Division 2 CBU defeated the University of Memphis 74-70 Wednesday night in an exhibition game at FedExForum and by Thursday morning cars were sliding across bridges and roadways because the world had been turned on its side.
Here are 10 quick impressions
1. Turnovers will be a major problem all season. The Tigers made 21 against CBU and also struggled with turnovers in the scrimmage against Saint Louis. Kedren Johnson, the guard transfer from Vanderbilt, had six of those turnovers.
2. This is a worse shooting team than a year ago. The Tigers went 5-for-22 from 3-point range vs. CBU. Think they’ll get better looks against No. 11 Wichita State next Tuesday in the opener?
3. They will be easy to defend. Pack it in on Shaq Goodwin and Austin Nichols, who went 14-for-17 Wednesday, and force anyone else to make a shot.
4. There’s a contradiction between what they can do and what coach Josh Pastner wants them to do. He says they need more pace on offense, which may be true, but if you make turnovers at a slower pace how many will you make at a faster pace?
5. With this small sample size, we’ve seen no indication this crop of guards can drive to the rim or at least deep into paint. Miss Joe Jackson yet?
6. Transfer forward Calvin Godfrey, who does have plenty of D 1 experience, looked lost in his 14 minutes.
7. Guard Avery Woodson plays extremely hard on defense but has very real limitations offensively.
8. Guard Pookie Powell has offensive potential but needs an introduction to defense.
9. Fans, those who came in the first place, left in two waves Wednesday. At the end of regulation and late in overtime when the loss was obvious. Patience is already thin.
10. This collection of players would be a challenge for a seasoned, top-shelf, X’s and O’s guy. Pastner will have to elevate his coaching game for the Tigers to reach the NCAA Tournament for a fifth straight season.
You can’t be there. Media can’t be there. But on Saturday, Nov. 8 at FedExForum, the University of Memphis men’s basketball team will play an undisclosed opponent (Ok, we’re 99 percent sure it’s Saint Louis) in a “secret scrimmage.”
One thing that’s not a secret: Sophomore forward Austin Nichols won’t play because of “double case of pink eye,” according to Tigers coach Josh Pastner. Junior forward Shaq Goodwin and guard and Vanderbilt transfer Kedren Johnson, who also are nursing minor injuries, are questionable.
Sophomore Nick King not having Nichols, and possibly Goodwin, won’t have an impact on the rest of the Tigers.
“We know what Shaq and Austin are capable of doing,” King said.
Pastner has a largely inexperienced team this season after losing four senior guards off a team that advanced to the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. He says he’s confident this team will play hard and defend but, beyond that, “I have no idea about outcomes of games.
“As much as I can’t stand gray area,” Pastner said, “this team has a lot of gray area.”
Monday at FedExForum was Media Day. Grizzlies players talked about adding muscle and losing fat and sports writers talked about the opposite. But it was good to have everyone back together again, taking a quick look back and a long look ahead.
The look back: losing Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs at Oklahoma City. “We had it in our hands,” forward Zach Randolph said.
Actually, the NBA sort of took it out of their hands by suspending Z-Bo for that game because they thought he got too rough with the Thunder’s Steven Adams. But that’s old business. Looking ahead: Before the 82-game regular season, before the preseason, there is training camp. It starts Tuesday in San Diego.
The Grizzlies are aiming for a fifth straight postseason appearance. They begin by spending four days on the West Coast and the theory for these excursions is that it speeds the bonding process while limiting distractions.
“Work is work,” Randolph said. “No matter where you’re at.”
So the Grit and Grind starts in California. The chief goal this season: getting off to a better start than last season.
“Everybody’s done a pretty good job to stay in shape and be ready,” said center Marc Gasol, proclaiming the knee he injured last season a non-issue now. “Everybody’s healthy. I’m excited. I’m real excited.”
Next Tuesday, Sept. 30, the Grizzlies open up training camp at the University of California San Diego — alma mater of controlling owner Robert Pera. It’s just a four-day trip and it’s clear several players signed late to the training camp roster would be advised to avoid the beach and focus on making a strong impression early.
The most intriguing signee is 6-9, 235-pound forward Michael Beasley. Way back in 2008 he was the overall No. 2 draft pick out of Kansas State. Since then, he’s been wildly disappointing. Last season he averaged 7.9 points and 3.1 rebounds in 15.1 minutes over 55 games for the Miami Heat. His career numbers: 13.2 points per game, 4.9 rebounds and 1.3 assists. If he’s inclined to play hard, which most of the time he is not, he could be helpful. We’ll see how patient the Grizzlies are willing to be with him.
Luke Hancock, a 6-6 sweet-shooting wing player at Louisville. He was a big part of the Cardinals’ 2013 NCAA title team. He was not taken in this year’s draft.
Patrick Christopher: 6-5 guard averaged 13.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.2 assists for the NBA Development League’s Iowa Energy last season, now a single-partner affiliate of the Grizzlies.
Earl Clark: Split time between Cleveland and New York last season. The 6-10, 225-pound Clark averaged 4.8 points and 2.6 rebounds in 14.2 minutes over 54 games.
Kalin Lucas: Guard averaged 15.1 points, 5.0 assists with the Energy last season. Played on Michigan State’s 2009 NCAA Tournament finals team.
Hassan Whiteside: Goes 7 feet and 235 and spent a minute in Sacramento with the Kings, who drafted him in the second round in 2010. Split last season between pro teams in Lebanon and China.
A lot of things have to go right Saturday night in Oxford if the Memphis Tigers are to stay on the field with the No. 10 Ole Miss Rebels.
One of those things is redshirt sophomore QB Paxton Lynch has to play a clean game.
In other words, no fumbles, no interceptions, and crisp passes that find the intended targets in rhythm.
So far, the 6-7 Lynch has mostly delivered on this. His 66.0 completion percentage leads the American Athletic Conference and ranks 26th nationally.
He has thrown for 766 yards and five TDs with just two picks. He’s also averaging 25.7 rushing yards a game, just enough to loom as a can’t-forget-about-him threat.
His most impressive throw against Middle Tennessee came as he was running across his own end zone and fired a strike about 15 to 20 yards away as he threw across his body.
“Paxton’s thrown a lot of great balls this year,” tight end Alan Cross said. “Last year, he was kind of timid. But he’s gotten a lot better, doing a great job of putting it on the money.”