Josh Pastner, Memphis are on the rise

When John Calipari left for Kentucky, there were some detractors who said the program would go downhill. Well my friends, if the performance against Kansas is any indication, as well as an amazing recruiting class for 2010, reports of the Tiger demise are premature.

Memphis played its heart out against the No. 1 Jayhawks. Eliot Williams almost hit a game-winner for shock city, but it was not meant to be.

Give credit to first-year coach Josh Pastner. He had his kids ready to play and they did a super job on the defensive end. Memphis is going to win a lot of games this season with its quickness and defensive ability.

Pastner chased his dream and he is ready to meet the challenge. Conference USA, watch out... I know a lot of people picked Tulsa, and the conference tournament is there in Oklahoma. Houston has a solid backcourt and will be heard from. Don't count out this Tiger team, which has won 61 straight conference games (including the postseason tournament) since a loss to UAB.

For Memphis to be successful this season, it will have to hit trifectas. This is a team that is limited offensively in the interior. This guard-oriented team will also try to run and score in transition. The lack of size inside is a problem.

Pastner is also concerned about rebounding. Two key players will be Wesley Witherspoon and Will Coleman, who must produce in the paint to give balance to the attack.

Williams has worked hard on his jump shot. He is a solid defender who will help the Tigers. Guys like Roburt Sallie, Doneal Mack and Willie Kemp have to be consistent scorers outside.

Using dribble-penetration and then kicking the ball out to shooters is going to be another key for Memphis.

Remember, this is a program that lost a lot more than just Calipari. Tyreke Evans was a high draft pick. Robert Dozier and Antonio Anderson were veterans who contributed a lot. This program won 137 games over four years, and it will not be easy to duplicate that kind of success.

Pastner knows the future is solid since he is a recruiting machine. He has landed a number of talented players for next season, led by Will Barton, who is ranked in the top 10 of most services.

Memphis fans have to be patient. This is an athletic team with tremendous potential in the future. The expectations may have grown after pushing the top-ranked team in America to the limit.