Riddle me this on college basketball’s most underappreciated sleeping giant.
It’s one of six teams still unbeaten in conference play, one of only five with a McDonald’s All-American represented in each of its last three recruiting classes and the lesser of two schools riding a winning streak in excess of 15 games. Above all, it’s the only team in the land to meet all of the aforesaid criteria.
This mystery team owns just three losses – the last coming to a top-10 opponent in mid-December – against teams rated in both the RPI Top 35 and KenPom Top 20. While quality wins have been hard to come by, the team sports a +11.6 per-game scoring margin and waxed its biggest conference competitor by double figures on the road.
The profile doesn’t match the reputation — that of an undependable team bound to follow in the path of previous program underachievers. Just this past week, the school in question earned a spot in the polls for the first time in nearly three months, this despite a 22-3 record in a respected mid-major league.
Enough is enough. It’s time to give Josh Pastner’s blustery boys their due (as our rankings have).
Memphis, the team no hoops fan trusts but no wary opponent wants to play, is begging for notice. Consider it warranted after a 13-point pasting of Southern Miss in Hattiesburg followed by a 22-point thrashing of Central Florida four days later. In the span of one week, the Tigers dusted their top two challengers for Conference-USA supremacy, opening up a real possibility the team runs the table the rest of the way.
Not bad for a squad few people around the sport take seriously.