This is why I should never gamble:
UConn -6.5 feels like kind of a lock doesn't it?
— Jay Brenner (@_bballjones) March 6, 2015
Nice call, Jones.
In a Memphis basketball season that has been strange from the jump, Memphis pulled off its biggest upset of the year on Thursday night defeating UConn 54-53. The upset wasn’t great because UConn is a particularly good team – they aren’t. It was great because (a) Memphis was without their best player, Austin Nichols and (b) it was UConn’s Senior Night – an evening to honor the career of Ryan Boatright, a key piece of last year’s NCAA championship Huskies squad – in front a rowdy crowd.
Oh and (c) the refs sucked.
Let’s hear from our friends:
- Positive Paul died months ago, but tonight calls for a little optimism, so let’s have at it.
- For Memphis fans inclined to look forward to 2015-16 with some hope, tonight provided it in the form of Trahson Burrell, Kedren Johnson and Shaq Goodwin.
- Burrell had some nice games early in the year, scoring in double figures in 8 of 9 games from late November through December. Once conference play rolled around, however, Burrell hit a wall. Rock bottom came against ECU on 2/10 where he finished with 0 points and 1 rebound in 12 minutes. Against UConn tonight Burrell was huge – finishing with 22 difficult points on the road in a hostile atmosphere. With a year of D1 experience under his belt, Burrell could be a solid contributor on the wing next year for Memphis.
- Kedren Johnson, whose struggles have been well documented, had another nice game for Memphis. He finished with 10 points, 9 rebounds (!), 6 assists and 0 turnovers. In 2 games vs. UConn – both Tiger victories – Johnson has 31 points, 12 assists and 1 turnover. If the Tigers are going to re-emerge as a nationally relevant program in 15-16, they need this Kedren Johnson to show up on a regular basis.
- John Martin wrote a nice column for 92.9 FM after the game and pointed out how effective Shaq Goodwin has been over the past month or so of the season. Martin is right – a locked in Shaq Goodwin would be another very hopeful development for 15-16.
- Part of what makes this season weird for Memphis is how the AAC has shaken out. Memphis is now 3-0 vs on the year vs. BIG EAST holdovers UConn and Cincinnati going into the season finale at Cincy this weekend. The Tigers were 0-5 vs. those 2 programs last year.
- On the other hand, Memphis is 2-4 vs. CUSA refugees Tulane, ECU and Tulsa. Nobody would have predicted that coming into the year.
Realistic Ralph (two servings, Negative Nellie has the night off):
- This game really doesn’t change anything in the sense that Memphis still needs to win the AAC tournament to get into the NCAA tournament, and doing so without Austin Nichols – their best player – will take a near miracle.
- On the other hand, Memphis just beat tournament host UConn at UConn without Nichols so who’s to say it’s impossible?
- What this outcome really cements is that SMU is the prohibitive favorite for next week’s event at the XL Center in Hartford, CT.
- Not to just absolutely assault a dead horse, but it should be noted how effective that shortened rotation was for Memphis.
- Due to injuries, defections and clear ineffectiveness – Memphis has little choice but to go with a shortened 7 man rotation. The lack of manic substitutions allowed Memphis to build a rhythm early and jump out to a 13 point lead. The Tigers then survived with timely scoring, effective defense and tenacious rebounding (Memphis won the battle of the boards 40-34).
- This is just a really nice moment for Josh Pastner. His team clearly never quit on him this year, and they’ve gotten better. Remember, he entered this season with 9 new scholarship players on his roster and has had to endure an injury to his best player.
- Nobody should feel sorry for Pastner – he makes $2.65m per year to manage every aspect of the program. But in a week in which local columnists Geoff Calkins and Gary Parrish spent time on the radio advocating for him to take other jobs and discussing in depth who his replacement might be, winning on senior night at Gampel Pavillion had to be a redeeming moment for Pastner.
- To be clear, Calkins and Parrish were not suggesting that Pastner should be fired or that Memphis would even necessarily be better off without him – but it was still surreal to hear the discussion for a guy who owns a 148-58 record overall and has been to 4 NCAA tournaments in his first 5 seasons.
- The refs sucked. Absolutely horrid calls. Mostly it seemed, against Memphis (free throw discrepancy was 22-2) though they then appeared to try to balance it out at the end with a few phantom calls against the Huskies. The officials then swallowed their whistle on the last play of the game. Someone on Twitter pointed out that these guys are way over-worked. Something like 12 games in 14 days. That’s not good.