For the University of Memphis, the word of the week is conference. Conference! Conference! Conference!
by J.R. Moorhead
Special to the Tri-State Defender
For the University of Memphis, the word of the week is conference.
| Memphis Athletics Director R.C. Johnson ushers in Memphis’ future in the Big East Conference during a press conference Wednesday. (Photo by Jennifer Marie Rodrigues)|
In the last week, Memphis has achieved its first “signature” non-conference win, returned to the top of the Conference USA standings, and merged into the Big East Conference.
Last Saturday (Feb. 4), The Tigers took on the Xavier Musketeers at the FedExForum. The game was an unusually late non-conference game, but judging by preseason rankings, it was supposed to be a top 25 match up made for ESPN.
Unfortunately for the big networks, both teams were sitting at 15-7. The game wasn’t on ESPN, but it should have been. The Tigers put on their best performance of the year.
With Memphis trailing by 10 with 10 minutes left in the game, Xavier seemed to have an answer for everything the Tigers had to offer. But as time ticked down, Memphis made a late run. As the crowd went ballistic, the Tigers made an epic comeback and topped the Musketeers by a final of 72-68.
Head Coach Josh Pastner said he believed that the crowd actually “willed the team to victory.”
Next, the Tigers were headed to Greensville, N. Car., where were slated to play the Pirates of East Carolina. Memphis beat the Pirates handily by a score of 70-59. It was a big conference win for the Tigers, considering they need to win out to have a chance at wearing the conference crown.
On Wednesday (Feb. 8), the win in Greensville might not have been the most important variable for Memphis, but rather the fact that Southern Miss lost to UAB. The stumble for USM puts them into a tie in conference with Memphis. Both now have two losses each.
The tunnel is getting brighter and Memphis seems to be on a one-way trip to the big dance, but it still isn’t a shoe in for the Tigers.
Aside from all these games and how the season is going, Memphis is making moves. The Tigers are headed to the Big East.
This move is huge for the Tigers. HUGE!
Many thought Memphis would never be able to move to a bigger conference. The basketball team is competitive, but the football program is less than desirable.
With a new head coach for the Tigers’ football team and a possible pipeline to Texas recruits, Memphis’ football program has nowhere to go but up….Literally.
As for basketball, the Big East would definitely be a step up in competition. The Tigers would not be a favorite to win the conference every season.
They will be playing the Louisville Cardinals every year, not to mention UConn and Cincinnati. Things will definitely get tougher, as they should.
For now, Memphis hopes that the step up will bring better recruits to both teams and an automatic bid to a BCS game for the football team, if they won the conference.
There are no guarantees in sports. Memphis could continue to grow as an athletic whole, or falter with the switch in conference.
Play on, Tigers! Time will tell.