Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
If you're looking for a skilled, experienced backcourt, go walking in Memphis.
Seniors Joe Jackson, Geron Johnson and Chris Crawford were already the engine making the Tigers go last season and they've lost a lot of able support. A talented freshman class and a couple of other senior transfers arrive to help but the Memphis trio is still in charge.
Jackson put up an eFG% (57.7) and TS% (61.3) that were spectacular for post players, let alone a 6'1" guard. He managed that while also finishing fifth in Conference USA in assists.
Now in the American, he'll challenge Shabazz Napier for a first-team all-conference spot, if not the inaugural player of the year trophy.
Johnson balanced great games with disappearing acts as he acclimated to Division I from junior college ball. He put up 25 points, eight boards, seven assists and four steals vs. Southern Miss, but only after a rough night of zero points and four fouls in 12 minutes against Marshall.
Greater consistency out of him may be the biggest key to UM challenging Louisville for the American crown.
Crawford shot almost exactly 50 percent in C-USA play last season. Now, he needs to prove he can be as efficient against UConn and Louisville as he was against Tulsa and Tulane.
Senior transfers Michael Dixon (ex-Missouri) and David Pellom (ex-George Washington) will give coach Josh Pastner tremendous flexibility in his substitution patterns.
Dixon was a 13-PPG scorer at Mizzou in 2011-12 without starting a game. If he's content to be a sixth man once more, the Tigers should be able to come at opponents in waves. Dixon can perform ably at both guard positions.
Pellom, a 6'8", 220-pound forward, will pick up after the departed Tarik Black, who transferred to Kansas. Despite being outweighed by 40 pounds, Pellom has been every bit Black's equal on the glass and is a career 60-percent shooter from the field. He's an ugly 50-percent foul shooter, but Black's 55 percent was no bargain, either.