National title? Memphis’ dreams vanished quickly

National title? Memphis’ dreams vanished quickly

Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway looks on during the Tigers’ loss to UConn on Sunday. (Williams Paul/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

HARTFORD, Conn. – The Memphis basketball team’s NCAA tournament chances disintegrated beneath the force of a hammer dunk.

UConn freshman guard James Bouknight sprinted ahead on a fast break on Sunday afternoon, corralled a laser pass from Christian Vital and imprinted Memphis freshman Precious Achiuwa on a poster. Bouknight drew a foul to add insult to infamy.

The moment rose above a rock fight of questionable aesthetics, as the dunk boosted UConn’s lead to five points with just over three minutes remaining and allowed the Huskies to grind out a 64-61 victory. The loss ostracized Memphis to the remote fringes of the NCAA tournament conversation, many hemispheres from a season that began with bold talk by Penny Hardaway about winning a national championship.

This Memphis season is instead wheezing to an end, with the Tigers (17-8) falling to 6-6 in American Athletic Conference play after their third straight loss. The national title visions that Hardaway so audaciously declared this fall have descended to whispers of NIT seeding. The chatter about a new generation’s Fab Five-caliber recruiting class has crumbled to excuses of too much youth.

“We got to win out, to me,” Hardaway said when asked about what was necessitated to get back into the NCAA tournament conversation. “I wouldn’t say win out. We got to win some big games. I wouldn’t put that much pressure on the young guys. But we have to win some impressionable games.”

decided working out was better for his professional future than playing for Memphis. D.J. Jeffries, a 6-foot-7 forward and one of the core pieces of this ballyhooed Memphis recruiting class, is out for the next two-to-four weeks with a knee injury that makes him unlikely to return in the regular season.’ data-reactid=”38″>Yes, it must be acknowledged that that two of Memphis’ best players are missing. James Wiseman, the 7-foot-1 prodigy and likely No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, decided working out was better for his professional future than playing for Memphis. D.J. Jeffries, a 6-foot-7 forward and one of the core pieces of this ballyhooed Memphis recruiting class, is out for the next two-to-four weeks with a knee injury that makes him unlikely to return in the regular season.

“Obviously we had national championship dreams earlier, and that wasn’t far-fetched,” Hardaway said. “Especially the way that college basketball is happening this year with so many teams going up and down. But when you lose the No. 1 pick, or the No. 1 player in the country, then you have to regroup.”



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