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Tigers Basketball Insider: Hardaway will face tough rotation decisions upon return
Tigers coach Penny Hardaway tries to get his team's attention from the sideline during a Feb. 12, 2023 game against Temple. (Patrick Lantrip/The Daily Memphian file)

Tigers coach Penny Hardaway tries to get his team's attention from the sideline during a Feb. 12, 2023 game against Temple. (Patrick Lantrip/The Daily Memphian file)

Welcome to this week’s Tigers Basketball Insider. Below you’ll find the latest news and analysis from The Daily Memphian’s Parth Upadhyaya, John Martin and Tim Buckley. 

Besides the obvious, something encouraging for Memphis fans to see in the Tigers’ win over Missouri on Friday may have been the team’s shrunken rotation in the second half.

After a first half in which 10 different players played at least five minutes, acting head coach Rick Stansbury chose to play just seven players five or more minutes after halftime. The strategy proved effective as the Tigers settled in both offensively and defensively and dug themselves out of what was once a 14-point hole to secure a 15-point victory.


In all, eight players logged double-digit minutes against Mizzou: Jahvon Quinerly (34 minutes), Caleb Mills (33), Jaykwon Walton (33), David Jones (28), Jordan Brown (17), Jayden Hardaway (17), Nick Jourdain (14) and Malcolm Dandridge (11). 

This type of focus on a core rotation seemingly allowed the team to establish roles in real time and guys to find a rhythm instead of being pulled out of the game at every media timeout. 

With Memphis taking on Alabama State on Friday at FedExForum (7 p.m., ESPN+) — a game against one of the worst teams in college basketball — it’s perhaps likely that we’ll see 10 or 11 players get significant playing time.

But when coach Penny Hardaway returns from his three-game NCAA suspension on Nov. 22 in the Tigers’ first game in the Battle 4 Atlantis, against Michigan, he will have a choice: Pick up where Stansbury left off, or employ the by-committee approach he’s leaned on often throughout his six years at the helm.

Hardaway told me last month that he would opt toward playing a deep rotation this season because of the amount of talent (eight highly touted transfers, three four-star freshmen and two returnees) he has on the roster. He doubled down on this point after the team’s Nov. 2 exhibition game versus LeMoyne-Owen.


But he just as easily could see what’s worked for the Tigers under Stansbury — at least in the small sample size we’ve gotten — and change his mind. 

The way Hardaway goes about shaping his regular rotation will be all the more interesting because of the timing of his return.

After Memphis’ game against Alabama State, the Tigers don’t have another tuneup game until their Dec. 30 non-conference finale against Austin Peay. Hardaway’s first nine contests back will be with teams all ranked No. 117 or better in KenPom’s college basketball ratings. Some of those marquee matchups include ones against Texas A&M (No. 15 in KenPom), Michigan (No. 23), Virginia (No. 24) and Clemson (No. 49) — not to mention whomever the Tigers draw in their second and third games next week in the Battle 4 Atlantis. 

We’re about to learn a lot more about the makeup of this Memphis team, and much of what we find out will have to do with what Hardaway does with his rotation.

More from your Insider:

Quinerly feels closer to his ‘old self,’ leads Memphis to win at Mizzou

Less than two weeks after returning from yet another knee injury, Jahvon Quinerly orchestrated a second-half comeback in the visiting Tigers’ win Friday at Missouri.

Memphis uses monster second half to grab win at Mizzou

The visiting Tigers trailed by as many as 14 in the first half before flipping a switch.

Martin: For these Tigers, anything is possible

Memphis fans saw their Tigers make a statement that, finally, this year is going to be different. 

Box score: Memphis 70, Missouri 55

NCAA box score for Friday’s men’s basketball game between the Memphis Tigers and Missouri Tigers played in Columbia, Missouri.

Tigers roll past Hornets for first victory in the Simmons era

Madison Griggs and Raven Sims combine for 34 points in a dominant performance.

Hardaway hopes to see more fight when Memphis visits Missouri

Tigers were out-rebounded in season-opening win over Jackson State; coach Penny Hardaway felt they took “some plays off.”

Tigers podcast: Seth Henigan’s status, breaking down basketball opener win

Host Greg Gaston and Tigers football beat reporter Frank Bonner speculate on quarterback Seth Henigan’s injury status. In the second half of this episode, basketball beat writer Parth Upadhyaya and Gaston break down Memphis’ season-opening win over Jackson State.

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