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‘Perfect’ Tigers roll UAB; next challenge: C-USA Tournament

Tigers-DJ-600The stat sheet told the story – Joe Jackson: 17 points, 10 assists, 9 rebounds, 6 steals; U of M Tigers 86, UAB Blazers 71.

A once heated rivalry between the two C-USA competitors has cooled over the years, but neither Jackson nor his Tiger teammates needed the rivalry factor for any added stimulation to get the job done at the FedExForum last Saturday. The victory sealed the Tigers' unblemished run through the C-USA regular season, as they notched a perfect 16-0 record.

Two days later, Jackson was selected to the all C-USA first team. For Jackson, the selection is another noteworthy element in an impressive career. In 2011 and 2012, he was awarded the MVP in the C-USA tournament. This season, he eclipsed the 1,000 point mark as a Tiger and joined the 350 assists club.

Tigers-Joe-Dunk-400The milestones move Jackson to 31st in Memphis history in scoring (1,148) and 10th in career assists (393). And, presumably, he has one more year to play as a Tiger.

While Jackson was the only Tiger to be recognized on the C-USA first team, some of his teammates were also acknowledged for their body of work during the 2012-13 season.

Senior D.J. Stephens, junior Geron Johnson and sophomore Adonis Thomas were all named to the all C-USA third team. Memphis was the only team to have four players named to the all C-USA teams. It was the sixth time in the last eight seasons that at least three members of the Tigers team received C-USA recognition.

For the Tigers, the next step is the C-USA Tournament in Tulsa. Their dominant play throughout the season has earned them the No. 1 seed and a first round bye. The tournament begins Wednesday, but the Tigers will not take the court until Thursday against the winner of the first-round game between No. 8 Marshall and No. 9 Tulane.

Memphis has already earned a bid to the NCAA tournament, but the manner in which the Tigers conduct themselves this week will determine their seeding in the "big dance." Although a heavy favorite to win the C-USA tournament, a slip up could drop them significantly come "Selection Sunday."

The Tigers are floating around a seven or an eight seed and the next few games could swing that needle on way or the other. To win the NCAA tournament, the Tigers will have to beat good teams and seeding could make an easier path to glory. If the Tigers slide to an eight or nine seed, they will have to play a one seed in the second round, which is not a favorable route.

The Tigers need to win the C-USA tournament and do so in impressive fashion to move up in the rankings and secure a better seed.

NOTE: Stan Simpson, Charles Holt, Ferrakohn Hall and D.J. Stephens were honored during Seniors Day.

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