Six games into the new college basketball season, some of the same preseason questions surrounding the Memphis Tigers still linger. After being beaten soundly by Iowa State in the Barclays Center last Friday, their road game against the Georgia Bulldogs down in Athens Wednesday night will be a good indicator of where this team is at right now.
Is the talent level really as advertised?
This really was not a question entering the season, but it is glaringly obvious every time these guys take the floor. Jalen Duren and Emoni Bates are a pair of superstars who should technically still be in high school, but are instead the focal points of Penny Hardaway’s offense.
Landers Nolley, Deandre Williams and Lester Quinones headline a group that is a nice blend of both youth and experience. From top to bottom, this roster is loaded.
That offense has struggled at times and especially against the Cyclones, but cutting their turnovers down would be a big step towards fixing what ails them on that end of the floor. Memphis has players that can score from all three levels of the defense, they just need to be more efficient with their attack.
The return of Head Coach Penny Hardaway's "lion offense" could be the solution to the Tigers' offensive woes.
Who is the point guard on this team?
So far, we have already seen Hardaway adjust his starting lineups. While that tactic is normal for him, especially early in the season, there remains uncertainty about who the primary ball-handler should be on this team.
Alex Lomax is a veteran leader, a shadow on defense and has started all but two games at the point. He provides a valuable edge on defense, but is limited offensively.
Emoni Bates has been given some time as the primary facilitator, and I think that is still a possibility down the line, but he has not really thrived in that role yet. He is talented enough that it would not be surprising at all though if he did. Bates and Hardaway will likely keep working towards the freshman being the primary ball handler.
Lester Quinones started the last two games at the position and is good enough all-around as a player to help out with ball-handling duties, but his spot-up shooting ability is also far too valuable to stray away from completely.
There is still time to figure things out for Hardaway and his staff, but they cannot afford to be dropping too many games during this portion of the schedule.
Stacking wins, even if they are ugly, is paramount right now.
A season ago, a late surge down the stretch was not enough to propel the Tigers into the NCAA tournament because of how they fared early in the regular season and their non-conference games. One loss should not mean the panic button is pressed, but they should use their first true road matchup with the Bulldogs to show that their performance against the Cyclones was more of an anomaly than a trend.
So far, they have been good enough as a team to cover up some of their weaknesses. When the competition starts to get tougher, and they find themselves in a slugest with the likes of Alabama or Tennessee, it will be vastly important for the Tigers' resume that they find ways to win those types of games. It hurt them last year and they should do everything they can to avoid a similar fate this time around.
Memphis will get a nice test when they take on Georgia on the road Wednesday night. Tip-off against the Bulldogs is set for 6:15 p.m. on SEC Network.
The Tigers travel to Athens, Georgia Wednesday evening in an attempt to rebound after dropping their first game of the season to the Iowa State Cyclones. Turnovers have plagued the Tiger offense, and Head Coach Penny Hardaway will look to implement his "lion offense" against the Georgia Bulldogs.