2012--13 RECORD 31--5 CONF USA 16--0 (1ST) WHAT'S BACK MINUTES: 55.2% POINTS: 57.1% REBOUNDS: 44.6%
To get an idea of what Memphis might look like this season, go back to 2011--12, to a different group of Tigers: Missouri played four guards, lost only four regular-season games and was the second-most-efficient offensive team of the last 10 years, according to kenpom.com.
Memphis is hoping for similar results this season from its four-guard group. It helps that all four are seniors, including transfer Michael Dixon, who was a sixth man on that 2011--12 Mizzou team. He will be joined in the backcourt by Joe Jackson, Geron Johnson and Chris Crawford. Says coach Josh Pastner, "We will play them together as long as they are willing to stick their noses in and get defensive rebounds."
Unlike that Missouri team, these Tigers aren't going with four guards out of necessity. Pastner has a talented, albeit young, group of frontcourt players, including 6'9" sophomore forward Shaq Goodwin and 6'8" freshman forward Austin Nichols, one of the nation's top recruits. Memphis can go with a more traditional lineup when needed, but it will start small, play as fast it can and see what happens.
"We don't need one individual to run our system," says Pastner. "Three of those four guys [Dixon being the exception] had over 100 assists last year, and we preach that the open man is the go-to man."
Jackson is the most complete player of the quartet, a standout defender who led the Tigers in scoring (13.6 ppg), assists (4.8) and three point percentage (44.7) a season ago. Early in his career he was someone who, in his words, "missed some opportunities to be that leader we needed." Now, he says, "I know the right things to say, when to be positive and [how to have] the right demeanor around my young teammates."
Jackson is the key if the Tigers are going to live up to expectations that are anything but small.
Projected Lineup (2012--13 STATS)
PG CHRIS CRAWFORD
SR. 6'4" 10.4 PPG 3.2 APG
SG MICHAEL DIXON JR.‚Ä†
SR. 6'1" 13.5 PPG 3.3 APG
G JOE JACKSON*
SR. 6'1" 13.6 PPG 4.8 APG
G GERON JOHNSON*
SR. 6'3" 10.4 PPG 4.6 RPG
F SHAQ GOODWIN
SOPH. 6'9" 7.4 PPG 4.4 RPG
F AUSTIN NICHOLS‚Ä°
FR. 6'8" 22.7 PPG 12.2 RPG
F KURAN IVERSON‚Ä°
FR. 6'10" 17.2 PPG 6.3 RPG
‚Ä°HIGH SCHOOL STATS
JOSH PASTNER (5TH SEASON)
SIWill joining the American Athletic Conference be a big adjustment?
JP You're talking about five new teams coming in, four of us from Conference USA, so we know a couple teams well and we have played Louisville. I also encouraged my coaches to start watching film on the teams we were going to see in the American during the summer.
SIWe often talk about players developing. How have you developed as a coach?
JP I have really tried to study the game as much as I can the last few years, and to be an outside-the-box guy. I like innovative stuff; I have no reservations about trying something new. I read a lot and call coaches and pick their brains. I am constantly learning. I am a better coach today than when I got the job, but not for one second do I think I know it all. We tend to teach what we know, so I've tried to immerse myself in basketball, to treat it like I am trying to get a Ph.D. in [the sport].
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JOHN BIEVER FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (3)