Calipari should keep Tigers competitive
Jeff Goodman / FOXSports.com
There's no question that John Calipari's Memphis Tigers lost a ton from last year. Rodney Carney, his 17.2 points per game and senior leadership will be difficult to replace. So will Shawne Williams and his 13.2 points and 6.2 boards. Darius Washington Jr., is also gone. But that's basically addition by subtraction.
Memphis still returns a trio of core players who started plenty of games a year ago. Junior Joey Dorsey is a 6-foot-9, 260-pound man-child who is an imposing force in the paint and on the glass.
Sophomore Chris Douglas-Roberts and Antonio Anderson are fairly similar in their games and their production a year ago. CDR averaged 8.3 points and 3.3 boards while Anderson, also about 6-foot-6 and 185 pounds, put up 7.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists.
"We've got a good group and we have a chance, but we're going to have to do it different than we did it last year," Calipari said. "Rodney could dominate a game athletically and both Shawne and Darius could dominate the game physically. We don't have anyone that can overwhelm you that way."
Both Douglas-Roberts and Anderson are versatile, tough wings who handle the ball well for their size — but don't shoot the ball exceptionally well from long distance.
That'll be one critical key for Calipari. To find someone who can light it up from 3-point land. Anderson's shot has improved and freshman shooting guard Doneal Mack, a late signee after he wasn't academically admitted into Florida, could fill that void.
The point guard situation will be much better than a year ago when Washington had more turnovers than assists. Stocky sophomore Andre Allen (5-10, 200) will battle freshman Willie Kemp (6-2, 170) and both will give the team more stability than when the ball was in Washington's hands.
"We had more turnovers than assists last year," Calipari said. "We've got to take better care of the ball."
Another player who could score points from the perimeter is 6-foot-9 skilled sophomore forward Robert Dozier, who has all the ability to replace Williams — but needs to become more assertive on the offensive end.
Jeremy Hunt, a 6-foot-5 senior who has endured numerous injuries and was kicked off the team a year ago for an off-the-court incident, is back and should get plenty of playing time.
Two freshman big men will be counted upon to contribute immediately. Pierre Niles, who has started to get his body in better shape, is recovering from minor knee surgery and may take some time to get into the rotation while 6-foot-10, 275-pound Hashim Bailey will give Calipari another big body to use off the bench.
"I think Pierre Niles could be the "X" Factor for us because he brings something unique," Calipari said. "He's huge and he can make nine straight free throws. He's got great hands and feet."
Breaking it down
Coach: John Calipari 148-59 (6 years), 341-130 (14 years)
Last Season: 33-4, 13-1 (Conference USA)
Postseason: Lost to UCLA, 50-45, in the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament
Why they'll make the Final Four: If a go-to guy develops and Calipari finds a reliable outside shooter.
Why they're getting bounced in the first round: Not enough perimeter scoring.
You don't know him ... yet: Robert Dozier —The 6-foot-9 sophomore was a role player a year ago, but he's as talented as Rodney Carney or Shawne Williams — two guys who were mid first-round picks.
Why you'll want to pay attention before March: Calipari continues to implement Vance Walberg's wide-open system in which the floor is spread and he can take advantage of guards and wings.
Games that will determine their season: Dec. 6 at Tennessee; Dec. 20 at Arizona; Feb. 17 at Gonzaga
Prediction: Second in CUSA; Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament