Since their first match-up against UConn about a month ago, the Memphis Tigers have won six of their last seven (LeMoyne doesn't count) improving to 19-5 on the year and 8-3 in the AAC. Memphis had a difficult non-conference slate as they played Oklahoma State twice, LSU, Florida at MSG, and recently hosted #23 Gonzaga. They split with Oklahoma State, beat LSU at home, lost to Florida by two, and beat Gonzaga 60-54 behind Shaq Goodwin's 10 points and 8 rebounds.
In conference play, Memphis has only one quality win, beating Louisville 73-67 behind Joe Jackson and Goodwin, who each had 15 points. Their three conference losses have all come against teams in the upper half of the standings. They got beaten up at home against Cincinnati 69-53 which seemed like a surprise at the time, but clearly Cincinnati is the real deal. Memphis then lost at home to UConn 83-73 because DeAndre Daniels is awesome. The Tigers' third conference loss came at SMU a couple weeks ago where the Mustangs shot 57.6% from the field.
The Tigers rank in the top 50 in points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game, and field goal percentage- all good things. They are 27th nationally with 79.7 points per game and 43rd in rebounding with 38.2 a game. They rank 24th in field goal percentage at 48.1%. Their best team statistic is assists per game which ranks 3rd nationally at 17.7 per game.
Much of the talk of the Memphis Tigers coming into the season was their recruiting class which was ranked 3rd best in the country. The class included five ESPN100 recruits but only one five-star, Austin Nichols, who is the only freshman to contribute quality minutes. The other four freshmen have struggled to add anything. One is redshirting, while Nick King is averaging 10.7 minutes a game; Hartford's own Kuran Iverson is averaging 9.8 minutes, and Dominic Woodson is averaging just 7.3 minutes. Memphis is loaded with senior guards, so it isn't surprising to see the freshmen spending more time on the bench.
Joe Jackson, G, Senior (6-foot-1, 174 pounds): Leads the team in points, assists and steals per game. He averages 14.6 points to go with 4.5 assists and 2.0 steals and shoos 80.3% from the free throw line. Jackson has scored double figures in every game this season except for at Oklahoma State earlier in the year, where he only had 6. He was held to just 11 points on 4-14 shooting the last time Memphis played UConn.
Shaq Goodwin, F, Sophomore (6-foot-9, 242 pounds): The team's second leading scorer averages 12.5 PPG, and also leading the team in rebounding with 6.7 per game. He also leads the team in blocks per game with 1.7. Shaq takes very high-percentage shots from the field as he ranks 16th nationally when it comes to field goal percentage at 62.2%. Last time against UConn, Goodwin had 10 points but only 2 rebounds.
Michael Dixon Jr., G, Senior (6-foot-1, 200 pounds): The 6th man for the Memphis Tigers and one of their better three-point threats, Michael Dixon Jr. is 2nd on the team in three-point makes and attempts and shoots 38% from three point range. Dixon Jr. is the third player for Memphis to average double figures at 11.5 PPG while also shooting 81.8% from the line. He is on a five game streak of double digit scoring. Dixon Jr. led the way for the Tigers the last time they played UConn, scoring 16 points.
Chris Crawford, G, Senior (6-foot-4, 222 pounds): Averages 9.1 points a game and 1.7 steals. He is Memphis' best three-point shooter as he is 53-131 on the year for a 40.5%. Crawford only scored 8 points for Memphis last meeting going 2-5 from deep.
Austin Nichols, F, Freshman (6-foot-8, 212 pounds): As mentioned before, Nichols is the only freshman giving productive minutes for the Tigers, averaging 8.1 PPG, 3.8 RPG and 1.1 BPG. Along with Goodwin, he takes high-percentage shots, averaging 56.5% from the field- good for Top 100 in the nation. Nichols played well last time against UConn, scoring 13 points on 4-6 shooting while also pulling down 5 rebounds.
Geron Johnson, G, Senior (6-foot-3, 203 pounds): While he averages 8.9 PPG, the 6-foot-3 guard ranks 2nd on the team in rebounding with 5.0 a game. Johnson filled up the stat sheet against UConn last meeting, scoring 8 points while also dishing out 7 assists and pulling down 6 boards.
Memphis is coached by Josh Pastner who is in his 5th year with the Tigers where he has compiled a 125-39 record. Pastner has led the Tigers to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances including his first tournament win last year against St. Mary's. He was an assistant at Memphis under John Calipari from 2008-2009 and before that, he was an assistant under Lute Olson at Arizona from 2002-2008. Pastner won a National Championship as a walk-on freshman on the 1997 Arizona Wildcats.