The Memphis Tigers finished the 2012-13 season, unsurprisingly, as Conference USA champions. Are they actually going to be able to capitalize on the momentum and win a NCAA tournament game this year? Let’s take a look.
Memphis finished with a 30-4 record after the regular season and conference tournament, a respectable record under fourth-year coach Josh Pastner.
However, the two previous times that the Tigers were able to capture the C-USA crown under their 35-year-old coach (2012, 2011), they failed to win in the Big Dance.
Things could certainly change in 2013, as Memphis boasts one of the most exciting, athletic and talented young squads in the nation.
The Tigers are fresh off a morale-building double-overtime win against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles in the last Conference USA contest they will ever play, as the school is set to join the new-look Big East this summer.
There’s no reason to believe that this group will falter in the Round of 64, as it finally has a legitimate star in PG Joe Jackson. The 6’1” junior is averaging a solid 13.6 points, 4.8 assists and 3.1 rebounds this year, while coming up big when it counts.
In the double-OT thriller, Jackson played a whopping 44 minutes and connected on 9-of-15 shots from the field. He finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and four assists. He wasn’t the only hero in the game, as star bench scorer Chris Crawford stepped up in a big way.
The 6’4” junior knocked down 8-of-16 shots on the way to 23 points, six dimes and three boards in 40 minutes of play.
Both of these players are capable of carrying the Tigers for stretches, and when they are both on, the team can beat anyone in the nation. It’s not going to be an easy road, but we predict the Tigers could make it to the Sweet 16.
We’re inclined to agree with Joe Lunardi’s projection of a No. 7 seed for Memphis, matching the program up with a tough, but beatable No. 10 seed in the second round.
After that, the Tigers would draw a dangerous No. 2 seed. While we’re not saying it's a shoo-in to win, this team has the heart and talent to play up to that level and overcome anyone.
Remember, Memphis holds an RPI of 14 and has only lost once since December 20. This squad simply wins ball games and has the athleticism to compete with big-time programs at every position on the court.
Depending on how the bracket shakes out and which opponents Memphis draws, there is no telling how far of a run they can make. Just know that they are primed to win their first game and could go deep.