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Memphis, four guard lineups, and the importance of Chris Crawford

Aug 27, 2013, 12:15 PM EDT

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ESPN’s two big-name news-breakers both wrote about Memphis and Michael Dixon on their personal blogs this morning. Andy Katz said that the Tigers are hopeful that they’ll get word on Dixon within the next two-to-three weeks, while Jeff Goodman praised Dixon’s leadership ability and called him the key to the Memphis season.

But we’ve heard that before.

Dixon has a commanding back court presence that Joe Jackson has never developed. NCAA decisions are always expected in the next week or two. None of that is new.

What was interesting, however, was the fact that both Katz and Goodman emphasized the idea of Memphis spending a lot of time in a four-guard lineup next season; Dixon and Jackson handling the ball with Geron Johnson and Chris Crawford playing the role of the team’s ‘forwards’.

That team will be fun to watch, and it may even evoke some memories of the 2012 Missouri team that Dixon was a part of that won 30 games and the Big 12 tournament before getting knocked out in the opening round of the NCAA tournament by Norfolk State. Assuming Dixon is eligible, the Tigers will get up and down the floor quite a bit. Both Johnson and Dixon are excellent on-ball defenders, and all four guards are capable scorers that can handle the point but thrive when allowed to attack the basket. There may be an issue of enough shots to go around, but if the Tigers are getting up and down the floor, there may be plenty of shots available.

The key to that lineup, however, will be Chris Crawford. What made Missouri so good in their four-guard lineup — and the reason that North Carolina was able to make their run late last season — was the presence of a bigger guard that can knock down threes while holding their own in the post against opposing fours. For Missouri, that player was Kim English. For UNC, it was Reggie Bullock.

They created a mismatch on the offensive end without being too much of a defensive liability.

Crawford’s 6-foot-4. He shot 39.9% from three last season. He’ll be the difference-maker if and when Pastner decides to go with four guards.

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