The Tigers have an embarrassment of riches at guard. A group with both starters and both backups returning adds Rivals.com's No. 2 prospect in the country, point guard Derrick Rose. He'll start from Day One because he's that good and he makes everyone else that much better. He's 6 feet 4, lightning quick, strong with the ball and distributes well. Rose understands the benefits of getting everyone involved, and he can take over offensively if necessary. He's a winner, and he could be the missing ingredient to a national-title run.
Rose will start alongside Antonio Anderson, one of John Calipari's "glue" guys. Anderson is the leader in the locker room. He's the Tigers' best defender, and he's a big effort guy. He'll do all of the little things – set up teammates (team-leading 3.6 apg), dive for loose balls (led the team with 59 steals), rebound (4.1 per game). Anderson by far had the Tigers' best assist-to-turnover ratio (2.6-1). He's not a good shooter (39 percent, including 24.5 percent from 3-point range), but he'll benefit from Rose's presence.
Chris Douglas-Roberts returns after averaging better than 15 points a game last season.
The real outside threat is 6-5 sophomore Doneal Mack. He shot 40.5 percent from 3-point range (47-of-116) and averaged 7.1 ppg despite playing less than 15 mpg. The only significant loss from last year's roster is gunner Jeremy Hunt (his 386 shots were more than anybody on the team; his 233 3-point attempts were 100 more than any other Tiger). Mack, a smooth-shooting lefty, should pick up some of the slack in the 3-pointers department.
Willie Kemp, who started all but one game last season as a freshman, will move to the bench and could spell either Rose or Anderson. He could play more at shooting guard this season after starting at the point last season. He actually shot better from outside the arc (38.6 percent) than inside it (37.4).
Senior point guard Andre Allen, a good distributor (second on the team in assists) and solid defender, also provides quality depth.
Calipari has talked of utilizing a four-guard lineup on occasion to take advantage of the guards' ability to drive and create.
It's hard to believe, but the frontcourt is loaded, too. All three starters return, and there's a quality newcomer as well.
Small forward Chris Douglas-Roberts was the leading scorer last season. The 6-foot-6 Douglas-Roberts can create his own shot as well as any player at his position. His long arms allow him to shoot over people easily, and he can put the ball on the floor and get past people. He's not a big threat from 3-point range (only 19 of 58), but he's smart offensively. He rarely takes bad shots, and he can finish in the paint. Douglas-Roberts finished second on the team in field-goal percentage (54.3 percent, fourth in Conference USA).
Center Joey Dorsey is an intimidating presence. At 6 feet 9 and 260 pounds, he has amazing agility and leaping ability. He led Conference USA in rebounding and was second in blocks and field-goal percentage. He also was second on the Tigers and 10th in C-USA in steals. When he's dialed in and under control, the Tigers are almost unbeatable.
The other starter up front is 6-9 Robert Dozier, an unassuming guy who plays a big role for the Tigers. He was seventh in C-USA in rebounding and blocks. His 7-3 wingspan makes him especially dangerous on defense and, with Dorsey, on the offensive glass.
Shawn Taggart, a 6-10 transfer from Iowa State who averaged 5.6 ppg and 3.6 rpg in his freshman season in Ames, will push for playing time. Word out of Memphis is that he has played well in pickup games this summer.
Calipari is a proponent of a dribble-drive offense, and he clearly has enough guards to make it work. The goal is to break down defenders and get shots while going to the rim or draw extra defenders and kick out for open 3-pointers. With that in mind, the Tigers might utilize some three- and even four-guard lineups. The coaches figure they can get away with it because Rose, Anderson and Douglas-Roberts rebound well for their size.
Because of the depth, look for the Tigers to pick up three-quarter court and pressure more than they have in recent seasons. Calipari is a proponent of man-to-man, and the Tigers' guards can get after people. They also have big-time erasers behind them.
Outlook with postseason forecast
The Tigers are primed for a run at the national title. They have talent, size, quickness and depth at every position. The non-conference schedule is a doozy, but it's designed to push this team in a way that Conference USA has been unable to in the past two seasons (Memphis is 29-1 in C-USA during that time). The schedule includes USC, Georgetown, Arizona, Gonzaga and Tennessee, not to mention a possible date with Kentucky or Connecticut at the 2K College Hoops Classic final at Madison Square Garden. Those are the kinds of games that will get Calipari's team ready for a deep NCAA Tournament run. Anything less than a Final Four appearance would be a disappointment.
Shoes to Fill
G Jeremy Hunt (14.1 ppg, 89 3-pointers).
Must Step Up
Joey Dorsey. Memphis has lost four games each of the past two seasons. In those eight games, Dorsey fouled out of four of them and had four fouls in the other four. The Tigers need his presence on the inside. He brings a level of intensity and intimidation that simply isn't there without him.
Rose. The Chicago native is generating big-time buzz on Beale Street. If he's as good as advertised, no one will be singing the blues in Memphis in March.
Bob McClellan is a national basketball writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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