Tyreke Evans wasn't on his game tonight as Memphis won a hard-fought contest with UAB. With an NCAA tournament at large bid on the line for UAB, Evans struggled, and Tigers fans hope it was just an off night for the supposed one-and-done star guard.
Everyone has an opinion on the "hired gun" basketball recruits who basically attend college for the opportunity to display their skills and abilities to NBA scouts. This usually benefits both the university and the athlete. On occasion, a player teams up with a veteran team and helps lead that program to a national championship, like Carmelo Anthony with Syracuse.
However, that's quite rare. Even the famed Fab Five at Michigan, while exciting and intriguing, did not win it all.
In observing the development of Derrick Rose last year, I have seen it work nearly to perfection. However, this evening's performance by Tyreke Evans in a hostile environment left a lot to be desired. Evans was 3-of-14 from the field with eight points and nine turnovers.
Coach John Calipari tried to downplay the performance as something of an anomaly, but there has to be some cause for concern. This was an important game for Memphis in terms of seeding and preparation for a playoff-type atmosphere. If you are the person whom the offense goes though, it's paramount that you elevate your game in these types of situations.
UAB's best player, Robert Vaden, went 0-for-17 and 0-for-12 from the three-point line, and the Blazers were still in the game because of Evans' shoddy play. If Vaden had played up to his standards, UAB would have pulled the upset.
What prevented that was execution and selfless leadership of veteran Memphis players like Robert Dozier, Doneal Mack, and especially Antonio Anderson. Anderson made life difficult for Vaden through tenacious defense and also made plays down the stretch to win the game.
Without those types of veteran players, a team simply doesn't have the ability to advance far in the tournament.
So, which university has shown an ability to blend talented newcomers effectively with a veteran squad over the years? Is the Duke model more effective?
For Memphis fans, the question isn't how we will replace players like Evans or Rose before him. They simply want to find someone as indispensable as Antonio Anderson has been over the years.