Breaking down Memphis' season

Tigers beat writer Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal breaks down Memphis' 2010-11 basketball season.

It's been an up and down year for the Memphis basketball team. To break down Memphis' 2010-11 season, we asked Tigers beat writer Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal to sum up the year in his own words.

The following is Smith's commentary on Memphis' 2010-11 season:

I think it's been a success overall. Obviously they started the season thinking a Final Four; I mean you had Will Barton guaranteeing a national championship. Josh had to tell fans, ‘No, don't buy your Final Four tickets, give it some time.' Expectations were really high at the time.

It went from that high to way, way down. Not just the Kansas loss, which snapped them back to reality, but losing Angel Garcia, who quit on the team to sign a professional contract in Spain, to the Jelan Kendrick situation early on, which was a distraction because you're talking about a McDonald's All-American.

Josh tried to keep things under wraps about what really happened with him. He was suspended, he was brought back, he got into it with a coach, and you had all that going on.

And then there were the losses in conference; the bad losses in conference. At Rice, they had never lost to Rice, they lost at SMU for a second straight season, and all of the sudden, you had all this talent but it wasn't getting any better and people were wondering if Josh could coach or if he had lost the team.

This town was going absolutely nuts and had pretty much pigeonholed the team as an NIT team. They felt Josh had lost them and that Josh had a great group of individual talent but that Josh couldn't turn them into a team.

It was bad at the end of the regular season; they lost three of their last four heading into the regular season finale against Tulane, a team that everybody here thought they would club and build some momentum heading into the Conference USA Tournament, but they only beat them by five. They even struggled against Conference USA's worst team.

Going into the CUSA tournament, no one, everyone in this town including myself and every writer and TV reporter, was saying no way they could win three in three days at the CUSA tournament.

Even Josh was politicking that if they got one win, because of their success against Top 100 RPI teams, that they'd still be in the NCAA tournament conversation. If they won two and got out of the semis, Josh was saying they were in, but people didn't believe him. Everyone thought they had to win the whole thing.

The way they played together, how they did in the CUSA tournament, I think they surprised all the city, and I think Josh getting them back to the tournament really vindicated him. In this town he's always going to be compared to Cal and right or wrong, that's going to be the case for a while.

What he's done now is he's got more wins than Cal had in his first two seasons here with 49 – he surpassed Cal's win total of 48 by beating UTEP – and now he's done what Cal didn't do in his first two seasons and he took the team to the NCAA tournament in his second season. Cal went to the NIT his first couple years.

He won the NIT his second year, but wasn't able to get to the tournament, and in this town you have to make the tournament.

I think this has really vindicated Josh. They didn't get a top seed like everyone expected when the season started but they're in and I think that's the successful part of the year.

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