The last time I wrote about the Tigers was December 15. That’s due in part to an abnormally busy schedule and laziness but mostly because of what I wrote about in that column: The fact that once the Tigers played Georgetown, it would be impossible to truly assess how good the team is.
We would know if they were terrible which clearly they are not but what do these wins really mean? It’s nearly impossible to tell. Since Georgetown, the Tigers won convincingly against Robert Morris, struggled in a win over Charlotte, crushed Tennessee and won close games against UAB and Southern Mississippi.
A win is a win. That’s a popular thing to say but it doesn’t work when you are a top tier basketball program playing against low-level competition. If the Tigers win a close, ugly game against a quality opponent then a win is a win. If they win a close, ugly game against say Charlotte then it’s ok to look at what went wrong.
I give them credit for the way they pummeled Tennessee, a team they needed two overtimes to beat in November. Tennessee was terrible prior to that game with losses to Oakland and Austin Peay. Oakland (Summit League) is 9-10 and Austin Peay (Ohio Valley Conference) is 3-13. In fairness, the Vols did follow the Memphis loss with an eleven point victory over then #14 ranked Florida.
I’ll also give them credit for the UAB victory. Is there more than a three-point disparity in talent between these teams? Absolutely. Is UAB good? Absolutely not. That said, it was an emotional environment as it was fresh off the passing of Gene Bartow, a key figure in the history of both programs. The UAB crowd was hostile and the Tigers found a way down the stretch by making a spectacular play for every idiotic one.
That brings us to last night’s game over Southern Mississippi. First, save the speech about USM’s RPI. Just look at their schedule. They are a solid team relative to CUSA but they aren’t anywhere close to being a top 25 level team.
The first half was sloppy to say the least but the Tigers managed to take a four-point lead into half. Out of halftime the Tigers looked impressive. The 1-3-1 defense was giving up some open looks from three but none were falling and the Tigers were capitalizing on the offensive end. Twice they built a 12-point lead and it looked like they might run USM out of the gym.
Then they took their foot off the gas. USM started hitting the open looks they missed earlier and Memphis reverted to the most pathetic half-court offense this side of a seven and under youth league. They allowed USM to come all the way back and even take a small lead.
The Barton brothers made some big plays on offense and Tarik Black had some sensational blocks on the other end. Still, if this team wants to be good enough to have a shot at winning a tournament game they can’t blow 12-point leads at home even if they get the win in the end. On the last play of the game with Southern Miss down two points, the Tigers blew an assignment and left a wide open three-point shooter. If the shot falls, the Tigers lose a home game in which they had a 12-point second half lead.
But hey, a win’s a win. Right?
Big Time Performer
He scored nine points to go with 10 rebounds and five blocks. Several of those blocks game at critical moments at the end of the game. He was a monster. Perhaps his biggest accomplishment was playing 31 minutes and not fouling out.
Small Time Performer
He only played three minutes but they were enough to earn him the honor. At a critical point in the second half he came in the game and immediately wasted a beautiful pass that should have led to two easy points. Instead, he turned it over and got back to the defensive end in just enough time to commit a weak and unnecessary foul.
The CUSA TV Deal Sucks
In order to watch many Tiger games on your TV you need Comcast. Comcast boasts the least features and worst customer service of any provider. On top of that, it is equally or more expensive that the other available options. I don’t know anyone who has it. Of course, it’s not going to change so I guess I can look forward to many blurry games on my laptop.
Josh Pastner Postgame
I understand coach speak but sometimes it goes over the top. Last night Pastner provided this gem, “If you don’t think Houston is good you don’t know basketball.” The problem with this statement is that Houston sucks. I’m not a fan of RPI as an absolute measure but Pastner did mention the RPI of USM in talking about how great they are. So coach, if USM’s RPI is an indicator of their excellence how about Houston’s 232nd ranked RPI? They have losses to Oakland, TCU and Texas State.
Of course, maybe I just don’t know basketball. After all, they did have a big four-point win over the North Carolina A&T Aggies.
Fourth straight game playing 15 minutes or less. Make of it what you will but you have to wonder how long it will continue and what effect it will have on the team and Jackson if it does.
Next Up: @ Houston Cougars. Saturday, 8 P.M. CT on CBSSN