Yesterday, the Memphis Tigers lost to the Louisville Cardinals 81-72 at Madison Square Garden. Honestly, I had been bracing for a more lopsided loss. But these young Tigers played competitive basketball against a team with far superior talent. Granted, it’s a loss, but I’ve been encouraged by their last 3 efforts.
Memphis is 7-3 so far, but it’s a soft 7-3. They have no signature wins. Several of their wins came at home to low-RPI teams by razor-thin margins. I’m not upset with them, nor am I upset with second-year coach Tubby Smith. A lot of last year’s talent transferred out of the program, leaving a mass of vacancies. So this year’s team is an amalgam of two players from last year, freshmen and junior-college transfers. Of the 13 players on this year’s roster, eleven had never played Division I. So that left us with an inexperienced team and large learning curve, but also the potential for improvement. I’m starting to enjoy this team. They may not accomplish a great deal in the end, but you have to admire their determination.
I have to get to a game sometime after the new year. I owe it to them. Crowds at the FedEx Forum have been sparse. Granted, attendance should pick up once conference play commences and the quality of our opponents improves. Last year’s team played well until about the final month, then more or less quit (primarily the Lawsons, who left the program on sour terms). So that sort of left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. I don’t expect this year’s team to quit. I’m not expecting to qualify for the NCAA tournament or anything, but these young men have heard the talk and seen the empty seats, and perhaps they have something to prove.