Memphis will have one of the best backcourt rotations in the nation this season, and all their talented guards were on full display in their 95-69 annihilation of Austin Peay.
The Tigers were led by Joe Jackson with 16 points, seven assists and three steals. Michael Dixon added 15 points and four steals. Chris Crawford, Geron Johnson, Shaq Goodwin and Nick King were all in double figures as well for the Tigers.
The addition of Dixon is going to be huge for Josh Pastner and his ball club. Dixon, a transfer from Missouri who was forced to sit out last season because of NCAA transfer rules, will bring grit, experience and an ability to score the basketball in a variety of ways to this Memphis team. The Tigers have had solid records the last few years, but have not been able to get past the round of 32 under Pastner. Dixon’s 2011-12 season did not have great success in the tournament either, but that year they beat six top-25 opponents and as the six man, he played pivotal minutes on that team. With Memphis making the move to the AAC, conference play will not be such a cakewalk like in years past in Conference USA. Even if it is his first year, Dixon knows what it takes to beat good teams, and that will be a huge asset for this ball club.
Dixon may have been the guy tonight, but Memphis still returns the Conference USA Player of the Year Jackson, as well as two explosive guards, who looked poised for big years after tonight in Crawford and Johnson; all can score the basketball, pressure the ball, and make plays for each other. We saw a glimpse of how good this backcourt could be against Peay; their relentless full court defense pressured Peay into 22 turnovers. The four combined for 10 total steals in the win.
If tonight is any indication of what is to come, Pastner is going to let these guards control the game throughout the season for his team. He is going to live with some bad shots and turnovers, but he wants them to force other teams to panic and play fast, which plays right into their hands. Their ability to get steals when they were defending their man straight up, as well as steals while chasing down an opponent, was a big part of tonight. Granted it was Peay, the Tigers are still going to be applying the same type of swarming pressure against whoever they play this year. He will also have the luxury of throwing in talented and long freshman wing Nick King in the mix, who finished with 11 points tonight.
Dixon, Crawford, Jackson and Johnson will be interchangeable throughout the year, and will even see time together because of their athleticism and speed. They are tough to handle on offense and will make your life miserable on defense. Opposing backcourts are already dreading their matchup against the Memphis Tigers.