The No. 14 Memphis Tigers got to benefit from freshman center James Wiseman for at least one more game as they topped the University of Illinois at Chicago Flames 92-46 Friday night at FedExForum.
Earlier Friday, lawyer Leslie Ballin told reporters that Wiseman had been ruled ineligible by the NCAA because head coach Penny Hardaway helped Wiseman's family financially in their move to Memphis in 2018. As a result, the NCAA classified Hardaway a booster.
Soon after, however, the Memphis Commercial Appeal's Jason Munz and Mark Giannotto reported that a judge had "ruled to put a hold on the NCAA's ruling, pending further litigation." That made Wiseman eligible for Friday night's contest.
ESPN's projected No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA draft looked every bit himself on the court despite everything else with 17 points, nine rebounds and five blocks and one steal:
What's more important to the Tigers than their 2-0 record is Wiseman's availability beyond his hearing that The Athletic's John Martin reported is scheduled for Nov. 18.
In the meantime, Memphis released a statement regarding the developing situation:
Wiseman was slated to be the central piece of the Tigers' team this season as ESPN's projected No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA draft. His talent would be impossible for Hardaway to replace at center, but Memphis' top-ranked 2019 freshman class showed promise beyond Wiseman against UIC.
Freshman guard Boogie Elis led the team with 22 points. In terms of the frontcourt, freshman forward Precious Achiuwa figures to shift to the 5 should Wiseman's ineligibility be upheld. Achiuwa posted 10 points, seven rebounds and one block against the Flames, while fellow freshman forward D.J. Jeffries added 14 points, four rebounds and two steals off the bench.
Before the likes of Wiseman, Elis, Achiuwa and Jeffries arrived on campus, Hardaway proved he knows how to succeed last season. The second-year head coach led the Tigers to a 22-14 record in 2018-19, but this season's squad had NCAA Tournament aspirations.
Those expectations aren't totally evaporated without Wiseman given the strength of Hardaway's freshman class, but they are severely altered.
The real gauge for what the Tigers' ceiling without Wiseman could be will begin against the No. 15 Oregon Ducks.
Memphis (2-0) will have a much more difficult task against No. 15 Oregon on Tuesday at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon and await the results of Wiseman's hearing on Nov. 18.
UIC (1-1) next faces Ball State on Wednesday.