“I’m built for this. We’re built for this,” said Memphis basketball coach Penny Hardaway following a second consecutive conference loss.
The Tigers fell to the Tulane Green Wave 81-79 in New Orleans Sunday.
Memphis had a 7-point lead with less than ten minutes to go, but the Memphis offense struggled down the stretch.
Malcolm Dandridge fouled out of the game after a career game, putting up 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 blocks.
Despite scoring 32 points, David Jones missed an open look to give the Tigers the lead in the waining seconds.
The loss drops the Tigers to 15-4 and 4-2 in AAC play. It also drops the Tigers from 10th in the AP poll to 19th.
“We’ve always been a Last Four In-type of team, so I’ve always had to fight through adversity,” said Hardaway.
Last season, the Tigers were swept by Tulane in the regular season, including an overtime loss at home in early February. Firmly on the bubble, the 2022-23 Tigers were dealt another blow when guard Keonte Kennedy punched a wall, breaking his hand after a February 19th loss at Houston.
Led by veterans Deandre Williams and Kendric Davis, last year’s team responded to this adversity by winning 3 of their last 4 regular season games and winning the conference tournament.
Famously, the 2021-22 Tigers found themselves in a precarious position midway through conference play. Star freshman Emoni Bates left the team with a mysterious back injury, and the team suffered 2 different three game losing streaks during the season.
Once again, Memphis came together to rattle off 10 wins in their last 11 games of the regular season, including a sweep of nationally ranked Houston. The 2021-22 season saw Penny Hardaway win his first and only NCAA tournament game.
“Everything that we’d earned, we just gave it away,” said Hardaway.
Tigers fans have gotten used to bubble talk during conference play, and the team now finds itself back in that conversation.
What was once thought of as an elite non-conference schedule now looks suspect. Michigan, Arkansas, VCU, Virginia, and Missouri all seem destined to miss the NCAA tournament. Meanwhile, Memphis’s two strongest wins, Texas A&M and Clemson, have each struggled to start conference play.
Perhaps equally important, the Tigers now sit in the 50s in both https://kenpom.com/ 's predictive rankings and the NCAA’s NET rankings.
While most projected brackets still have the Tigers firmly in the NCAA tournament field, Memphis must respond like they have in each of the past two seasons to avoid the very real threat of missing the tournament.
Memphis welcomed big man Jordan Brown back into the program before the Tulane game, and they will need to take advantage of their week off to reincorporate him into the system.
Penny Hardaway has been here before, but his team full of transfers will need to come together fast to keep Memphis’s NCAA tournament goals in reach.