Saturday, August 07, 2010

Memphis Loses Will Barton... Probably

Josh Pastner appears to have lost the crown jewel of his first ever recruiting class at Memphis, as Will Barton (arguably the top shooting guard recruit in the nation) was ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA. He has the right to appeal, but every indication is that an appeal would be futile and he will have to sit out the year. He presumably will go straight into the 2011 NBA Draft and will never suit up for Memphis.

Under normal circumstances this wouldn't be a total disaster for Memphis, because they still have a very strong recruiting class. They still have three true blue chipper remaining (point guard Joe Jackson, swing forward Jelan Kendrick and 6'8" forward Tarik Black), as well as a few other quality kids who might have bright futures.

But that said, Memphis returns almost nothing from last year's team. From their seven man regular rotation they lost three to graduation, one to the NBA, and another to what effectively was a transfer. The only key returners are Will Coleman and Wesley Witherspoon. Angel Garcia is another decent returner. All three of those players are 6'9" or taller, and will presumably make up the Memphis frontline, along with Tarik Black. With Will Barton gone, Josh Pastner might choose to go tall and start Jelan Kendrick in the back court with Joe Jackson. But that will mean a very, very thin bench.

This will be a key season for Memphis. Pastner put together a big 2010 recruiting class, but it all came together before he'd even coached a game. He's involved with a lot of big names from the 2011 class, but none of those have committed yet. He will get a pass for missing the 2010 NCAA Tournament, but the team has to get back in 2011. If it becomes clear that they will no longer be elite with John Calipari gone, the top recruits will go away. Memphis also will hope to impress the major conferences enough to get included if the conferences jumble teams again. So the 2010-11 season will be about more than just the 2011 NCAA Tournament for Memphis. It will have big implications, and the Will Barton loss is just going to make things more difficult.

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