Saturday, July 20, 2024

College basketball rankings: Why Memphis’ home loss to South Florida hurts Tigers more than it appears

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USATSI

A two-point win over a Vanderbilt team ranked 244th in the NET. A three-point win over a Tulsa team ranked 188th in the NET. A six-point win over a UTSA team ranked 288th in the NET.

That was all part of Memphis‘ 10-game winning streak.

So, yeah, the Tigers had spent the past six weeks building a 15-2 record and rising in all human polls — but they’d undeniably been shaky, evidence being how they dropped from 41st to 44th at KenPom.com during their 10-game winning streak. On Thursday night, living that way finally caught up to Penny Hardaway’s program when Memphis lost 74-73 at home to a South Florida team that entered ranked 141st in the NET.

That’s a Quadrant 3 defeat.

It’s a resume-damager.

“This one hurts because we worked so hard to get to this level,” Hardaway said before later adding that it was a “bad loss. National TV. Scoring 26 points in the second half after scoring [47] in the first. But when you are not playing team-basketball, that can happen.”

Memphis is down to No. 17 in Friday morning’s updated CBS Sports Top 25 And 1 daily college basketball rankings, where Purdue remains No. 1. The Tigers are now 7-2 in the first two quadrants with only one additional loss falling outside of the first two quadrants. That’s still mostly solid. But one thing working against Memphis as it attempts to present the best possible resume to the NCAA Tournament selection committee is that most of the Tigers’ big non-conference victories are now less impressive than they were when they were recorded.

For example: Missouri was 56th at KenPom when Memphis beat Dennis Gates’ Tigers. Now Missouri is 103rd. Michigan was 37th at KenPom when Memphis beat Juwan Howard’s Wolverines. Now Michigan is 77th. Arkansas was 35th at KenPom when Memphis beat Eric Musselman’s Razorbacks. Now Arkansas is 90th. Texas A&M was 21st at KenPom when Memphis beat Buzz Williams’ Aggies. Now Texas A&M is 36th. Clemson was 24th at KenPom when Memphis beat Brad Brownell’s Tigers. Now Clemson is 39th. Virginia was 29th at KenPom when Memphis beat Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers. Now Virginia is 67th.

It’s an unusual situation.

The Tigers watched Quadrant 1 wins be downgraded to Quadrant 2 wins and Quadrant 2 wins be downgraded to Quadrant 3 wins during their 10-game winning streak. It clearly lessened their body of work, which is among the reasons it’s crucial for Memphis to avoid more bad losses going forward, and that won’t be simple given that eight of the Tigers’ remaining 13 regular-season games currently project as Quadrant 3 or Quadrant 4 traps.

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