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Memphis basketball begins exhibition play tomorrow. Here’s what fans can look out for.

Memphis fans have at least three things to watch for tomorrow afternoon.
By Roman Cleary - October 28, 2023, 9:19 pm - 0 comments

Memphis basketball takes the court for the first time since March in an exhibition game versus Lane College tomorrow at 2 p.m. inside FedExForum.

The game is not expected to be livestreamed nor televised. But fans who cannot attend can still tune in to the radio broadcast on News Talk 98.9—The Roar of Memphis or keep track of the live stats on

Penny Hardaway’s Tigers are coming off the heels of a monumental off-season, in which they added 11 new scholarship players—eight transfers and three freshmen. They’re also still hoping to return All-AAC forward DeAndre Williams, welcome 4-star freshman guard Mikey Williams or do both.

With where things stand right now, Memphis is unranked in the AP Top 25 poll but is still a highly regarded team nationally. CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander ranked the Tigers No. 27 in his Top 100 and 1 teams, Jon Rothstein—also of CBS Sports—has called them a dark-horse for this season’s Final Four and Memphis still received seven votes in the AP poll. Computer metrics like KenPom and rank Memphis No. 32 and 30 respectively. The latter would pin the Tigers as the No. 9 team in the country if DeAndre Williams becomes eligible.

Memphis was voted the preseason No. 2 team in the AAC behind Florida Atlantic, who beat the Tigers in the Round of 64 of last season’s NCAA Tournament. The Owls went on to advance to the Final Four before losing at the buzzer to NCAA runner-up San Diego State. They then returned all five starters from last season’s team that won more games than any other in the country, including guards Johnell Davis and Alijah Martin, and are now the preseason No. 10 team in the AP Poll.

The Tigers also received two All-AAC preseasons selections, with Alabama transfer point guard Jahvon Quinerly landing on the first team and Louisiana transfer center Jordan Brown landing on the second team. Quinerly and Brown received additional preseason honors nationally. The former was named to the watchlist for the Bob Cousy Award—given annually to the nation’s best point guard—and the latter is on the watchlist for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award—given annually to the nation’s best center.

After all the talk and preseason hype Memphis has received, fans will finally get a glimpse of what the 2023-24 Tigers are made of tomorrow afternoon.

“It’s time to put everything we’ve been practicing to the test,” senior guard Jayden Hardaway said during Wednesday’s media availability. “We’re all super excited [and] amped up, you know, just to get in [FedExForum] and that environment. It’s new for a lot of guys on this team. So just to share that experience with them for their first time [in FedExForum] is going to be special.”

New Faces

It’s been said and referenced many times by both media and fans alike, but that doesn’t make it any less true nor relevant.

Quinerly and Brown are far from the only new faces on Memphis’ team this year. Other star transfers like Caleb Mills (Florida State), David Jones (St. John’s) and Jaykwon Walton (Wichita State) will also make their Tiger debuts tomorrow, as will freshman wings Ashton Hardaway, JJ Taylor and Carl Cherenfant.

This team may not be new to college basketball, but they’re still very new to each other. This makes exhibition games like tomorrow’s that much more important, especially considering the daunting non-conference slate ahead for Memphis. The Tigers will participate in the Battle 4 Atlantis and face many opponents from both the SEC and ACC.

The good news is Penny Hardaway doesn’t seem overly concerned about the Tigers’ lack of experience playing together, saying Wednesday that this year’s team is meshing quicker than the 2022-23 Tigers, even though that team was also laden with new players and late arrivals.

“The difference is this team is more connected,” he said. “It’s more about the team than it is about individuals. So, the guys are further along.”

And what exactly attributes to that difference?

“I think [the] guys [are] just meshing, coming together and really liking one another,” he said. “[They’re] hanging out together off the court more, talking more in the locker room [and] out on the court. I can just see that they really enjoy being around each other first, then they enjoy playing together as well.”

Pecking Order Amongst Top Stars

Memphis is one of the most experienced and talented teams in all of college basketball this season. There’s almost no denying that.

But that can be as much of a curse as it is a blessing. The Tigers have four players—Mills, Jones, Walton and Brown—that averaged at least 13 points per game last season. Quinerly would’ve likely done so as well if not for a torn ACL suffered during the 2022 NCAA Tournament. Those five will probably make up Memphis’ starting lineup tomorrow afternoon, per Hardaway. But at least one of them, if not two or three, will not be able to match his production from last season. This conundrum could get even more complicated if DeAndre Williams is able to return.

Hardaway and his staff must decide the pecking order amongst all these talented players and keep everyone bought in regardless of one’s role. It’ll be interesting to see how Memphis handles this.

Will the Tigers have the same top options every night? Will they simply role with who has the hot hand? Will they have a more spread out system where everyone’s getting a similar amount of touches?

While an answer to this almost certainly isn’t coming tomorrow afternoon, perhaps fans will get an idea of what Memphis is thinking in terms of a pecking order right now.

Will any of the Tigers’ freshmen stand out?

Though Memphis will heavily rely on its veterans this season, it’s still hopeful for significant contributions from at least one of its three freshmen wings—Ashton Hardaway, Taylor and Cherenfant.

All three had their moments in the Dominican Republic back in August, with Cherenfant proving to be the most consistent of the bunch. The 6-foot-5 wing showed great efficiency in the Tigers’ three exhibition games, scoring 10 points in game one, 9 in game two and 9 in game three. He also played well defensively and gave the team a spark on both ends of the floor. A 4-star recruit, Cherenfant has a chance to be a fan-favorite this season.

Ashton Hardaway made his presence felt in the Tigers’ final two games during the trip, showing off both his range and scoring ability. In game two, he scored 11 points while shooting 3-6 from three-point range. In game three, he put up 13 while shooting 3-8 from beyond the arc. The youngest Hardaway can certainly find his way into the rotation if he proves to be a valuable asset from the perimeter.

Taylor is probably the biggest project of the three, but he also might be the most talented. Though he didn’t do much in Memphis’ first two games in the Dominican Republic, he exploded for a monster performance in the third. The 6-foot-7 wing was the team’s second leading scorer with 22 points while shooting 64.3% from the field and 33.3% from three-point range in an 85-63 Memphis victory. Brown just beat him out with 23 points. Taylor also showed good instincts defensively throughout the trip and played better than almost anybody expected. He may not earn much playing time this season, but he could definitely be an important piece in the future if Memphis can convince him to stick around long-term.

Tomorrow’s exhibition gives all three a chance to further solidify or improve their roles for this season.


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