The Memphis Tigers is coming off one of its biggest wins in recent memory – and also, one of the biggest losses.
Last weekend, the Tigers knocked off Tennessee in Knoxville, a compelling 51-47 road win that was all the more impressive because the team was playing without James Wiseman, still serving a 12-game NCAA suspension at the time.
But on Thursday, Wiseman stunned the sports world by announcing his withdrawl from the University of Memphis so he could hire an agent and begin preparing for the NBA Draft.
“Obviously, I didn’t want it to happen,” Hardaway said in his first media availability since the news. “But I support James. I’m not going to say I was happy about it. But I’m with James. I’ve been with James from the very beginning since he first stepped into this city. So I’m with him now, and I’m still gon’ be with him.”
Either way, the Tigers would be playing without Wiseman at noon today as they welcome Jackson State to FedExForum. But it’s the first game since Wiseman’s announcement and everyone will be watching to see how they respond.
The JSU may be a little weary when they arrive in Memphis this week to face Memphis. They’re coming off a nice 73-63 road win at the University of Portland on Thursday. Unlike the Tigers, JSU flies commercial – with all of its trappings. They may have some lingering jetlag.
JSU is led by junior Tristan Jarrett (18.9 points per game) and senior Roland Griffin (17.0 points per game). There are two players from the area on the team senior Khalil Spencer (Memphis), freshman and Kenneth Lewis (Olive Branch).
Hardaway has his team rolling although the team is not playing particularly well. The Tigers are 7-0 without James Wiseman. Memphis wants to win the game but is looking to work on some weak areas in the next couple of weeks.
Play to perfection
Hardaway wants his team to focus on their play and not the play of their opponents in the next couple of weeks. He wants his team to play a perfect game while improving the area of weaknesses. The biggest two areas of concern are offensive rebounding and connecting on outside shots more efficiently.
Hardaway is very hard on his players and wants to always strive to play a perfect game. Although he knows that is impossible, nevertheless that is the standard with this team.
Know your role
This team has shown the ability to win in different ways. They have led from start to finish. They have been down by as many as 20 points in a game and still won. The players must continue to play the part that is needed and not what they want it to be.
Memphis has a reputation to get up and down the court with great efficiency. The Vols tried to use a slowdown game to get the Memphis off balance. The Tigers adapted to that style. As good as Memphis has been offensively, their full-court pressure has given teams shocks and has sparked their offense.
Memphis opened a lot of eyes with the win last week against Tennessee. The Tigers entered the game as a 6-point underdog. Very few people gave Memphis a chance to win that type of game on the road. The new NCAA Net rankings were released this week. The Tigers came in ranked as the 16th best team in the nation. That means if the season ended today Memphis would more than likely be a number 4 seed.
Will the respect eventually reflect the record?
“I would hope so,” Hardaway said. “To come in there and beat a team that had won 31 games in a row. But if it doesn’t, we are going to keep on plugging away and keep working.”
Memphis has to respect its opponent as well, Hardaway said.
“You have to stay hungry. We are nowhere where we need to be,” Hardaway said. “Moving forward, we have to protect against looking (past) anybody.”
Memphis and Jackson state will place the first of two-game to be played in the FedExForum on Saturday at noon. The game can be seen on ESPN3. The Grizzlies will play the Sacramento Kings later in the day.