Tigers officially begin practice on Thursday. It will take place at 7 p.m. at the Larry Finch Center. With the season gradually approaching us, there are some things that needs to be discussed before the fans start to shout out crazy slang like ‘Pastner needs to be fired; This team will make it to the Final Four, etc.’ Hold your horses for a moment and let’s dig deep into the team. Pastner is going into his fifth season as the head coach for the Memphis Tigers. This off season was a long one for him. He had to replace two assistant coaches and recruit top prospects at the same time. Give Pastner props for not busting like a pipe under pressure. Now, it’s time to put his plans to work and it will all start on Thursday.
Here are some things to remember:
1. After Memphis lost to Michigan St. in the NCAA Tournament, Pastner received a $1 million increase to his contract. He became the eighth highest paid coach in college basketball with an 0-2 record in the tournament and 0-11 record against ranked teams. To most people, he should have not been given a raise but he got it. With three consecutive appearances to the tournament along with three straight Conference USA Championships, it was enough to earn him some more money.
2. The recruiting class that’s ranked No. 2 in the nation will be watched closely. With Austin Nichols, Nick King and Kuran Iverson headlining the class, these guys are capable of playing multiple positions. So, where will Pastner use these guys? Expect King to play multiple positions due to his athleticism. Iverson has a wing span of 6’10, so he could possibly just play small forward but he can shoot from the outside as well. Do not sleep on this guy at all. Nichols will battle Pellom for minutes at the power forward position but both of these guys will play significant minutes.
3. The Four Kings are considered as the nation’s best backcourt in the nation by many experts. I am talking about Joe Jackson, Geron Johnson, Chris Crawford and Michael Dixon. Honestly, they can be the best but what if one of these guys ego get in the way of the team’s success? Can Pastner coach these guys to not be selfish? I feel that these guys will do just fine and compete against the elite teams in their conference.
4. Best Scenario- Pastner and his team will have to win big games this upcoming season and make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. If this team can’t reach the Sweet 16 then people will once again point the finger at Pastner. He got one monkey off of his back last season as the Tigers defeated Saint Mary’s in last year’s tournament. He needs to repeat last season’s success.
5. Worse Scenario- If the Tigers don’t finish in the top 3 in the AAC then that will rattle an issue among the fan base. They will play the likes of South Florida, UConn, Louisville, Cincinnati and Rutgers. This is the toughest schedule Pastner has put together since he took over the coaching job in 2009. This team can’t be the biggest disappointment among the other teams in the top 25.
More will come as I receive information from Thursday’s practice.