VOL. 133 | NO. 43 | Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Sports Notebook: Tigers and Grizzlies Have This Much in Common: 18 Wins
By Don Wade
The local basketball teams are streaking, but not in the same direction. The Memphis Grizzlies dropped their 10th straight game on Monday, Feb. 26, at Boston. They own an 18-41 record.
The University of Memphis is on a four-game winning streak that included an upset of No. 23 Houston last week and the Tigers are now 18-11 overall and 9-7 in the American Athletic Conference.
So here’s a question: Could the Tigers actually end up with more wins in their season than the Grizzlies get in theirs?
Memphis Tigers forward Mike Parks Jr. (10) shoots over UConn Huskies guard Jalen Adams (4) during an AAC game Sunday, Feb. 25, at the Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Connecticut. Memphis won the game, its fourth in a row, 83-79. (Williams Paul/Icon Sportswire via AP Images)
Let’s just say it’s not impossible. The Tigers conclude their regular season at home this Thursday and Sunday against USF and East Carolina, the worst teams the AAC has to offer. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, the Tigers win both games, then win two AAC Tournament games and get an NIT bid and win one game there.
That would give Tubby Smith’s Tigers 23 wins. Do the Grizzlies have five more wins in them this season?
It’s a fair question. Tyreke Evans has a rib injury and the Grizzlies are 0-10 when playing without him. Chandler Parsons continues to sit out because of illness (before that, it was his chronic knee problems) and it seems clear Marc Gasol will not be playing on consecutive nights the rest of the season.
So, yeah, it’s possible the Tigers win more games than the Grizzlies.
And just as the Grizzlies are without their best player in Mike Conley, the Tigers are finishing the year without injured guard Jeremiah Martin.
But a funny thing has happened, too. Without Martin on the floor, the Tigers offense flows better. More people are involved. Yes, Martin was the most dynamic scorer. He also was prone to stopping ball movement and over-dribbling.
In winning at UConn last Sunday, the Tigers got large contributions from several players. Guard Jamal Johnson and forward Mike Parks Jr. each had 18 points. Raynere Thornton scored 16 points and Kareem Brewton stepped into Martin’s role and scored 12 points with seven assists.
“We have a lot of firepower,” Brewton said.
“Everyone has realized they have to step up and do more,” Smith said.
Meantime, the Grizzlies have an important game on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at home vs. the Phoenix Suns because the Suns are 18-44 and competing in the race to the bottom. Can the Grizzlies lose their 11th straight?
It won’t be easy because the Suns are truly horrific.
Eligibility Problem Solved?
While a federal wiretap captured Arizona coach Sean Miller discussing a $100,000 payment to ensure Deandre Ayton, the potential No. 1 pick in the next NBA Draft, became a Wildcat, Michigan State’s Miles Bridges may have put his troubles behind him.
The NCAA reinstated Bridges after he paid $40 to a charity of his choice. During the federal investigation his name came up and his family was alleged to have received improper benefits via a former employee of NBA agent Andy Miller.
Michigan State investigated and said this week that Bridges’ family members had dinner with an agent without his knowledge; it constituted an NCAA violation.
After the Spartans’ game last Sunday, Bridges said neither he nor his family members had received any extra benefits, adding, “It’s as simple as that.”
Up, Up and Out
St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha has made a living out of throwing his fastball down in the zone. So much so, that hitters sometimes camp on the pitch.
No doubt, he’ll throw a lot of fastballs at the knees again in 2018. But first-year Cardinals pitching coach Mike Maddux is encouraging Wacha, and other Cardinals pitchers, to work in some high fastballs in hopes of getting hitters to chase and pop the ball up.
In Wacha’s case, an elevated fastball would have about the same release point as his much slower curve. That makes both pitchers more effective. Wacha is intrigued, too, telling the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the elevated fastball “looks enticing to hitters.”