What a difference one player makes. Will Barton left a really big void when he decided to leave the Memphis Tigers program for the NBA. During the 2011-12 basketball season, he led the Tigers in scoring and rebounding, but most importantly, he emerged as the leader of the group.
Although Barton departed, five players returned from last season’s 26-9 NCAA tournament team that have two or more years of experience and averaged at least 24 minutes per game. Surely someone out of the group of five would step up to the plate as the next leader.
The season did not start out as expected with the team heading into the Battle 4 Atlantis in an inconsistent fashion. But the team’s performance in the tournament would be the deciding factor of what to expect from this veteran squad.
Unfortunately, the talk of the tournament is not of one of the veterans or starters dominating a game or leading the team to victory.
Everyone is talking about how senior forward D. J. Stephens, who almost redshirted this season, has stepped up his game and brought energy, hustle and production.
In the Virginia Commonwealth Rams loss, Stephens finished with nine points, two assists, two steals, a block and one rebound in 25 minutes off the bench. He scored a career-high 15 points to go with his seven rebounds, in the Minnesota Gophers loss.
Everyone is also talking about how freshman forward Shaq Goodwin has brought energy, hustle and gained a starting spot during the tournament. In his first start, Goodwin tallied 12 points, seven rebounds and a team-high four steals.
Patosha Jeffery is the Memphis Tigers Featured Columnist at Rant Sports. Be sure to follow her on Twitter: @patoshajeffery and add her Google + to your circles for all of her latest articles and thoughts.