Well, that didn’t go how the Tigers planned. The undefeated season is no more and the fan base that was ready to book final four trips after then Belmont game is now largely panicked.
Here are my quick thoughts on the loss to Michigan and double overtime victory over Tennessee.
The loss didn’t shock me. Michigan is a team designed to frustrate a squad like the Tigers. What did surprise me was how thoroughly Michigan beat Memphis. It was a 12-point loss on the scoreboard but that doesn’t indicate how badly the Tigers were beaten. Michigan looked like a team whose coach had a plan that his players were intent on executing. Those guys are bought in to what Beilein is teaching. Memphis looked like a group operating under the assumption that talent would take care of the win. More than anything they looked lost on both sides of the floor. On offense they got rattled by the zone and reverted to last year’s antics. On defense they looked confused as Michigan was constantly moving until they freed up an open man.
By the end of overtime it was hard to remember that at one point Memphis went on a 16-0 run to take a 40-24 lead. At that point, it appeared Michigan’s style of play and zone defense had simply been kryptonite for the Tigers. Fans had to be back on the “we are awesome train” then the Tigers relaxed on defense and let the Vols back in the game. Despite the eventual win this game was more troubling for the Tigers than the Michigan game. They were lazy on defense which seems like it wouldn’t be enough alone to blow a 16-point lead but it was. The reason it was enough is that the Tigers are still a terrible offensive team in the half-court. The transition game is elite but when they don’t play defense they can’t get turnovers or rebounds. Without turnovers or rebounds it’s impossible to run a fast break.
I’m looking at all this from the Memphis point of view but my gosh how awesome was Jeronne Maymon? I don’t know how good he actually is but you have to love the tenacity he plays with.
The list of concerns that emerge from these games is long but the most troubling revolve around Joe Jackson and Tarik Black. Black simply can’t stay on the floor. When he is playing he looks uncertain on offense and uninterested in playing defense or rebounding.
Equally disturbing is that Jackson appears to have found his invisibility cloak. The aggression he displayed against Belmont was nonexistent as he went 5 of 15 from the field in the two games combined. In a flashback of last year, Pastner had to go to Antonio Barton to close the game out. It should be noted that without Antonio the Tigers lose that game.
I don’t like overreacting to early season games or making broad proclamations on things that are difficult to quantify, but I think it is time to start questioning Josh Pastner’s coaching. I don’t mean call for his job. I’m saying have an honest discussion about his coaching to this point. He is now 0-8 at Memphis against ranked opponents and had multiple losses to bad teams last season. In my opinion the problem is less with his X’s and O’s and more getting the players to buy in. They seem to be doing their own thing out there which would explain why no one knows what to do against a zone and why so many plays after a timeout are sloppy and ineffective. It is entirely possible this may be an early season blip on the radar. They have the talent to right the ship and start rattling off wins but until they beat a top 25 caliber team I’m going to have doubts about Pastner as a game coach. His next opportunity to get a signature win would be one heck of a way to do it. The Tigers play seventh ranked Louisville December 17th.
Amidst all the doom and gloom I’d be wrong not to point out the Adonis Thomas looked awesome. I expect to see more plays run for him and maybe even a starting spot in the near future.