What’s not to like? They have an early-season crucible of a schedule that should form the team’s core, returning leadership in Barton and Jackson and a set of assistants who can counsel a young and talented team. Damon Stoudamire and Luke Walton are on Memphis’ bench this season and were parts of talented Arizona teams that, like Memphis, navigated star-power heavy lineups, fraught with potential ego problems, to plenty of victories.
Adonis Thomas, the 6-6 Memphis native and McDonald’s All-American and Jordan Brand Classic competitor, will take time to jell as any freshman should be expected to, especially on a young team that returns five starters. But he comes in under high expectations, already on the Wayman Tisdale Award watch list for the nation’s top freshman at a school known for fast freshman beginnings (think Derrick Rose of course, but Tyreke Evans won the Tisdale award for best freshman in 2009). If Thomas can’t find his shot early, look for him to contribute on the boards, where he averaged 12 per game as a senior in high school.
How’s this for an opening act: At the Maui Invitational on Nov. 21-23, at Louisville on Dec. 17, at Georgetown on Dec. 22 and hosting Tennessee on Jan. 4. Yes, Memphis has always scheduled hard in the preseason to make up for a lacking C-USA schedule, but Pastner will see very early if his team that returns five starters heeded last year’s lessons. With Paster in his third season and emerging stars Barton, Jackson and possibly Thomas too, look for the momentum the coach tried to create the last two years to finally begin.
Will Memphis overachieve this year or are they just not ready to become big time again?
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