Miami-Memphis Preview

Memphis had high expectations entering this season, but after
just one game, it’s already dealing with its share of
adversity.

Two days after announcing Jelan Kendrick had been dropped from
the team, the No. 19 Tigers will have to put several distracting
incidents behind them as they host Miami on Monday.

Memphis came into this season with a promising recruiting class
and hopes of another NCAA tournament run after finishing runner-up
in 2009.

While several key returnees were one reason for the increased
expectations, the Tigers also were counting on a talented freshman
class led by Kendrick, a McDonald’s All-American guard, and Will
Barton.

However, coach Josh Pastner announced Saturday that Kendrick,
who was a top 10 prospect, is no longer with the program. The
6-foot-6 guard from Atlanta missed two weeks of preseason practice
for “personal reasons” and had just been reinstated Nov. 4.

“After meeting with Jelan today, we decided it was best that we
part ways,” said Pastner. “We are grateful and thankful for his
time with the Memphis program, and we wish him all the best.”

Kendrick was just one problem Pastner, in his second year as
coach of the Tigers, has had to deal with early in the season.
Barton was initially ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA
before Memphis successfully appealed to overturn that decision in
April.

Then, Chris Crawford didn’t start in a 104-40 win over Centenary
on Friday night because of an academic issue, and junior Wesley
Witherspoon was benched until the second half because he was late
for a team meeting.

“My big thing is there are consequences for actions,” Pastner
said. “I’m a big believer in that.”

None of that proved to be a distraction in the opener. Crawford
hit all six shots from the field, including four 3-pointers, to
finish with 16 points. Antonio Barton had 17 points to lead the
Tigers, who shot 55 percent and went 14 of 27 from 3-point
range.

While Memphis led by as many as 65 points, the Tigers expect to
get a much tougher test from Miami, which opened its season with an
89-77 win over Jacksonville on Friday.

“We have a tough game Monday. Miami is a good team,” Pastner
said. “They’re a top-four team in the ACC and a potential NCAA
tournament team. They are really, really good. They have guys in
the backcourt. They’re athletic. This will be a great test for
us.”

The Hurricanes started 15-1 in 2009-10, but finished last in the
ACC after going 5-12 down the stretch.

Still, they are optimistic about improving. Miami had 10
different players start at least four games last season and seven
of them return. Durand Scott, the top returning scorer, averaged
10.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists as a freshman.

Scott had 20 points and six assists in the win over the Dolphins
while Malcolm Grant had 23 points, shooting 4 of 6 from 3-point
range. Miami took the lead for good with a 12-0 run midway through
the second half.

“Our schedule’s heavy early on,” coach Frank Haith said. “It’s
very important to get that first win. … We’re going to have the
same type of game Monday.”

Memphis is 6-5 all-time against Miami, but has lost three of
four, including the most recent, meeting in 2000.