5 Reasons Why Memphis Tigers Will Be Louisville’s Biggest Threat in 2013-14
Memphis Tigers and Louisville Cardinals
The Louisville Cardinals returned to the top of college basketball in April with a win over the Michigan Wolverines to win the national championship. It was all the more sweeter when Russ Smith decided to come back for his senior year, making the Cardinals the clear-cut favorite to repeat in 2013-14.
Don't get ahead of yourself, though, Louisville has a long road ahead of them if they wish to accomplish the feat in back-to-back seasons. If the Cardinals thought it was tough last year, they're in for a rude awakening. To put it in the most cliche way possible, they will have a big red bulls eye on their backs. Or as Memphis Tigers head coach Josh Pastner would say, every game they play is the other team's Super Bowl.
He and the Tigers would know. Memphis moves from C-USA, where they dominated for much of the last decade and finished 16-0 last year. Every time the Tigers stepped onto the floor, their opponents brought everything they had and the kitchen sink. But those days are gone. Memphis has moved to the AAC and much stiffer competition awaits, teams like the Connecticut Huskies, Cincinnati Bearcats and, yes, Louisville.
The Tigers and Cardinals are quite familiar with one another. As former C-USA foes and long-time rivals, the two programs have battled to some epic finishes over the years. This year, they will be reunited for one more year in the AAC before the Cardinals move to the ACC beginning next summer.
It should provide for some great basketball, as both teams are expected to make deep runs in March. If any program knows how to beat the Cardinals, it's the Tigers. Louisville has plenty of opponents who could impede their run to another national title, but none pose a bigger threat than Memphis.
How so, you ask? The following are five reasons why the Tigers are the biggest threat to Louisville on their quest to repeat. There are many reasons why Memphis is a great match-up against Louisville and this list gives the top five of them in ascending order of which is the biggest factor why the Tigers are the Cardinals' most legitimate threat on their road to glory.
No.5 Incoming Class
Yes, the Cardinals brought in a top-10 class (No. 7 according to Rivals.com), but the Tigers brought in one of their own coming in at No. 3 behind the Kansas Jayhawks and Kentucky Wildcats. Pastner reeled in one five-star recruit (Austin Nichols) and four four-star recruits to an already loaded roster. The key here is that the class gives the Tigers even more depth and weapons at their disposal.
When Memphis lost last year to Louisville in FedExForum, much of it had to do with just getting wore out. The Tigers only had about seven to eight guys rotating on the floor that could play with the Cardinals, and it worked for a while, but they eventually fell off as the game progressed. The recruiting class, led by Nichols and 6-foot-8 swing man Kuran Iverson, is talented enough to give the Tigers as much as a 10-man rotation, which should provide problems for Louisville when they meet.
No.4 Once Again, Both Teams Are in the Same Conference
The Cardinals and Tigers are back in the same conference after Louisville initially left C-USA for the then Big East after the 2004-05 season. Since then, they've met a few times, but not regularly. Though it will only be for a season, their meetings this year could have a significant outcome on seeding and the national and AAC rankings.
Being in the same conference means more head-on meetings, which could be danger for the Cardinals. The Tigers are talented enough to knock off any team in the AAC and the country. You expect the Cardinals to pick up a few losses through conference play, and if Memphis can take the season series, it could have a significant impact on Louisville's tournament seeding, which would make for a much harder road to another title.
Things could get very interesting if these two teams meet in the AAC title game.
No.3 Returning Players
Both teams are returning much of their core players, but the difference here is that the Tigers returnees are veteran heavy. Guards Joe Jackson, Chris Crawford and Geron Johnson are all seniors and comprise of one of the best backcourts in all of college basketball. These three guys have played crucial minutes in big moments. The fact that all three are guards should give Memphis a decisive advantage in the backcourt when the teams meet, as Louisville losses their leader Peyton Siva.
The Tigers also return Shaq Goodwin, and though he is just a sophomore, he played big minutes as a freshman. Memphis' experience at the guard position with their three returning players could prove to be trouble for Louisville, who will be looking for a leader at the point position with Siva gone. Having Russ Smith back is big, but the Tigers have a clear-cut floor general and Louisville doesn't.
No.2 More Balance
This could be the X-factor for the Tigers against Louisville this year. Memphis obviously lacked a presence in the low post against the Cardinals and other power teams. They also had virtually no depth behind Goodwin and Tarik Black, who transferred to Kansas. It hurt the Tigers against the Cardinals, as they effortlessly drove to the paint to get easy buckets. That shouldn't be the case this time around.
Pastner addressed the need in a big way, landing five-star Nichols and four-star mammoth Dominic Woodson, a true space eater. Perhaps the biggest addition though was senior George Washington transfer David Pellom, an established rebounder and low-post scorer. Inside and out, the Tigers, next to Louisville, are the most complete team in the AAC.
With an influx of new big men, Memphis has the ability to stretch the floor this year and open up the shooters against Louisville.
No.1 Storied Rivalry
Nothing else seems to matter when two teams that love to hate each other meet. One team could be having a down year, but come into a rivalry game and make it one for the ages. It's no different with Memphis and Louisville, a rivalry that has spanned 87 games dating back to 1949 with the Cardinals holding the all-time series lead 53-34. Just based on the history of this rivalry, you can bet that the Tigers will give Louisville everything they can handle.
The past two years they have played, the Cardinals came out on top, so the Tigers are hungry to flip the script. With all the added pieces and circumstances, the Tigers are Louisville's top threat to sour their season.