Trivia: Name the University of Memphis’ basketball coach?
Got it yet? Need more time?
His name is Josh Pastner. He’s thirty-two years old and he’s in his first season ever as a coach of a division one school. Raise an e-hand out there in the blogosphere if you have more experience than Coach Paz? (I know a hundred hands are going up right now because no one thinks they know more about sports than the average Joe, and I’m not saying that to be a jerk)
More trivia: Did you know Memphis Athletic Director R.C. “Cola” Johnson (sorry, couldn’t resist) keeps a piece of paper in his pocket at all times with the names of five replacement coaches if the need ever arises? Odds that Josh Pastner’s name was on that list prior to being hired: 1 in 500.
Okay, I don’t intend to bash this hire. In fact, I like it. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have a little fun. Pastner has some question marks and so do his 2009-2010 Tigers. John Calipari left for Kentucky and like every good carpetbagger; he took the silverware (i.e. Memphis’ number one recruiting class).
A depleted roster means the Tigers will be down this year in comparison to the last four, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore them or expect them to drift away. In fact, the Tigers play a good non-conference schedule which includes an early season test against the championship-favorites the Kansas Jayhawks (neutral site game in St. Louis), trips to UMass and Syracuse, and home games with the hated Tennessee Volunteers and the Gonzaga Bulldogs. So, there are chances for Pastner’s crew to pull an upset or two and gain some national recognition.
Where Memphis may fade from the spotlight this season is during the conference schedule. The Tigers are not the clear-cut favorites to win CUSA, but they will be one of the top three or four contenders for the automatic bid.
I won’t put any added pressure on the new staff by making any predictions. However, I do get positive vibes from the fan base which will help make the season easier to weather. They all seem understand that this year is about gaining momentum for the next, when Pastner’s already heralded recruiting class will step on campus.
If the Tigers secure the automatic bid or even an at-large to the NCAA Tournament, the season is a success. It doesn’t sound like much of a season, but it’s all we can really put on Memphis and Pastner’s shoulders right now. They’re extremely thin in the front court and one key injury anywhere could be devastating.
Projected starting lineup:
PG Elliot Williams (So)
SG Roburt Sallie (Jr)
SF Doneal Mack (Sr)
PF Wesley Witherspoon (So)
C Pierre Henderson-Niles (Sr)
PG/SG Willie Kemp (Sr)
SG Drew Barham (Fr)
C Will Coleman (Jr, JUCO)
PF D.J. Stephens (Fr)
More information (schedule, full roster, etc.) can be found here.
Note: I did not include any projections of record or post-season play because it is entirely too early for this particular team. The projected starting lineup comes from reading team reports in the Memphis based Commercial Appeal. Everything else is a giant question mark. Talent is still left from the Calipari area, but depth is a main concern.