off the dribble, get into the paint, and find the open man - who on this roster is going to be able to do that? Anderson, maybe. Evans is able to, it is a matter of whether or not he will actually do it. The talent is there, the question is going to be, especially with how inexperienced a lot of the rotation is, how well will Cal get his team to fit into the Dribble Motion offense. Expect them to roll through C-USA again, but I don't think another Final Four is in the Tiger's future.


MTiger said...

Much better research than your last article on Memphis. I agree with most of it, except for rolling through C-USA. People keep ignoring the fact that several C-USA teams including Tulsa, UAB, and UTEP played us close last year while we were dominating teams like Georgetown, Texas, Michigan State, and UCLA. Most C-USA teams will be better this year, and we won't be. The conference might have one team in the tournament again, or it might have three. Either way, it'll still be better than it has been since 2005.

Rob Dauster said...

I agree that C-USA is much improved, but I still believe Memphis is far and away the best team. When you have dominated a league like Memphis has the last few years, conference games are always going to be tough because everyone is gunning for you. That said, I would be surprised if Memphis goes undefeated again but they should definitely win the league out right.