Watching the Memphis – Grambling game on ESPN3, after watching the OU – Memphis game from a hotel in Dallas. I have thoughts:
- If the current overall national profile of the Memphis program doesn’t evoke the 1990s enough for you, tuning into ESPN3 to find the duo of Greg Gaston and Jon Albright calling the Memphis-Grambling game should do the trick. These 2 are actually pretty solid, and they’ve come a long way from WPTY / WLMT or whatever station they were calling Tiger games on 20-25 years ago (okay maybe ESPN3 isn’t that long a distance). Great Midwest Conference, baby!
- Josh Pastner promised to trim the rotation this year and, so far, he’s kept his word. Once again, 8 players got the majority of minutes against Grambling. The Lawson Brothers, Ricky Tarrant, Markel Crawford, Avery Woodson, Jeremiah Martin, Shaq Goodwin, and Trahson Burrell. Raw big man Nick Marshall was the only other player with double figure minutes. Letting guys play through mistakes should help when conference play rolls around.
- Dedric Lawson is the best looking Tiger freshman since___________. Hard to fill in this blank, isn’t it? The Tigers have certainly had some elite Freshman in the last 10 years (Rose, Evans, Barton, Nichols, Jackson, etc…) but almost all have struggled early. Conversely, Lawson looks entirely comfortable and is pretty clearly the best player on this team already. When I look at him I see a rich man’s Shawne Williams.
- Without being privy to the exact details of Kedren Johnson’s health issues, I really like the way Pastner has handled the PG situation. He’s decided to go entirely with Senior transfer Ricky Tarrant as starter and Freshman Jeremiah Martin as the primary backup. Pastner isn’t messing with Johnson at all at this point. Though Johnson was strong at the end of last year, I like that Pastner has decided to stash him on the bench rather than try to awkwardly manage his minutes / injury-situation / pain threshold. Presumably, because Johnson hasn’t had surgery, he’s available for duty if needed. But I think it’s a much better idea to get Martin adjusted to the College game while letting Tarrant know this is his squad.
- Keeping an eye on the American – and it looks pretty good so far. The top 8 teams are 15-2 with the only losses to Oklahoma (#8) and top ranked North Carolina. Temple beat Minnesota of the B1G last night in Puerto Rico and SMU blew out Stanford (of the PAC 12) in Palo Alto. Tulsa upset Wichita State (#10) this week as well. Houston, UConn, Tulsa, Cincinnati, SMU, and East Carolina are all undefeated thus far. All of this matters because Memphis needs as many of these teams to end up in the top 100 of the RPI as possible before conference play begins. It should be noted that USF, UCF and Tulane all smell – really bad.
- Football Related News: News out of Houston is that the school has approved a raise for football coach Tom Herman to $3m per year. That’s an astounding number for a so called “Group of 5” school but of course it doesn’t mean that Herman still won’t leave for a more prestigious job. It just means that it will take in excess of $3m per year to get it done.
- It makes one wonder what the Memphis administration and boosters are doing to make a run at enticing Justin Fuente to stay in Memphis. At this point, I’d put the odds on that happening at around 20%. There are just too many good situations already available and more (LSU? Texas?) still rumored to be opening. Either way, we’ll know more in about 2 weeks. Can’t imagine this situation dragging through the bowl season, but you never know.