UAB and Memphis will meet in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2013 as part of a home-and-home series that began last year. UAB saw a first half lead in Memphis slip away and will look to finally get the 800 pound Tiger off their back on Thursday night.
The last time UAB beat Memphis in 2006 the number one song on the Billboard Top 100 was Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day”. Since then we’ve had 16 bad days against the Tigers, and after Thursday’s game there is no future games scheduled between the two teams. I think it’s well past time to end this streak while we still have the chance.
While UAB has been fortunate to have very little significant roster turn over the past few seasons, Memphis has experienced a good deal of shuffling.
After Josh Pastner left for Georgia Tech in April of 2016 along came Tubby Smith who, I’ll give him credit, did keep the core group of contributors together for his first year at the helm.
However, at the end of last season, Memphis’ top three players (six total) — Dedric Lawson, Markel Crawford, and K.J. Lawson — all bolted to other programs for what most believe was because of Tubby’s handling of former assistant Keelon Lawson who is the father of Dedric and K.J.
If you want to know more on that mess read Gary Parish’s story.
Now what we have is almost a totally new Memphis team from the one we faced last season, but with a few who stuck around and even one of UAB’s top targets during the end of Haase’s tenure. Let’s take a closer look at the Tigers.
Scouting The Tigers
Since Dedric Lawson and Markel Crawford, who combined for 40 points against UAB last year, are gone I feel safe in saying that we are going to see a team not quite as good as last year’s but far from void of talent.
Memphis will likely start two players from last season’s team in 6-foot-2 junior guard Jeremiah Martin who leads the team in scoring averaging 16.5 points per game, and 6-foot-8, 193 pound senior forward Jimario Rivers. Beyond those two, we are in unfamiliar territory.
In Memphis’ close home win over Northern Kentucky on Saturday they squeaked by the Norse 76-74 after trailing by nine at halftime.
The Tigers have the personnel to put out a big lineup as they started 6-foot-9, 270 pound forward Mike Parks alongside the 6-foot-8 Jimario Rivers and a player we’ve yet to mention, Kyvon Davenport, who is a put together 6-foot-8, 210 poiund junior forward. Davenport kicked off the season with a double-double against Alabama and will likely be one of their best players this season.
The three forward lineup Memphis started with didn’t last long as Parks played just six minutes, but the Tigers are similar to UAB in that they are relying heavily on their forwards to produce points early this season. And don’t be surprised if Memphis comes out big, especially if they watched the Richmond tape. They could force us to beat them with our guards, which, well, might be a good strategy.
Davenport and Rivers are a very solid front court, but I give the nod to Lee and Cokley because their experience and offensive versatility. Like Lee, Davenport has shown he can hit the three having made a trio of them this season, but his skill set isn’t near as polished.
I’m going to lean toward’s UAB’s back court being the better of the two teams mostly because of our depth and, like our front court, our versatility.
There’s no way around the fact that Memphis’ leading scorer Jeremiah Martin is a dude and he’s probably going to get his points. Beyond him there’s just not a lot of options that have been with this team for long, and they’ve only played four games together this season.
UAB fans will be happy to hear Memphis is one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the country but how many times have I said that before and we’ve been burned.
I have to mention Jamal Johnson, the Spain Park product who chose Memphis over UAB during the last recruiting cycle. Johnson had 10 points in his debut versus Alabama and topped that performance with 12 against Northern Kentucky. Running Johnson off the 3-point line will be key as he’s been one of the only consistent perimeter threats for the Tigers early this season.
Three Keys To Victory For The Blazers
- Getting Memphis’ front court into foul trouble early would pay huge dividends. The Tigers aren’t a deep team and neutralizing their bigs would open up the paint for Cokley to do his work.
- We need to be a consistent threat from the perimeter, especially if Memphis sells out to protect the rim like Richmond did. Tubby is smart and I can almost best he’s going to go with this strategy. We can’t afford a cold night from Nate or Lee who have to be consistent shooting threats for us.
- I’d argue Memphis is definitely not as good as Iowa, and probably about equal with Buffalo. If we play a complete game we will win as we have the better and more experienced roster. If UAB wants to have the season we all expected, it starts with beating inferior teams each and every opportunity. No more coming out flat.