The quality of wins don't necessarily agree (Memphis' best win to date is a toss-up between Tennessee on a neutral floor or Southern Miss at home), but Memphis is playing its best basketball of the season right now, peaking just in time for the postseason. After securing a consensus top 25 ranking in the pre-season, the Tigers promptly dropped two of its first four games to Michigan and Georgetown- but now, looking back on those losses, along with Murray State (who knew they were going to be this good?), Louisville and the Hoyas yet again, five of Memphis' losses have come at the hands of ranked teams, all inside the top 18 in the polls.
But now, Memphis is reeling off victories in seven of their past eight games and doing so without starting forward and potential first-round NBA Draft talent Adonis Thomas. Will Barton has surged for the reigns of this team and taken over, nearly averaging a double-double on the year and shooting a much-improved 51.7 percent from the field as a sophomore. Barton is the clear favorite to take home the award for C-USA Player of the Year with his monstrous play and production.
A key difference-maker for this team has been the interior presence of Tarik Black; the sophomore center was inconsistent at best to start the year after a promising
rookie campaign with Josh Pastner and the Tigers. With the high-expectations in mind, Black seemingly crumbled under the pressure, averaging about 4 shots per game. Now, Memphis can feel confident giving him the ball in the post and let him operate; he is averaging about ten shots a game in the last five, where he has responded with three games of 18+ points.
If Pastner can get similar-level consistency from Black and improved play from senior Wesley Witherspoon, another NBA-caliber talent in the frontcourt, plagued by a lack-of-aggressive and inefficient use of physical tools and skills, this Memphis team could make quite the run in the NCAA Tournament.