Fairfield at No. 13 Memphis
WHEN: Tonight, 8 p.m.
WHERE: FedEx Forum
ON THE AIR: www.fairfieldstags.com (Bob Heussler, Joe DeSantis)
SERIES: First meeting
SCOUTING FAIRFIELD: The Stags return five starters from a team that went 14-16 and finished tied for fifth in the MAAC, making for high expectations on North Benson road for Ed Cooley’s third season. Senior point guard Jonathan Han, the MAAC leader in assists per game, minutes per game last year and 3-point percentage, is a preseason first-team all-MAAC selection. Six-nine junior center Anthony Johnson, a preseason second-team all-MAAC pick, is Fairfield’s leading returning rebounder (7.3 per game) and second leading scorer (9.6). Five-10 senior Herbie Allen will start at shooting guard, with 6-4 sophomore Warren Edney and 6-7 junior Greg Nero joining Johnson up front. Han carried the Stags last year and likely will to an extent this year, but better production from Nero – who led the team in scoring in his first six games as a freshman but has been average since – could help them contend for a conference title.
SCOUTING MEMPHIS: The Tigers came within a Mario Chalmers buzzer-beating 3-pointer of the national championship last year, and even without stars Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts and bruising forward Joey Dorsey, they’re still the class of Conference USA and a contender to play deep into March. John Calipari’s team doesn’t return a double-figure scorer, but has several candidates to step up, led by senior guard Antonio Anderson, forward Robert Dozier and 6-6 freshman guard Tyrke Evans – on a short list of the top freshmen in the country. Junior Willie Kemp will start in the back court along with Anderson and Evans, and junior Shawn Taggert will start up front with Dozier, who led the Tigers with 21 points and 10 rebounds last week in an 83-62 exhibition victory over Christian Brothers University.
FAST FACTS: The game is part of O’Reilly’s Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament, the duration of which takes place Nov. 20-23 in San Juan. … Memphis has won 30 or more games three times under John Calipari, including a school-record 38 last year. … Fairfield is 6-7 all-time against teams from Conference USA, including an 80-68 win over Tulane in the 2005 Hawkeye Classic. … The Stags are opening the season in Tennessee for the first time. The only time they played further south in a season opener was in 1978, when – led by DeSantis – they beat North Texas State and New Orleans to win the New Orleans Classic.