Tiger fans are well aware that Josh Pastner prefers Positive Pauls and does not like Negative Nellies. We at bballjones.com respect both. At the end of the day however, we strive to be more like Realistic Ralph.
Here’s a little something from all 3 viewpoints:
- Trashon Burrell can play. The JUCO transfer from Lee College (TX) has now scored in double figures in 8 of the first 11 games of his Division 1 career. On Tuesday evening, he pulled down 9 or more rebounds for the 4th time this season. He is active, has good range (37% from 3pt range this season), finishes at the rim and averages almost 2 assists per game as well.
- This Memphis team plays hard and plays together. The undisputed strength of Pastner’s Memphis teams over the years is their propensity to play unselfish basketball (at least offensively). This squad is no different in that regard.
- Memphis’ point guards, Pookie Powell and D’Marnier Cunningham, combined for 17 points, 8 assists and just 4 turnovers. Though Cunningham will struggle to guard bigger players, he’s incredibly quick and attacks the lane. It will be interesting to see if he can be effective against AAC teams. He struggled against Oklahoma State, but that was his first Division 1 game. A high level donor in the front row last night insisted that Cunningham is going to be better than Joe Jackson. As far as I know, said donor has no background in scouting.
- This may be the best rebounding team Pastner has had at Memphis. They have a gang rebounding approach and have out rebounded all but 3 opponents so far – coming close in those matchups. Against Western Illinois on Tuesday night, King had 10 rebounds, Burrell and Godfrey finished with 9 each.
- With a 4th consecutive win, Memphis pushed its overall record to 7-4 heading into conference play. Confidence is rising and if the guard play continues to improve (remember that Pookie Powell is still a Freshman), Positive Paul can allow himself to dream about Memphis competing with SMU, UConn and Cincinnati for a top seed in the AAC Tournament.
- WTF is up with Shaq Goodwin? The Junior, presumed team leader and pre-season all conference selection got suspended for a “violation of team rules.” Memphis didn’t need another distraction heading into conference play – and another game where their best rotation isn’t deployed.
- Blending Goodwin back into the lineup during high intensity conference games in January won’t go well. Calvin Godfrey and Nick King combined for 24 and 19 on Tuesday night and neither one is going to want to cede minutes when Goodwin returns. One can easily foresee chemistry problems – something Pastner has never been adept at handling well.
- Memphis still has too many defensive breakdowns – and allowed a bad Western Illinois to play them even (37-37) in the 2nd half on Tuesday night.
- FedExForum has been moribund the last several home games. On Tuesday, it was half full at best. Although folks that attend these types of games tend to be the most loyal, vocal and supportive fans – it’s clear there’s a depressed energy around the program right now.
- Fan reality is enhanced by the fact that it’s unlikely this Memphis team will make the NCAA tournament. Sure, it’s too early to write them off (just ask Positive Paul), but They’re 7-4 with an RPI (CBSSports) of 144 heading into AAC play. Of the remaining opportunities on the schedule, only Gonzaga (8) is in the top 30 of the RPI. SMU and Temple are both top 50, so there will be chances to make up ground, but perhaps not enough.
- It’s actually nice to hear Pastner a little deflated and beat down. Ralph doesn’t wish ill upon Coach Pastner, but in the post-game show he sounded more like a basketball coach, and less like a self-help guru than he’s ever sounded. Pastner needs to focus on this team and its development – not giving incessant shout-outs to the managers and walk-ons and otherwise saving the world. Ralph likes his basketball coaches a little tired, a little defeated and somewhat cynical (think Tom Izzo, Jim Boeheim, RIck Pitino, etc…). Sounds like Pastner may finally be getting burnt out on the idea that he can be all things to all people.
- Memphis opens the AAC schedule with 2 challenging, but winnable, home games against Houston (now coached by Kelvin Sampson) and a surprising Tulane team that sports a 9-2 record and went toe to toe with #13 Washington on the road last night before falling by 9 points late.
- Memphis’ worst loss thus far was to a Stephen F. Austin squad that is still ranked in the top 100 of the RPI (72). The others are all top 50 losses: Wichita State (7), Baylor (30) and Oklahoma State (46).
- On the other hand, Memphis doesn’t yet have a top 100 RPI win. It’s best triumph was against North Carolina Central (100).
- Memphis has some emerging talent, hasn’t quit and is definitely getting better. That’s what fans want to see.