What to Know
Memphis, like Iowa, lost last night in the semi-finals of the Emerald Coast Classic. The Tigers were taken out by the Providence Friars by a score of 60-51. That game was played after Iowa got trounced by Virginia.
First off, the Tigers and Hawkeyes have two like opponents. Both the Hawks and Tigers have played UT Rio Grande Valley and Savannah State. And both beat those teams fairly easily.
The Tigers lost head coach Josh Pastner to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets after last season. Pastner had been the head man since the 09-10 season. They replaced him with Tubby Smith who has spent time at Tulsa, Kentucky, Georgia, Texas Tech, and Minnesota. Smith has his boys off to a 4-1 start.
They lost four of their top five scorers from a season ago, so they are going through some changes. Shaq Goodwin and Ricky Tarrant are the two most notable losses for the Tigers from a season ago. However, they also lost Avery Woodson, who transferred to Butler at the end of the year. Woodson averaged 10 points per game as a junior for Memphis.
This season, they are led by the Lawson brothers, Dedric and K.J. They were apart of the 2015 recruiting class, but K.J. redshirted while Dedric played right away. They've got a nice mix of older and younger guys, but they don't run too many players out there. Only seven players played significant minutes in the loss to Providence last night.
They are a lot like the Hawkeyes in the fact that they have athletic guys that like to get up and down the court. They attack the offensive glass well, which led to 15 offensive rebounds against Providence. They just shot it poorly against the Friars. They also turned it over 17 times in the game.
Who to Know
This will take you back to the first section. It's Dedric and K.J. Lawson. Dedric is Memphis' best player as he averages 20 points and 12 rebounds per game. He has tallied a double double in four of the teams first five games and the game that he didn't, he had 19 points and 9 rebounds. He's going to take a majority of the shots for Memphis and the offense will run through him.
K.J. isn't quite as big or as talented as Dedric, but he is no slouch himself. He's recorded a double double in three of his teams five games and had 25 points on 8-10 shooting in the teams opener. The offense will run through both of these athletic guards/forwards and the Hawkeyes will have their hands full all afternoon.
Markel Crawford and Craig Randall are two supporting members around the Lawson brothers. They both average 11 points per game. Crawford is in his third season as a Tiger and has gotten better as each year passes. He's seen a spike in points and rebounds per game and he should only get better. Randall is averaging three made three's per game in his sophomore season. He shoots 44% from behind the arc. The Hawkeyes will need to have their eyes on him.
Stats to Know
These teams are fairly evenly matched when you look at the statistical categories. One thing that stands out is Memphis' free throw percentage. As a team they are shooting 54% from the free throw line, which is well below average. They have three starters that are shooting below 40% from the line. Big man Chad Rykhoek is shooting 1-10 and point guard Jeremiah Martin is 1-6. In fact, the Tigers rank 350th out of 351 division one teams in free throw percentage. If we get late in the game and it's close, the Hawkeyes may have some options when it comes to who they want to foul.
The Tigers also struggle from behind the arc. They are shooting just 32% on the season as a team whereas Iowa is shooting 39%. Memphis wants to attack the rim and score in the paint, mainly because they don't possess many outside shooters. Craig Randall will be the name to watch in terms of three point shooting. He is 14-32 (44%) from three this season.
I think it's important to know that Memphis struggled mightily in their first real test of the year. They turned the ball over 17 times in the loss to Providence yesterday and shot just 35% from the field. A team can beat mid-level opponents as bad as they want, but when you start to play teams in your league, it can be telling. They also shot 28% from three. The same can be said for Iowa, but Providence is not Virginia.