Remember at the beginning of the basketball season when many analysts were saying that Memphis had one of the top, if not the best, backcourts in all of college basketball?
With four senior guards – Joe Jackson, Chris Crawford, Geron Johnson, and Michael Dixon Jr. – it was easy to see why many people might have thought that.
But being projected as the best and playing like the best can be two totally different things. The best guard quartet isn't usually associated with 14-for-49 shooting in a game. That's what Memphis' guards did Saturday (Jan. 4) in their game against Cincinnati's Bearcats.
For a team that head Coach Josh Pastner says is "going to roll through the guards," shooting under 30 percent when they take 49 of the 60 attempts is a recipe for a loss. Add 16 turnovers, a 60 percent free throw conversion rate, and 2 for 17 (11.8 percent) from beyond the three-point arc and Memphis isn't going to win many games. Especially, against a tough team like the Bearcats.
Cincinnati was 12-2 and unranked going into the match-up with Memphis. And although the Tigers had already played a conference game, the Bearcats gave Memphis its first real taste of ex-Big Eas,t new American Athletic conference basketball. The Bearcats crashed the boards and controlled the pace of the game.
The bigger Bearcats lineup manhandled the smaller Memphis lineups and slowed the game to a crawl. Memphis is at its best running and gunning, but Cincinnati never let that happen.
The final score (69-53) reflected an embarrassing loss for the Tigers and most of the blame fell onto the shoulders of the guards.
"All of us guards didn't play as well as we could have played. That's the basic reason we lost," said Jackson.
"We definitely want to protect our home court, and we didn't do that," said Crawford. "We just have to get back to the drawing board and get back to practice. We have to trust the process and keep doing what we are doing."
What exactly is that process?
"We have to play inside-outside basketball," said Pastner.
Now that's a little confusing. First the offense runs through the guards, but he wants to play inside-outside (through the big men). If he really feels that way, then why did forward David Pellom only play 23 minutes and Austin Nichols only 11 minutes (0 in the second half).
"I told our guys that this is the American (Conference), and it is going to be tough. If they play the way we did today, then it is not going to work," said Pastner. "There is no time to have a pity party because our schedule is getting tougher and tougher."
With a two-game road trip upcoming, Pastner's right, it is only going to get tougher. And that starts with a game at Louisville on Thursday (Jan. 9).