Better starts have happened for Memphis Men's Basketball, but a recovery is on the horizon.
A mildly shaky start has been left behind and the team is in a decent position. Hardaway has started to show that the Tigers are not mediocre or content with sitting in the middle of the pack.
Having non-conferences losses has prompted a cry for wins as the team moves forward. Merely having a winning record is nowhere near satisfying for some season-ticket holders. Things have not been perfect for the team so far, but, with blow-out wins against Wichita State and East Carolina, the Tigers are poised to finish the rest of the season in good, if not spectacular, fashion.
The good news
Memphis does not play Tulsa after losing dropping both games against them. Those two games stand in solitude under their conference losses as of Jan. 26.
Moussa Cisse has found a groove and helped his team. Prior to the most recent SMU game, Tuesday evening, Cisse has been supplying the team with good efforts in the paint, along with second chance points. Complimenting his efforts on the offensive side of the court has been his presence on defense. As a freshman, Cisse has led the team in rebounds and is averaging 1.7 blocks a game, having four in the two games since the Tigers have been back in action. Cisse in the paint has boosted his team's ability to get wins against Wichita State and East Carolina. Landers Nolley II has stepped up as well, leading the team with 12.8 points per game.
The Tigers also will only have to play Houston once during the regular season. The Cougars are looking to be the juggernaut of the AAC, currently sitting at #6 in the NCAA rankings.
The great news
The month of February should be a total liftoff for the Tigers. Minus the matchup against Houston, every opponent scheduled for the month of February is manageable.
Six of the last 10 games of the February-March schedule are at home for Memphis. The Tigers are 5-1 at FedEx Forum and they can feed off the energy of the 901. The first four games of February are booked at FedEx Forum and the Tigers are going to have big advantages.
Back-to-back games against the UCF Knights, who have struggled, is the first action of the month. Next will be the ECU Pirates, a team Memphis embarrassed on the road on Sunday. The Tigers then play host to the Cincinnati Bearcats, who have had a lackluster season to this point.
Memphis then travels to Kansas to play a hearty Wichita State team, who previously lost by 20 to the Tigers. Memphis will return home to host the Temple Owls who are in the same sinking boat as UCF. The Tigers get to rest as Tulane comes to town the following week. The Green Wave lost by six to Penny and crew in the Big Easy earlier in January.
Then Cincinnati fortifies their home in preparation for the Tigers to show up for a second attack. There is only one scheduled game in March – a trip to Tampa to take on the South Florida Bulls. Memphis won the last matchup by the slim margin of one point.
Having to play a few teams back-to-back is not an easy task by any means, but Memphis has to do that well if they want to emerge as deserving of a postseason.
Memphis is held in the upper half of the American Athletic Conference standings with a 4-2 record prior to the SMU matchup on Tuesday. They are deadlocked for second in the conference with a .667 win percentage. As of now they are 8-5 and tied for fifth when compared to conference foes. Memphis has yet to play the majority of their games against the bottom half of the conference.
The games against the Mustangs could prove pivotal for conference standings and losing both could blast the Tigers downward. Memphis has a need for wins, and they need to do more than scrape by easy games. However, the team will have the ultimate opportunity in the coming month.