Are the Pieces Finally in Place for the Memphis Tigers?

Stephen KrigerCorrespondent IJanuary 13, 2009

The beginning of the 2008-2009 college basketball season brought many unanswered questions to the forefront for the reigning national runners-up, the University of Memphis Tigers.

How would they fare after losing Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and Joey Dorsey to the NBA draft? How good would Tyreke Evans actually be? Would the Tigers be able to compete with the perennial powerhouse programs? How good can Memphis be without a true point guard?

Some of these questions have been answered in the first 15 games of the season, but some still remain uncertain. At 12-3 (2-0), the Tigers are obviously not as good as they have been in the past three years, but that's like comparing apples and oranges.

With a combined record of 104-10 and an unbeaten Conference USA record over the past three years, not to mention an NCAA record 38 wins last season, the Tigers have pretty much been in a league of their own. Therefore, comparing this season's team to past seasons simply isn't fair.

This year's Tigers had a lot to live up to, and although they have three losses to date, all to top 20-ranked teams mind you, they are doing a good job, and it will only get better from here.

With only two starters returning from last season's team, this team has had to make a lot of adjustments. These changes have obviously taken some time to get used to, but they are finally taking shape. The Tigers have now won six straight games following their tough home loss to Syracuse, and they are only improving.

Their most recent win over Central Florida displayed a lot of toughness by the Tigers who were able to overcome a late deficit on the road to win in a tough environment.

Now, I know all of the haters out there will claim that UCF isn't good and so on and so forth, but when Memphis goes on the road in Conference USA, every opponent that they face sells out their arena and gives the Tigers their best shot in a hostile environment.

This game could definitely be a turning point in the Tigers' season, as they face very tough upcoming games at Tennessee and at Gonzaga.

All of the players are finally playing better, and head coach John Calipari is figuring out how to win without a true point guard.

The nation should watch out for the Memphis Tigers, because they're on a trek to make it to their fourth Elite Eight in four years.

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