February 25, 2013

Scouting the Memphis Tigers

Record: 23-3 Overall (7-0 Road)

Key Wins: Marshall, Tennessee, Ohio University, UCF, SMU
Key Losses: VCU, Louisville, Minnesota

Starting Personnel

#1 Joe Jackson - 6'1 junior PG: Leads team in scoring, at 13.7 per game, as well as averaging around 6 assists. Very skilled offensive player is shooting 54% from the field, 48% from three and has a 2-1 assist to turnover ratio. With the season he's having, Jackson should be considered one of the best point guards in the country.

#55 Geron Johnson - 6'3 junior SG: Talented and athletic junior college transfer originally from Dayton is averaging 10.9 points, good for third on the team, in his first season. Johnson is also a capable point guard, who is second on the team in assists.

#30 D.J. Stephens - 6'5 senior SF: Role player averages 6.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.

#4 Adonis Thomas - 6'7 sophomore PF: Versatile combo forward is the team's second leading scorer at 11.8 points per game, but has struggled with his field goal percentage in his second season. Might be Memphis' most talented player.

#5 Shaquille Goodwin - 6'8 freshman C: Averages 8.9 points and 5 rebounds per game, is also a capable shot blocker.

Bench Personnel

#10 Tarik Black - 6'9 junior C: Top bench scorer averages 9 points, and also contributes 4.9 rebounds per game.

#3 Chris Crawford - 6'4 junior SF: Sharp shooter averages 7.8 points per game off the bench.

#2 Antonio Barton - 6'2 junior SG: Volume shooter averages 6.2 points per game, but is inconsistent in his production.

Xavier Defensive Keys

• Slow the Game Down: Memphis comes into Cintas at the perfect time for Xavier, because the Tigers play a very similar style to VCU. Overall, the Tigers have more size and athleticism than VCU, but they like to play fast and they want to create havoc to make it a running game. On the season the Tigers are averaging over 75 points per game (putting them among the nation's leaders) while also averaging an impressive 16.7 assists per game. Joe Jackson might be Memphis' most important player, but all of their rotational players can score the ball. One counter to these stats, however, is that the Tigers can tend to get out of control, leading to a lot of turnovers. Look for Xavier to send at least two defenders back on every shot, in an attempt to minimize the fast-break and secondary break opportunities that Memphis thrives on.

• Box Out a Body: The reason that Memphis has had so much success in their league is because not only do they have great guards, but they have the most talented, long and athletic frontcourt in Conference USA. Against Xavier, expect to see Memphis' forwards and posts attack the rim, attack the rebounds and generally just play with a high motor. On the season, Memphis is averaging +5.9 rebounds per game, giving the Tigers another way to score easy points around the rim with their athleticism.

• Clog the Lane: The Tigers are a solid offensive team when you look at their shooting percentages, where they are putting it in the cup at a 48% clip on the season, but they aren't a team that shoots, or makes, a lot of three-point shots. Memphis wants to get the majority of their points around the rim; whether that be transition, post up baskets, offensive rebounds or drives to the rim. We might see Xavier play some zone in this game, but either way expect the Musketeers to sag off of their man and keep a foot in the paint to be ready to help.

Xavier Offensive Keys

• Handle the Pressure: Again, very much like VCU, Memphis' defense isn't one of attrition. No, the Tigers want to turn teams over right before or after they cross half court, looking to turn those miscues into easy baskets on the other end. One way that Memphis coach Josh Pastner is able to hold teams to just 64 points per game, which is impressive given the Tigers pace, is that they funnel offensive players to the rim where the athletes of Memphis can alter shots, leading to teams shooting a very poor percentage against the Tigers. The Musketeers are going to have be much stronger with the ball against pressure than they were against VCU if they are to win this game.

• Counter their Athleticism: The Tigers are also a very good shot-blocking team, another one of the ways that they are able to get the ball back and turn defense into quick offense. By taking their time offensively, using moves like shot fakes, and controlling the pace the Musketeers can really improve their chances at winning this game. It will take offensive confidence like that of the VCU game in the first half, but if Xavier can execute sets effectively early than they might be able to build a lead to give them cushion for when Memphis turns up the heat later in the game.

Overall: This late into the conference season it's rare to play a non-conference game of this magnitude. Looking at that, this game really isn't as important to Xavier's season in the long run; however, this is another great opportunity to earn an RPI boosting wing, against a quality opponent at home. After a season full of some disappointing home losses, the last thing that the Musketeers want to do is to allow another team to walk into their building and win the game. Memphis has more size, athleticism, depth and talent than Xavier, but the Musketeers proved that for periods of time they can play with anyone in the country. Will they be able to put it all together and win a big one? Some of that will be determined by if sophomore guard Dee Davis is able to play, as his health is still questionable from a hit to the head against VCU, but if Xavier has their confidence then they'll have a shot here; but ultimately, it's difficult to bet against Memphis.

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