Rematch: Memphis Gives No. 1 Kansas First Big Test of the Season

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CJ Golightly
Big12Hoops Contributor
sports@big12hoops.com

Two of the nation's top teams face their first big test of the season in a re-match of the 2008 NCAA Tournament Championship game.

Rookie head coach Josh Pastner leads a new-look Memphis team, headlined by youth and inexperience, into the post-John Calipari era following his exit to head the Kentucky program.

Bill Self's Kansas team features one of the deepest rosters in school history, along with a No. 1 pre-season ranking in every major poll.

Relentless and driven, yet young and unproven, Pastner gets his first chance to make a splash as a head coach as the Tigers and Jayhawks face off once again, this time with considerably less on the line.

Exacting sweet revenge on Bill Self and Kansas would immediately endear him to the hearts of Tiger-loving hoops fans everywhere. Upsetting a national championship contender in the second week of the season is a fantastic way of erasing any lingering skepticism from the fanbase.

The Tigers have enjoyed remarkable success at the national level the last few years. This season, expectations have been tempered; the ear-ringing buzz has evolved into more of a low hum. If the New Tigers are still worthy of some national attention, this is their chance to shout it to the world.

Analyzing the Jayhawks and Tigers

Backcourt: Duke transfer Elliot Williams should make an immediate impact at Memphis. He is a talented offensive player and should blossom into a star for Pastner. Robert Sallie is an outstanding three point shooter. He will have an expanded role this season and will be relied on to do much more than just shoot. Senior Willie Kemp brings experience and must provide some consistency.

Doneal Mack is the Tigers best individual defender, and his services as a stopper will be needed. Explosive and versatile wingman Wesley Weatherspoon will also be counted on to slow down the bevy of dangerous athletes at Self's disposal.

The Kansas backcourt is led by senior Sherron Collins, a preseason candidate for National Player of the Year. He's a terrific shooter and an outstanding penetrator. He has quickness, and strength, and can score in a variety of ways. He's also an experienced leader that provides everything a coach could hope for from a point guard.  

Jayhawk blue chip freshman Xavier Henry is an elite talent. He's an incredible scorer, a ridiculous athlete, and a matchup nightmare. He'll combine with productive and versatile sophomore Tyshawn Taylor along with Collins, forming one of the most dangerous and explosive backcourts in America.

Advantage Kansas. The Memphis guards are the strength of the team, but this Kansas group is special. 

Frontcourt: Kansas big man Cole Aldrich is a defensive game changer. He blocks shots and rebounds as well as anyone in the country. Like teammate Sherron Collins, Aldrich is a preseason favorite for National Player of the Year. Twin brothers Marcus and Markieff Morris provide additional size up front for the Jayhawks.  Both are athletic workhorses who contribute at both ends. The Jayhawk front court is rock solid as well.

For the Tigers, Will Coleman is the man in the middle. Coleman is uniquely explosive and powerful. Though raw, his combination of power and leaping ability make him a low post force. Coleman will team up with a slimmed down (to approximately 275 pounds) Pierre Henderson-Niles to battle the formidable Kansas frontline.

Advantage Kansas: The Aldrich/Coleman matchup is intriguing, as they play similar roles but in very different ways. Coleman relies on his timing and explosive hops to block shots and snatch rebounds, where Aldrich utilizes his size and length to bother and send back shot attempts. Aldrich is, however, a proven entity and a much more complete player. Toss in the Morris twins, and the Jayhawks clearly get the nod up front. 

Overall

Pastner and his young squad face an onerous task. The Jayhawks are a legitimate national title contender. They have size, strength, athleticism, skill, and depth. They have one of the best coaches in the country., one of the best point guards in the country and one of the best big men in the country. They are truly a powerhouse.

Ultimately, the Tigers should struggle to cope with the overwhelming depth and talent of the Jayhawks. While there isn't a remarkable discrepancy between the two groups of starters, the dropoff from the first to the second unit of Memphis will be difficult to overcome. This season, they must make a habit of simply wearing their opponent down.

The Kansas Jayhawks are the Ivan Drago of the NCAA. It will take a Rocky Balboan effort for the Tigers to escape with a victory.  

Regardless of outcome, it promises to be an entertaining affair.

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