Skip to content

Memphis loss shouldn’t feed narrative about Josh Pastner, big games

Dec 18, 2013, 9:26 AM EST

source:

AP photo

NEW YORK — I’m staying with a couple of college buddies here in New York while I cover the Jimmy V Classic and the Duke-UCLA game. This morning, I was chatting with one of them — I’ll call him Rizzo — about the game last night. He’s a big sports fan and watches his fair share of college hoops, although his reason for watching the games has a lot more to do with betting lines than it does a full-blown love for the game.

Hey, whatever gets the people into college basketball, right?

Anyway, Rizzo’s reaction to the game last night: “I’d never pick Memphis in a big game.” Not in the tournament, not against a ranked team, not when they play on national television, and Rizzo is far from alone in echoing that sentiment.

Fair or not, the public perception of the Tigers is that they can’t win the big one, that Josh Pastner is not the kind of coach that can lead his guys through adversity when the lights are shining the brightest. A revenge win over Oklahoma State in the Old Spice Classic didn’t do much to change his mind.

(MORE: Casey Prather is now a star. How and why.)

Now, I’m not here to quibble with you about the narrative. Not today. And I’m not here to try to explain to you that everything Pastner has done with the program outside of hoops — keeping his players out of trouble, graduating players, etc. — has been somewhere between commendable and remarkable.

What I’m here to tell you is that this Memphis team is different. This team will beat some big names in American play and they’ll win some games in the NCAA tournament. I truly believe that for one reason: the Tigers didn’t quit on Tuesday night.

It sounds simple, but it’s not.

You see, the biggest reason that I was ready to write No. 16 Memphis off after their embarrassing loss to Oklahoma State in Stillwater a month ago was that they rolled over and let themselves get beaten when the Cowboys jumped out on top. They didn’t fight back. They took that whooping. They looked like a team that expected to lose. It was tough to watch.

But less than two weeks later, in the finals of the Old Spice Classic, the Tigers erased a double-digit halftime deficit to comeback and beat Marcus Smart and company, the first time in Josh Pastner’s tenure that he had knocked off a consensus top 25 team.

Now, if you weren’t watching closely, you would probably write off last night’s 77-75 loss to No. 15 Florida as Memphis reverting back to their old ways, somehow pinning the Oklahoma State win on a combination of Marcus Smart choking and Memphis getting lucky. It wouldn’t be difficult to make a reference to broken clocks being right twice a day.

But, again, you’d be wrong. For two reasons:

1) Florida is a really, really good basketball team. Like, top-five-in-the-country, national-title-contender good. I truly believe that, especially now that they are back to full strength and have Casey Prather playing like an animal. There ain’t no shame in losing to the Gators by two points.

2) Florida was ready to pull away from Memphis on a number of different occasions, but Memphis didn’t let it happen. The Gators were up double-figures early in the first half, but Michael Dixon pulled the Tigers back to make a game of it at the half. Memphis took the lead at a couple of different points in the second half, but Florida again made a run. Their lead stretched to nine late in the second half, and this time it was Joe Jackson that led the Tigers on a surge to get back into the game.

Just when you thought that Memphis was going to roll over and quit … they didn’t.

Memphis played well on Tuesday night. If a couple of breaks had gone their way — David Pellom doesn’t get called for a goaltend, Michael Dixon doesn’t pick up a phantom fourth foul midway through the second half, Shaq Goodwin doesn’t get a technical when he got too close to the rim trying to get a rebound, Joe Jackson’s layup at the end drops in instead of bouncing of the rim — this would have been a very different story.

Memphis looked like a team tough and talented enough to make the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

“All you can ask for is the ball in your hands with a chance to win, and that’s what we had,” Pastner said after the game.

And if they get it next time, against Louisville or UConn or Gonzaga, more often than not the outcome will be positive.

Latest Posts
  1. Florida’s leading scorer expected to play against undefeated Kentucky on Saturday

    Mar 6, 2015, 4:42 PM EST

    ap ap

    The junior shooting guard has been out the last seven games with an ankle injury.

  2. Georgetown’s Tyler Adams, whose career ended after four games, will start on ‘Senior Day’

    Mar 6, 2015, 4:16 PM EST

    Georgetown Sports Communication Georgetown Sports Communication

    Tyler Adams played in just four games as a freshman in 2011-12 before a heart ailment ended his playing career. He’ll be in the starting lineup Saturday when the Hoyas host Seton Hall.

  3. Holy Cross fires head coach Milan Brown after five seasons

    Mar 6, 2015, 2:54 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Brown went 69-83 in five seasons at the helm at Holy Cross.

  4. Reductions in scholarship, off-campus recruiting will have significant impact on Syracuse moving forward

    Mar 6, 2015, 2:14 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Since they’ve signed for players for next season, Syracuse won’t begin the process of removing 12 scholarships over a four-year period until the 2016-17 season. But there’s still work to be done.

  5. NCAA sanctions Syracuse; 12 lost scholarships, nine-game suspension for coach Jim Boeheim

    Mar 6, 2015, 12:35 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    The basketball program will be on probation for the next five years, and they’re losing 12 scholarships over the next four seasons.

  6. Summit League Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

    Mar 6, 2015, 12:20 PM EST

    Lawrence Alexander (Getty Images) Lawrence Alexander (Getty Images)

    The Summit League will have one of the most entertaining tournaments, as always.

  7. Trips to Minnesota include a rite of passage for Wisconsin freshmen (VIDEO)

    Mar 6, 2015, 11:29 AM EST

    Bo Ryan Bo Ryan

    The Wisconsin freshmen have to dive for a loose ball off of the edge of the raised Williams Arena court as a rite of passage when the team plays at Minnesota.

  8. Bracketology: No. 1 seed line remains unsettled

    Mar 6, 2015, 10:20 AM EST

    AP Photo AP

    Kentucky appears to be the only lock with less than two weeks to go before Selection Sunday.

  9. Pregame Shootaround: Harvard hosts Yale with first place on the line in the Ivy League

    Mar 6, 2015, 9:30 AM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    The winner in Cambridge will be one win away from earning the Ivy League’s NCAA tournament berth.

  10. Report: NCAA investigation of Kansas freshman focuses on possible receipt of impermissible benefits

    Mar 6, 2015, 7:30 AM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    The NCAA has yet to interview Cliff Alexander in regards to the case, with the report citing the family’s hiring of legal representation factoring into that.

  11. Bubble Banter: Davidson with a big win, Stanford in trouble, and … VCU?

    Mar 6, 2015, 1:34 AM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    All of the bubble winners and losers from Thursday.

  12. Late Night Snacks: North Florida, USC Upstate advance to Atlantic Sun title game

    Mar 5, 2015, 10:23 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    No. 6 Wisconsin is the outright Big Ten champion, and Delaware State’s Kendall Gray went off for 33 points and 30 rebounds.

  13. Draft age limit to be a major issue for NBA, college basketball in near future

    Mar 5, 2015, 8:34 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    With the NBA and NBPA having different views on the limit, college basketball can only wait and see what happens.

  14. Injured Kansas forward’s status will be re-evaluated next week

    Mar 5, 2015, 7:36 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    The only sure thing at this point is that Perry Ellis won’t be on the floor when the Jayhawks visit No. 15 Oklahoma Saturday.

  15. NCAA announces upgrade to its replay and timekeeping systems for men’s and women’s tournaments

    Mar 5, 2015, 6:44 PM EST

    NCAA NCAA

    DVSport will handle the video replay technology, with Precision Timing Systems handling the timekeeping.

  16. Concussion to sideline UNLV freshman guard for Saturday’s regular season finale

    Mar 5, 2015, 5:38 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Patrick McCaw has been one of UNLV’s most consistent players this season, but he’ll have to miss Saturday’s game at San Jose State.

  17. Report: Duke not currently investigating Rasheed Sulaimon

    Mar 5, 2015, 4:56 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    This situation seems certain to end up in a mess.

  18. Pregame Shootaround: No. 6 Wisconsin, two other ranked teams hit the road

    Mar 5, 2015, 4:13 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Both Wisconsin and No. 5 Arizona can wrap up outright conference titles with wins Thursday night.

  19. Indiana’s AD backs Tom Crean, calls hot seat speculation ‘ridiculous’

    Mar 5, 2015, 3:45 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    I don’t think any Indiana fans are listening at this point.