The University of Memphis Tigers are looking to earn some respect.
In the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll the Tigers were ranked 26th for the second consecutive week. The Tigers entered the Top 25 in the coaches’ poll at 21.
This week the Tigers will have opportunities to gain what the fan base is clamoring for – some respect that reflects a team they feel warrants higher rankings.
The Tigers face the Michigan Wolverines on Wednesday (Nov. 22) at 4 p.m. CST in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. A win would pit them against the Arkansas Razorbacks. (With earlier print deadlines this week, check TSDMemphis.com for the story.)
Memphis and Michigan both were set to welcome their head coaches. Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway served a three-game NCAA suspension that ended with the team’s win over Alabama State.
Michigan’s Juwan Howard was set to return a medical procedure done this summer. Both coaches were star players for the team they now coach. Each had long and successful years as top-level NBA players.
The Tigers may have one of their better teams since the 2008 Final Four run. David Jones, Jaykwon Walton and Jayvon Quinerly have raised the expectations for the fans and the team. The Bahama trip is part of a challenging non-conference schedule set by Hardaway.
Jones has shown flashes of greatness; at other times he has played out of control and caused some disfunction.
Walton can create his own shot. He can score from outside and he can score off the dribble.
Quinerly has been the point guard that can control the offense and connect from outside to keep the defense honest.
Jones’ accomplishments have drawn attention. He earned an American Athletic Conference Weekly Honor for his double-double performance in the win over Alabama State last week. Now comes a chance to show his skills against better competition.
Michigan (3-1) is led by guard Dug McDaniel. He leads the team with 21 points and 6 assists average per game. Oliver Nkamhousa, a forward that averages 18 points per game and 8 rebounds, should give the Tigers their biggest test of the young season on the inside.
The importance of the Battle Four tournament wasn’t lost on Quinerly.
“It is extremely important. Being in the American Conference, we need every quad one win we can get. That’s why going to Mizzou and getting our first quad one win was big time. We are looking to do the same thing in the Bahamas. I think the guys have the right mindset going in. It is huge for us.”
This early test will go a long way toward determining whether the Tigers get a better seed in the NCAA tournament in March. The last two seasons the Tigers were seeded ninth and eighth respectively. They would like to like to get. Into the 4-6 seed range.
The City of Memphis is hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. Since Memphis can’t play here, there is a chance they may be shipped to the Western Regional again.