The Memphis Tigers seem to be in the rejuvenating process, rather than rebuilding. After losing to the Kansas Jayhawks in the national championship game a year ago, the Tigers lost their three-headed monster of Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and Joey Dorsey—all wearing NBA threads these days.
Most teams losing 53 percent of their scoring punch would probably take a significant step back—but not these Tigers.
In come heralded freshmen Tyreke Evans, Wesley Witherspoon, and Angel Garcia. Evans is a smooth combo guard who is most comfortable on the wing and was ranked sixth overall by Rivals.com. He will attempt to fill the shoes that Rose left after only one season.
Witherspoon (ranked 34th overall by Rivals.com) is as versatile as they come, having the ability to play four different positions on the floor. The 6'10" Garcia (ranked 46th by Rivals.com) comes in as a hybrid-type of player, able to dribble the ball and pass out of the post, and also possesses a sweet jump shot that stretches beyond the arc.
These three new Tigers should have an immediate impact—and will have to for the Tigers to make another serious run in the tournament.
Seniors Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier are the only starters that remain from a year ago, and both of them will have to step up as the emotional leaders of this young Tigers squad. Anderson's average of 8.6 points per game will likely increase, as well as Dozier's 9.2 last season.
Also returning are forward Shawn Taggart and guards Willie Kemp and Doneal Mack, all who will likely see plenty of action and need to fill the gap left by the trio from last season.
Conference USA won't present the Tigers with many challenges, but it's unlikely the team will be able to blaze through unscathed like last year. These Tigers will have their growing pains, but by the time March comes around, they could be as dangerous as any team in the country.
The Tigers' second matchup of the season is against Coach Calipari's former powerhouse, UMass. This should be an intriguing game for Tiger fans. Three games later the Tigers travel to the nation's capital to take a Georgetown team that is young and explosive. On Dec. 29 the Tigers play host to the Cincinnati Bearcats, renewing an old rivalry.
On Jan. 24 comes the game every Tiger fan has marked on their calendars—a date with the Tennessee Volunteers at their place. This one is sure to be a slugfest. Finally the Tigers will face another top team in Gonzaga on the road.
Another 30-win season for the Tigers is a stretch, but the conference title is already wrapped up—and if these Tigers peak at the right time, maybe a national championship to avenge the one lost a year ago will be too.