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September 5, 2013It is only the month of September, but it is not too early to talk about college basketball. This year Memphis will be playing in the newly formed American Athletic Conference. Last month, Memphis schedule was released and it is a tough schedule, a definite step up in competition.
The Tigers will have to play teams like Florida, Gonzaga, and Oklahoma State in their non-conference schedule. But let's focus on their conference schedule. They will have to play against Louisville, Cincinnati, UConn, Temple, etc. There's no telling which team the Tigers will defeat and each match-up will be intense. Going up against the Cardinals will be a royal rumble.
In other words, it will be anyone's game.
With the return of Russ Smith, the Cardinals leading scorer from last season, it will be a plus for Louisville. Smith averaged 18.7 points a game last season. He was a big part of the Cardinals winning the national championship. The Cardinals will be bringing back Chane Behanan and Montrezl Harrell. These two are potential all-conference players.
The Cincinnati Bearcats will have their leading scorer from last season in Sean Kilpatrick returning. Cincinnati shouldn't be a problem for Memphis, but you never know what may happen.
The Huskies could be dangerous under second year head coach Kevin Ollie. This team was ban from postseason last year and is looking to get back into the NCAA Tournament. Behind the leadership of Shabazz Napier, who averaged 17.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 4.4 assists a game, UConn will be a lock to go dancing in March. Temple could be the sleeper team in this conference and easily finish in the top-3 once the regular season is over.
Now here's the Memphis Tigers under Josh Pastner for the fifth consecutive season. The Tigers currently have the No. 2 ranked recruiting class in the nation and there's no reason why Memphis can't compete with elite teams at the highest level. Some people say Pastner is not a good coach; he will have his chance to quiet those critics. The only way to do that will be to win big games. It is a must that he finally gets a marquee win attached to his resume.
Can they do it? Most experts think so.
Memphis has a great chance of winning this conference and making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. The expectations will be high for Memphis so with at least 22 wins and a berth into the tournament but will that be enough to satisfy the fans? With the return of Joe Jackson, Geron Johnson, Chris Crawford in addition to Mizzou transfer Michael Dixon, Memphis will be hard to beat whether they are at home or on the road. This will be a season to remember.