After an embarrassing offseason, the Memphis Tigers have finally put the Austin Nichols situation behind them with his transfer to the Virginia Cavaliers. Josh Pastner and Co. will start to focus on the 2015-16 season and the hope that they might finally be able to do some damage in the postseason with this talented squad.
Memphis returns three of their top five scorers and four of their top five minutes per game leaders, but the real key returner lies in senior Shaq Goodwin. Goodwin has been one of stalwarts in college basketball over the past three seasons. He will be tasked with leading a team that boasts half a dozen four and three-star incoming freshmen, and his play could shape the future of Memphis basketball.
In arguably the most underrated move of the offseason, Memphis snagged Alabama Crimson Tide point guard Ricky Tarrant. Tarrant was an explosive asset for the Crimson Tide, averaging 13.1 points and 1.4 steals per game. He could be exactly what this offense was missing last season and should fit into this side perfectly.
The Tigers’ non-conference schedule includes the Ohio State Buckeyes, South Carolina Gamecocks, Ole Miss Rebels and Oklahoma Sooners. The game with the Sooners looks to be the only contest where Memphis should be overwhelming underdogs, which could mean that the Tigers enter conference play with just a few losses.
In conference play, the Tigers will have to be focused game-in and game-out. Six or so teams look to be capable of making a run to the 2016 NCAA tournament, making the American Athletic Conference one of the very few in the country where just one or two losses to top teams could be the difference between the NCAA tournament and NIT.
Overall, expect a decent season from Memphis. I still believe them to be a year or two away from being a legitimate national title contender, but the rebuilding period may finally be over as the future looks bright.