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VOL. 131 | NO. 33 | Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Big Year for Barton; Tigers Can Earn AAC Bye

By Don Wade

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Former University of Memphis Tiger Will Barton competed in the Slam Dunk Contest at the NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto. He got good reviews on his first-round dunk; things didn’t go so well after that.

Will Barton is having a solid year.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

But that’s not the main story here anyway. Barton has become a solid rotation player after being the 40th overall pick, by Portland, in the 2012 NBA Draft. His scoring average has more than doubled since last season.

Asked if he should be in the conversation for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award, Barton replied: “Most definitely.”

In 55 games for the Denver Nuggets this season – 54 off the bench – Barton is averaging 15.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.

For a little perspective, here are the numbers for the Memphis Grizzlies’ Jeff Green in 53 games, 31 starts: 12.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists.

Pretty amazing, isn’t it?

Barton is also shooting 38 percent from 3-point range this season, making 82 of 216 attempts. Green is shooting 30.9 percent, making 42 of 136 threes.

Last summer, Barton signed a three-year $10.6 million deal with Denver that includes incentives.

Tigers still can get bye in AAC Tourney

For all of the team’s recent struggles, the Tigers still have a good shot to get a first-round bye in next month’s American Athletic Conference Tournament in Orlando.

Because SMU is ineligible for postseason play, the Tigers need only finish in the top seven in the league to get one of the six first-round byes. At 5-7 in the conference, they are tied with Central Florida for seventh.

Conveniently, UCF comes to FedExForum for a 6 p.m. game Wednesday, Feb. 17. The Tigers won at UCF on Jan. 26, 97-86. So a sweep of the season series gives them the tiebreaker, should it be needed.

With the 94-87 loss in overtime at Tulane last Saturday – the first home conference victory for the Green Wave this season – seventh-year coach Josh Pastner’s team has lost five of its last seven games. The Tigers last won back-to-back games on Jan. 13 and 16 when they defeated Temple 67-65 (the Ricky Tarrant Jr. bloody mouth free throws game) and USF 71-56.

Memphis, which is 14-11 overall, is now 96th in the rankings at Kenpom.com, or right behind William & Mary and immediately ahead of Richmond.

The Tigers’ adjusted defensive rating at Kenpom.com has fallen to 89th, as they are allowing 99.5 points per 100 possessions.

Their adjusted offensive rating, points scored per 100 possessions, ranks 124th at 106.3.

Tubbs, Blackwood lead 2016 baseball team

The Tigers open the 2016 season against the University of Tennessee in a weekend series in Chattanooga, Feb. 19-21. Two players being counted upon for big years are junior outfielder Darien Tubbs and junior closer Nolan Blackwood.

Tubbs, of Cookeville, Tenn., enters the season as the Preseason Player of the Year in the American Athletic Conference. Last season he started all 58 games in center field, and in the lead-off spot. He led the team with a .321 batting average, 75 hits and 57 runs scored while also collecting nine doubles, five triples and seven home runs.

Blackwood, from Southaven, is a Louisville Slugger Preseason second team All-American. He set the program record for saves in a single season with 14 last year and finished with a 0.52 earned run average. He was named an NCBWA second team All-American in 2015, becoming only the second Memphis pitcher to earn All-America honors. He stands third all-time in program history with 17 career saves.

Coach Daron Schoenrock and his coaching staff will learn a lot about their team early. The Tigers’ first four games are against SEC opponents, all on the road, and the team will play 10 of their first 14 games away from home. The AAC is anticipated to be one of the better leagues in the nation again, after sending four teams to the NCAA Tournament last year.

The Tigers’ will return to FedExPark on Feb. 24 to face Belmont in the home opener. The first weekend series at FedExPark, against SIU-Edwardsville, gets underway Friday, Feb. 26 at 4 p.m. and the series continues Saturday with a 2 p.m. start before concluding Sunday at 1 p.m.

Fans can purchase tickets for the opening weekend against Tennessee at AT&T Field in Chattanooga directly from the Chattanooga Lookouts by calling 423-267-4849 or milb.com. Season tickets are on also on sale through GoTigersGo.com or by calling 901-678-2331.

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