Overall Rank: #21
Conference Rank: #1 C-USA
2005-06: 33-4, 13-1, 1st
2005-06 postseason: NCAA
It says a lot about Memphis when the top three scorers are gone, but the squad is still garnering top 25 accolades. With what will evolve into a deeper team than last year’s Elite Eight squad, Tiger fans have high expectations for another top seed come March.
Who’s Out: Point guard Darius Washington, Jr. and forward Shawne Williams left Memphis early for the NBA. Washington averaged 13.4 points and a team high 3.1 assists last year, while Shawne Williams added 13.2 points and 6.2 boards. The loss of Rodney Carney and his 17.2 points per game may be the most painful of them all. Sparingly used Simplice Njoya and Waki Williams round out the list of players who won’t be suiting up for the Tigers in 2006-2007.
Who’s In: Jeremy Hunt will return for his final season in Memphis. Hunt averaged 9.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in 2004-2005 and will provide more experience on the wings. Once again Coach John Calipari is bringing in a solid class of freshmen. Point guard Willie Kemp has all the attributes to be a great team leader. He needs to continue working on his outside shot, but the 6-2 Bolivar, Tennessee product will battle for the starting role. Doneal Mack is a big time scorer. He’s a crafty player who can find the bottom of the net and will do so as a freshman. Tre’Von Willis is a quick, slashing shooting guard and will provide more depth off the bench. Up front Pierre Niles will need to contribute as a freshman. The 6-8, 285 pounder can play either forward position and has the versatility to battle in the post or run the court. Center Hashim Bailey, a teammate of Niles at The Patterson School in North Carolina last year, is another big body to come off the bench this year.
Who to Watch: After starting 25 games and averaging 8.3 points per game as a freshman, Chris Douglas-Roberts is ready to emerge as the star of the perimeter. However, the play of two other returning perimeter players may have a bigger impact regarding how successful this season is for Memphis. Andre Allen isn’t a flashy player or a prolific scorer, but he consistently and steadily ran the point off the bench last year. He averaged 3.0 assists while playing in less than 16 minutes per contest. If that number can improve with more minutes, the Tigers will be in good hands. Antonio Anderson is expected to start at the shooting guard spot, at least early in the year. With the top three long range shooters gone, Anderson will have to maintain consistency from behind the arc.
Final Projection: The depth up front will have to mostly come from the newcomers, but Robert Dozier and Joey Dorsey are a solid starting duo. Dozier started three games as a freshman and the 6-9, 215 pound forward has the size to play under the basket and the skills to play on the perimeter. He’s a solid rebounder and could develop into a good Shawne Williams replacement. Dorsey, one of two returning starters, will handle the center duties. The 6-9, 260 pound Baltimore, Maryland product is a great leaper, a solid rebounder and an excellent shot blocker. Sophomore Kareem Cooper is a good big body off the bench after averaging 4.4 points and 3.1 boards as a freshman. The frontcourt has enough talent to pick up the scoring slack, but the main concern is finding a shooter or two. Hunt, Anderson, Allen and Mack are the candidates to hit the long balls and a couple of those players will have to step up if the Tigers are dreaming of the Elite Eight once again.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Andre Allen, Junior, Guard, 4.1 points per game
Antonio Anderson, Sophomore , Guard, 7.2 points per game
Chris Douglas-Roberts, Sophomore, Guard, 8.3 points per game
Robert Dozier, Sophomore, Forward, 5.6 points per game
Joey Dorsey, Junior, Forward, 6.9 points per game