Conference play has not started for the Memphis Tigers, but tensions around the program are high with eight games into the season. Memphis is on a three-game losing streak after starting the season with a 5-0 record. Things began to go in the wrong direction after the Tigers’ 19-point defeat by the Iowa State Cyclones during the NIT Season Tip-Off.
Memphis has struggled to get back on the winning side of the spectrum from there on out. They would lose to an inferior opponent in the Georgia Bulldogs (82-79), then the Ole Miss Rebels (67-63).
The back-to-back games against the SEC opponents were winnable, but Memphis struggling in areas such as free throws and turnovers has led to issues that have hampered them in the past. After the game with Ole Miss, head coach Penny Hardaway called out team members without giving names on who he was talking about.
“We’ve got so much negativity in our locker room with veterans being jealous,” Hardaway stated in a telephone interview with The Athletic after Saturday’s loss. “Everybody’s trying to get to the NBA off the ranking we had, but nobody is willing to sacrifice minutes, touches, anything. It’s been miserable. You can imagine what a 17-year-old is thinking as he’s trying to figure it out.”
Hardaway’s critique of the team had everyone wondering what type of vibe is the Memphis Men’s Basketball Program on right now. When he mentioned issues of veterans being jealous and players not willing to sacrifice for the team’s greater good, it makes you wonder if Hardaway is still learning how to be a coach at the collegiate level.
Establishing a veteran presence on the court should be something that he should know well before his college head coach career even starts. The reality is that even though the players that he has recruited out of high school may have a four to five-star rating, that does not necessarily mean it will transfer over to the NBA. One of those players would have to sacrifice for the advancement of the team.
Hardaway’s making those comments in year four of his tenure is baffling. However, with everything that is occurred during the three-game losing streak, the Tigers still have an opportunity to improve as a team. The issues of not playing as one team and other game-changing such as missing free three throws and sporadic play, must be addressed immediately. He has a sound basketball mind in Larry Brown that he needs to be reaching out for feedback on how to handle the various personalities. Also, more pressure needs to be put on the players when making free throws.
The Tigers could have won if free throws were made in the contest against Ole Miss. Not understanding the basics of winning games may cost this program another shot at an NCAA tournament bid. Up next for the Tigers is a home game against Murray State, followed by another back-to-back SEC showdown with Alabama and Tennessee. During the upcoming four-game stretch, it’s best that the Tigers can go 4-1 before conference play starts on December 29.
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