Not only are the Memphis Tigers absolutely dominating Conference USA(11-0), they have had an all around good season(22-3 overall record). This has been the norm since the Tigers hired the young recruiting master Josh Pastner in 2009. Pastner, 32 years-old at the time of his hiring, has done nothing but win since taking over the program(97–32, a .752 percent winning percentage). However, out of his three previous full years at the helm, he has made the NCAA Tournament twice but never made it past the second round.
Not like getting your team to the second round two years in a row is something that shouldn’t be marveled at, but Pastner was replacing John Calipari, so expectations were set naturally high for the former Arizona Wildcats player. The question going for him this year was whether or not he would take his program to the next logical step under his reign, a Sweet Sixteen showing.
Pastner, thanks in large part to his tireless recruiting, has the right talent on the team. Joe Jackson(Not that one) is a junior guard who is averaging 13 points per game while also having the ability to top 20 points in any single match-up if put in the right situation. Sophomore Adonis Thomas is a versatile guard-forward who has been catching fire as of late, 20 points per game in his last two outings. That is not counting the other slew of talent that is still on the Memphis roster, a roster which isn’t jammed with freshmen but has an equal balance of upper and underclassmen.
Memphis hasn’t lost since December 15th, and since then have simply destroyed all competition. Sure, a 16 game winning streak isn’t as impressive when you are not playing the best teams in the country, but they are doing what they are supposed to do, win the game against the team in front of them.
Assuming the Tigers win-out, more probable than possible, Memphis can sneak away with a fairly high seed come March. It will be interesting to see if, the now 35 year-old, can take the program another round or two further in the tourney. With a little more head coaching experience under his belt, a balanced team, and a year in which there is no favorites, this could be the team that helps Pastner take his next step in college basketball domination.
Josh Pastner doesn’t lose a lot, but when he does, it is in the NCAA Tournament. Here is to hoping he takes his program to the next logical step.
Joe is a Senior Writer for Rant Sports who primarily covers the Catholic Seven. For the love of Sam Cassell, follow Joe on the Twitter Machine @JosephNardone