Top 5 Players for 2013-14 Memphis Tigers Basketball Team
After years of self-advertising, the Memphis Tigers finally moved conferences to join the big boys. Though it did not turn out the way the Memphis Athletic Department and fans had hoped, this first year in the AAC will surely be one to watch and for many reasons.
For one, the Tigers will renew a conference rivalry that historically is considered to be one of the better hardwood feuds in NCAA basketball. The last time the Tigers faced the Louisville Cardinals as conference foes was in the 2005 C-USA Tournament, a game that went down in infamy in Memphis basketball history, as Darius Washington missed two of three free throws with no time remaining to lose in the championship game 75-74. It will only be one season that these two programs meet as conference opponents again, as the Cardinals move to the ACC in 2014. The Tigers could pose the biggest threat to Louisville for the AAC title this season and if last season's meeting was any indication, this year's meetings will be fun to watch.
There is also a much beefier schedule for fans to look forward to, with games against the Cincinnati Bearcats, Connecticut Huskies, Florida Gators, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Rutgers Scarlet Knights and Temple Owls. With many more elite match-ups on the schedule for 2013-14, it will be interesting to see how the Tigers adjust to the elevated level of play, especially with a top five recruiting class being added to the mix of an already deep team.
Oh, and there is also a new court, which in a brilliant move the Memphis Athletic Department elected to allow fans to vote among four new court designs. Now, the Tigers will have one of the more unique floors in the country, as fans chose the design that included the city skyline with the Memphis Bridge in front of it. This all builds anticipation for what could be fifth year head coach Josh Pastner's best season with the Tigers. To what level the team performs, however, will come down to how well Memphis' players adjust to better competition night in and night out and how the team performs as a unit.
With that said, let's take a look at the Tigers top five players. RaShawn Powell and Michael Dixon were not considered, as they are still waiting on eligibility decisions from the NCAA. This list is not who will start, just the best players on the team and who Memphis will need to perform to have a shot at a deep run in March.
No. 5 Austin Nichols
Austin Nichols is the only incoming freshman on this list, and for good reason. The lengthy 6'8'' power forward from Briarcrest Christian High School in Memphis was a highly touted five-star prospect and surprised many people when he chose Memphis over the Tennessee Volunteers. He'll have to add weight, but Nichols has a great post-up game for someone who has not even played a college game. He runs the floor very well and is a good shot blocker. Perhaps most important, Nichols possesses a great basketball IQ, something that Pastner has not necessarily had a lot of in his first four seasons.
He already impressed the coaching staff at the beginning of summer workouts with his ability to quickly pick up on sets and instructions. Nichols has the potential to be much higher on this list during the season and will push for a starting spot.
No. 4 Shaq Goodwin
What an up and down year it was for Shaq Goodwin during his freshman campaign. The Atlanta, Ga., native started 33 games for the Tigers and showed signs of good things to come. He finished the season with averages of 7.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.1 blocks and 1.1 steals per game, very well-rounded numbers for a big man. However, Goodwin was overly aggressive too often on defense, resulting in a team-high 115 personal fouls despite playing 20.7 minutes per game (seventh on the team).
His foul trouble kept him off the floor and slowed his progression during his first year. Goodwin has great potential and showed it at times. With an offseason to work on playing within himself and adding more to his offensive repertoire, expect Goodwin to make a considerable leap in 2013.
No. 3 Chris Crawford
Chris Crawford finally showed how gifted of a shooter he was said to be coming out of high school. During his junior campaign, he averaged career-highs of 10.4 points per game, 3.8 rebounds per game and 39.9 percent shooting from three-point range, and was named Sixth Man of the Year. He scorched opponents in the C-USA Tournament on his way to being named the tournament's MVP.
Now back for his senior year, Crawford looks to be on track for a career year. When he is on target, Crawford is one of the most dangerous shooters in the NCAA and can take over a game.
No. 2 Geron Johnson
Give a lot of credit to Geron Johnson, who put his troubled past behind him and was an intricate part of last year's team, as well as an outstanding member of the community. On the court, Johnson displayed his all-around game, posting averages of 10.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.8 steals per game. He was considered by many recruiting services as the nation's top JUCO prospect in 2012 and showed why as the season progressed.
Johnson has tremendous potential, as he is very quick and good at getting to the basket. He is also a good defender and changed games for the Tigers on numerous occasions. Now in his senior year, Johnson could prove to be the Tigers most valuable asset.
No. 1 Joe Jackson
Coming into the 2013-14 season, Joe Jackson is the unquestioned leader of this Memphis team. As a junior, he led the team in scoring and assists, with 13.7 points and 4.8 assists per game, on his way to being named the C-USA Player of the Year. Jackson thrived last season when Crawford moved to the point, allowing him utilize his natural scoring ability.
Jackson has been a staple for the Memphis program for three years and he is looking to cap it off with a deep run in the tournament. He makes the Tigers go and really came on strong at the end of last year, pointing towards a big senior year.