Penny Hardaway has amassed one of the best recruiting classes college basketball has seen since, well, Duke last year. With three five star recruits (ESPN) and the number one recruiting class for the 2019 season, Hardaway looks to lead the Tigers to their first NCAA tournament appearance since Josh Pastner in 2014. Just making the dance for the Tigers this season would likely be a huge disappointment for them, their eyes are on a much bigger prize, an NCAA Championship.
Memphis made their last appearance in the Final 4 in 2008 under Coach Calipari and 5-star recruit, Derrick Rose. A one and done recruit, Rose would forgo his final three seasons with the Tigers where he would go on to become a star in the NBA. With three, five stars coming in for this upcoming season, there’s no question that there will be more one and done guys for Memphis which puts their long term success in question
Will Penny Hardaway be able to replicate the success of Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski in getting their prized recruits to play to the best of their ability in just a short time? This upcoming season will answer many questions about Coach Hardaway and his ability to manage such a young group. The nation’s top high school recruits will be watching closely to see Hardaway’s ability to develop the talent and get his guys ready for the NBA draft.
While the Memphis schedule has not been fully released yet, we do know of a matchup with Georgia on January 4th at the FedExForum. The number 2 recruit in the class of 2019, Georgia’s own Anthony Edwards, will make the trip to Memphis to take on Hardaway’s stacked freshman class, including number one recruit, James Wiseman. A must see match up for two teams that have been absent from NCAA tournaments in the recent past and are looking to make it back.
All this talk about the freshman, we can’t forget about Arkansas Little Rock transfer Rayjon Tucker who will surely make an instant impact for the Tigers. Immediately eligible, he averaged just over 20 points per game last season and just under 7 rebounds. His leadership will be needed both on and off the court to guide the younger guys especially if they plan to still be playing in late March.
With the nation’s number one recruiting class and the addition of transfer Rayjon Tucker, the Tigers will definitely be the early season must watch team. Playing in the American Conference who are seeing traditional powerhouses of UConn and Cincinnati face transitional periods, Memphis should face little resistance during the conference schedule. A game between Kelvin Sampson and Houston later in the season could be a preview of a finals matchup in the AAC tournament. Memphis should have no problem making the NCAA tournament barring any major injuries, but how far will they go?
A way too early prediction: I see Memphis bowing out before the second weekend of the tournament as youth and a lack of experience will be the ultimate downfall for the Tigers. Absolutely no question Memphis has one of the most talented rosters heading in to the new season but Penny Hardaway has never been in this situation before, it will be interesting to see what kind of ceiling this Tigers team will have. Memphis is getting closer, but unfortunately for Tiger fans, this won’t be their year.