The Memphis Tigers are the No. 12 seed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament, where they'll face fifth-seeded Arizona in the first round. The Tigers return to the NCAA Tournament bracket not as a powerhouse like in previous years, but rather as an underdog that arrived a year before people expected. Under second-year coach Josh Pastner, the Tigers rallied to win the Conference USA championship, topping UTEP in a game they trailed practically the entire way. They will be a tough out for whichever team they play.
The Tigers are among the youngest teams in the nation, taking after their baby-faced coach. Pastner has a reputation of being an elite recruiter, and after replacing John Calipari in 2008, his skills there have finally paid off. Part-time starter Will Coleman is the team's only senior, and the team's top three scorers are all freshman. Guard Will Barton is the catalyst, as he leads the team in scoring, is second in rebounding and third in assists. Besides him, the Tigers are deep, with 10 players averaging at least 10 minutes a game.
The Tigers like to push the tempo and use their depth to the best of their ability. They were the fastest-paced team in Conference USA, and ranked 70th in the nation in possessions per game. They are also a solid defensive team, finishing second in Conference USA in points allowed per 100 possessions.
Record: 25-9, 13-6 in Conference USA
Key wins: 76-73 at UAB on Jan. 22, 62-58 vs. UAB on Feb. 16. Memphis' two wins over Conference USA regular-season champion UAB were both tight victories, but they were important to improving their RPI. 62-58 at Gonzaga on Feb. 5: Antonio Barton scored four points in the final minute as Memphis beat Gonzaga on the road. Gonzaga isn't the same juggernaut as it was in the past, but it was still a big win for Memphis.
Key losses: 64-58 at SMU on Jan. 12: SMU finished just 17-14 on the season, so this was a very bad loss. The Tigers had a 14-point lead in this one, but blew it when they surrendered a 17-0 second-half run. 67-52 at Rice on Feb. 19: This was a tougher loss to stomach. The Tigers were leading Conference USA coming into this game, and they laid an egg against a sub .500 team. It was Rice's first win against Memphis in the program's history.
Player to watch: Joe Jackson is the Tigers' second-leading scorer and has nerves of steel, hitting the two free throws that provided the winning margin in the Conference USA title game victory. If the offense breaks down, Jackson is very capable of creating his own shot.
Memphis Tigers primer by Mike Prada of SBNation.com.