21. Memphis (10-2)
With their AAC schedule likely not offering many opportunities, these Tigers have sure taken advantage of a rigid nonconference slate. Losses to Villanova and unbeaten Ole Miss weren’t disasters, especially since the Tigers won at Missouri and Texas A&M, at neutral-sites over Michigan and Arkansas, and more recently against a then-unbeaten Clemson squad. That trend of success continued this week, giving Memphis fans quite the Christmas treat.
The Tigers secured a second straight win over a ranked squad with a fantastic performance in a 77-54 win against Virginia. David Jones led the charge with 26 points, spearheading one of the Tigers’ best all-around performances this season. They were in for a scare on Saturday, barely surviving 77-75 at home against Vanderbilt. Jones was again fantastic, scoring 28 points as Memphis charged back after a slight halftime deficit, taking care of business against their in-state rivals.
Penny Hardaway’s team has the potential to make serious noise this season and they’ve proven that with their performance in these first few months. You could argue that many of these teams have been underwhelming, but Memphis doesn’t care. They’ve played almost as well as possible, survived most of these scares, and have just Austin Peay between them and the start of AAC play.