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Cloudy future for Tigers but they control the weather


Many Memphis fans are trying to deal with the harsh reality that this season has not stacked up to lofty expectations.

by J.R. Moorhead
Special to the Tri-State Defender

Many Memphis fans are trying to deal with the harsh reality that this season has not stacked up to lofty expectations.

 The Tigers’ Antonio Barton is fouled as he drives by Corvonn Gaines of East Carolina.  The Tigers downed the Pirates 70 to 47. (Photo by Warren Roseborough)

After their latest loss to UTEP, The Memphis Tigers’ chances of winning the regular season title for Conference USA are slim to none. And the Tigers are going to need to win the conference tournament to earn a bid to the big dance.

Memphis faced the Miners of UTEP last Saturday (Feb. 18) at the FedExForum.  The Tigers entered the game on a four-game win streak and playing as well as they have all year. Unfortunately, as the Tigers often do, they played to the competition. The Miners were 12-13 and 5-6 in conference.

The Tigers took a nine-point lead into the half. UTEP only shot 32 percent in the first half, but the Miners came out hot in the second half, shooting a remarkable 61 percent and also reaping 19 free throws.

Memphis was down a couple of possessions late in the second half, but the Tigers managed to rally as they have become accustomed to doing at home as of late. Will Barton received the ball down by two points and held it for a last second three. The shot by Barton left many scratching their heads. He seemed to have plenty of time to drive to the basket or work it to Tarik Black, which seemed to be a better play.

Although they didn’t go quietly, the Tigers were handed their third conference loss this year. And the outlook for a conference title is now very grim.

Memphis rebounded by beating the ECU Pirates Wednesday night (Feb. 22) in an impressive showing. The Tigers’ 70-47 victory over the Pirates showcased how they are capable of playing if they are firing on all cylinders.

Yet, trying to figure out which Tiger team is going to take the floor each night would drive one mad. Is it going to be the team that gets upset at home by a C-USA opponent with a record under .500, or is the going to be the team that comes out and drums someone by double digits?

That is why Memphis is starting to look like a first-four-out candidate, and without a conference tournament title the Tigers could very likely be headed to the NIT.

The conference tournament is in Memphis and the Tigers are sure to have a favorable crowd rooting them on every game. Memphis has only lost two home games this season. The most recent to UTEP and the other to Murray State, which was the last undefeated team in the country.

So the odds are in the Tigers’ favor, but as they proved so recently, the odds don’t always pan out.

This isn’t to say the Tigers don’t have a shot to make the NCAA tourney and make some noise, because they do control their own destiny.

The future will show us what Memphis is ultimately capable of doing; however, if the Tigers do end up in the NIT and don’t have a favorable showing (also known as winning) don’t be surprised if some questions start getting asked.

Questions such as:  How did the Tigers go from top ten to NIT runner up? Is it the players or the coach? How are the Tigers going to compete in the Big East if they can’t win C-USA?

Questions someone will have to answer.


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