Tigers Do That Hopey Changey Thing vs. Cincinnati

Josh Pastner’s nemesis, Negative Nellie, doesn’t have much to say after the Tigers’ 63-50 AAC win over longtime rival Cincinnati. The win pushes the Tigers to 10-6 (3-2) and for the first time in a long time, there’s hope for Tiger fans. In fact, tonight we’re going to hear from Hopeful Harry instead of Realistic Ralph.

In a season like this, after a win like that – realism can take the night off.

Hopeful Harry:

  • This game will get fans of the Memphis program dreaming again – for at least a few days. There are 15 games left in the season, which means the Tigers just crossed the halfway point of the season. A lot can happen between now and March and Memphis will have opportunities to prove this wasn’t a fluke.
  • The next 4 games heading into a showdown at #3 Gonzaga on January 31st are huge if the Tigers want to generate some real momentum. Memphis hosts a weak UCF team on Saturday at 1pm, then has 2 road games next week (at Tulsa, at Tulane) before returning home to face East Carolina on January 28th.
  • For whatever else that’s transpired, Memphis appears to have closed the gap between itself and Cincinnati from last year to this year. Last year Cincinnati mashed Memphis twice and made it appear that all those years in CUSA had rendered Memphis too soft to compete with physical teams such as the Bearcats. With guys like Calvin Godfrey, and a more physical Austin Nichols, Pastner appears to have accomplished his goal of making his program more physically tough up front.
  • Best statistic of the night for Memphis by far – besides the final score – was that they limited turnovers to 11. One of them was the shot clock violation at the end of the game so the real number was 10. This was the 3rd straight game with less than 13 turnovers for Memphis. If the Tigers can get their ball handling issues ironed out, they have a shot.
  • Is it possible some roles have finally been defined for Memphis? Is Avery Woodson the sharp-shooter the program has been lacking for years (40% on 76 attempts this year)? Is Nichols a legit all conference performer? Is Godfrey the physical enforcer the team desperately needs? It’s all very optimistic – but for Memphis this year – optimism is a welcome development.

Philosophic Phil:

  • This was a big win for Josh Pastner. Not because it necessarily changes the trajectory of the season (though it might), but more so because it shows – at the very least – that his team hasn’t quit and is improving as the stretch run approaches.
  • Cincinnati entered the game at 34 in the CBSSports RPI with 3 top 50 wins. This was Memphis’ best win of the season by a mile.
  • The match-up wasn’t quite the same without Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin, who isn’t coaching games this year due to medical issues. It was comforting that his replacement – Larry Davis – was just as intense, just as high strung and just as bald. Overly intense coaches are a hallmark of Bearcat basketball.
  • Speaking of intense, it was good to see Josh Pastner get in some of his players faces early. It’s strange to say, but maybe the losing and adversity of the season have been good for Pastner’s development as a coach – as he could stand to be a little more edgy and cynical with his players and the media. There’s a fine line with this, but the nice guy thing gets old – especially when it doesn’t always seem sincere.
  • Regarding Pastner and the media – he should drop the line about this being a rebuilding year / transition year. It’s undoubtedly true, but nobody wants to hear it and it just sounds like an excuse. There are other ways to make the point.

Negative Nellie:

  • Not a lot in this category tonight – this was a good result.
  • The rotation continues to be weird. Pookie Powell got only 6 minutes, Nick King got played just 4 and Shaq Goodwin 13. Pastner has gone from subbing like crazy to hardly subbing at all in the 2nd half of this game. Woodson, Nichols and Johnson essentially played the entire half. Subbing “on feel” is a weird way to manage a team and one still wonders if there won’t be more chemistry issues as the season moves along.
  • Pastner did wear that blue – purplish tie and blue shirt combo again tonight. Someone needs to make it stop.