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Tigers Basketball Insider: What areas can Memphis make the biggest strides on offense?
Memphis Tigers head coach Penny Hardaway motions to his team during a Feb. 6, 2021 game against ECU at the FedExForum. (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian file)

Memphis Tigers head coach Penny Hardaway motions to his team during a Feb. 6, 2021 game against ECU at the FedExForum. (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian file)

Hello, and welcome to this week’s Tigers Basketball Insider. Below you’ll find the latest news and analysis from The Daily Memphian’s Steven Johnson and Geoff Calkins.

The Tigers were arguably the best defensive team in the country last season and have regularly been elite in that area since Penny Hardaway took over.

The offense has been much more of a work in progress and in order for the Tigers to reach their potential, it’s the one area where they must take a big leap in.


It wasn’t all bad on offense for the Tigers last season, per Memphis was 21st in the country with 16 assists per game and 18th in assists per field goals made.

Clearly the Tigers don’t have a problem sharing the ball and the offense should make improvements alone with the arrival of five-star freshmen Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren.

But they can’t cover all the holes fans witnessed last season. To be blunt, Memphis was woeful behind the free throw line. The Tigers hit on just 61 percent of their attempts, a number that was ranked in the 300s.

Improving that number alone would be a big boost to an offense that averaged 72.4 points per game, slightly above average.

The Tigers also struggled at times converting easy baskets inside the paint, Memphis shot just 49 percent on two-point attempts in 2020-21. This is where having players like Duren and slasher Earl Timberlake could help.


Duren’s ability to generate easy points on second chances is much needed and getting to the lane is the strength of Timberlake’s offensive game.

And of course turnovers were a major issue with the Tigers averaging 15.6 per game. Adding even more context, Memphis’ turnover per play rate was 18.5 percent. In other words nearly one-fifth of the Tigers’ possessions ended in a turnover.

Some of that is the pace the Tigers like to play at sometimes which is excusable, but more often it came down to bad decision making. Passing out of shots and things of that nature.

Turnovers could still be an issue this season especially with Bates making the transition to point guard early on. Memphis can manage through those growing pains if it can just be a more efficient offense.

That means converting in the paint, contested or not. Cutting down on the live ball turnovers and continuing to show improvement on making open looks behind the arc. 

Effort has never been a problem under Hardaway, it’s been the execution that’s lacking. The addition of Larry Brown should help in this regard, especially with in-game adjustments.

In this era of college basketball you need both a solid defense and an imposing offense to be a legitimate contender. Gonzaga, Baylor and Houston were all ranked top 10 in offensive efficiency last season with the defense to match. The Tigers were 184th.

Does Memphis need a top 10 offense to make a deep tournament run? No, but the Tigers definitely need to be inside the top 100, probably the top 50 or else advancing in March could be more difficult than anticipated.

More from your Insider: 

What I’m hearing: A trimmer Quinones, and Duren impresses

Plus, updates on how the Lawson brothers and Jalen Duren are looking. 

Memphis basketball mailbag: What’s Quinones’ role? Can the Tigers go 10-deep?

We address how things might go with the addition of two superstar freshmen, and what the conference realignments mean to the Tigers basketball team.

Rudd, Veatch and AAC commissioner Mike Aresco weigh in on Big 12 news

U of M’s president and athletic director assert: “The final whistle hasn’t blown.”

U of M comes to aid of former Tigers basketball player Tim Duncan

Duncan, now the athletic director at the University of New Orleans, called his alma mater when the Privateers needed help in the wake of Hurricane Ida.

Three-star guard Zocko Littleton decommits from Memphis

The Tigers lost one commitment, but still have their eyes on more big names for 2022.

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