The Memphis Tigers’ basketball team 2020-2021 season is over. For the third consecutive year under Head Coach Penny Hardaway, the Memphis Tigers did not reach the NCAA tournament. However, the previous season was halted, and they could not finish due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The “All The Smoke” hype was no longer there, but the expectations of qualifying for the tournament remained the same. Coach Hardaway was able to lure five-star prospect Mousse Cissé and transfer guard Landers Nolley ll. Fellow transfer DeAndre Williams joined the program later in the season.
Like any other team this season, the Tigers 2020-2021 campaign was halted on multiple occasions due to the COVID-19 issues. The impact of those games being postponed or canceled played a part in the momentum being built. But overall, Memphis was able to finish the season on a positive note by winning the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) by defeating the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Winning the NIT was not the Tigers’ goal at the beginning of the season. But the way that Memphis looked during the NIT tournament could be a forecast of things to come for the following season. Let’s take a look at a few takeaways that shaped the Memphis Tigers 2020-2021 season outlook.
1. Loses Earlier in the Season Played A Huge Part in Not Qualifying for the tournament
The Tigers started the season on a sour note as they lose essential games to teams such as VCU, Western Kentucky, and Auburn. The loss versus those three teams combined with COVID-19 issues was a sign of things to come for the Tigers this year.
The odds of qualifying for the tournament were always slim due to those defeats earlier in the season. Memphis’ tournament hopes were finally slashed after losing two close games to eventual Final Four representative the Houston Cougars.
2 Turnovers Issues and Missed Free Throws Carried Over from the Following Season
Many bad habits carried over from the following season for the Memphis Tigers basketball team. However, the two most significant miscues were the team’s inability to make free throws and committing turnovers at critical times. There were games where Memphis was in complete control until team members became careless with handling the basketball.
Memphis would win many of those games, but the scores were closer than they should have been due to numerous turnovers being committed. Regarding the free throws, how many games would the Tigers have won if the shots behind the line went in?
3. The Team Performed A Lot Better Down the Stretch Compared to Last Season
By far, the biggest takeaway of the Memphis Tigers 2020-2021 season was that they showed improvement as the year came to a close. The noticeable issues in the regular season while playing in the AAC did not come into play during the NIT tournament. Memphis looked like a locked-in team and determined to show that they belong among the 68 programs playing in the NCAA tournament.
During their run through the NIT, Boise State was the only team that appeared to give the Tigers’ a bit of trouble. Memphis finished the year with a 20-8 record and placed third overall in the American Athletic Conference. The team finished the year strong despite dealing with issues such as COVID-19 pauses, and losing two heartbreaking games to the Houston Cougars.
The selection committee would not allow Memphis to be a part of the field of 68. But the way that they performed at the end of the year showed that they were capable of making a deep run in this year’s NCAA tournament.
Analyzing the Departure of Three Impact Players Within the Program
On Thursday, it was reported that players Damon Baugh, Boogie Ellis, DJ Jeffries have entered the transfer portal. The reactions around the Memphis fanbase have been mixed for the most part. However, the fanbase needs to realize that Coach Hardaway will fill the void that the three players left behind. Despite the departure of Baugh, Ellis, and Jeffries, their production can be replaced. Hardaway has the program pointed in the right direction, but continuity among the players must be established.
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Photo courtesy of USATSI.