The Memphis Tigers are in the Final Four for the first time since 1985. They are hoping to make the trip to college basketball's biggest stage a regular occurrence.
To do that, it all starts with recruiting.
Ironically, Memphis will probably lose more players after the season is over than they will games this year. There is a strong possibility that Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts go pro. Joey Dorsey and Andre Allen are seniors.
Reloading a team that has only lost one game all season will be a difficult and daunting task. So far, the Tigers are adding two more players to the team next year in Angel Garcia and Matt Simpkins, both top 50 national recruits.
John Calipari has built his program with long, athletic forwards. Matt Simpkins certainly fits the mold of the player that has shined for the Tigers during Calipari's time at the school. Simpkins, a wiry 6-foot-8 California native, has the natural abilities but Rivals.com National Basketball Recruiting Analyst Jerry Meyer said the athleticism must mesh with fundamentals before he can make a significant impact.
"There is no doubt that Simpkins has the athleticism that Memphis values. The question, though, is whether or not he has the ball skills to make an immediate impact at Memphis," Meyer said. "The Memphis offense is predicated on everyone but the center being able to put the ball on the floor and make plays. I have doubts that Simpkins is ready for this role. He does give Memphis an athletic player who can go get the ball, however."
What Simpkins lacks in skill, Angel Garcia picks up the slack, Meyer says. The Puerto Rico native is 6 feet 10 and has a game that is best suited for the perimeter.
"Garcia brings the ball skills to fit in with the Memphis offense," Meyer said. "He is good with the ball and can shoot it. If he builds his body up, he could do a lot of the things at the four that Dozier does for Memphis and is a better long range shooter than Robert Dozier. Garcia's challenge is whether or not he can defend and rebound at the level Memphis expects."
Meyer said he doesn't anticipate either freshman to make a big enough impact to help the Tigers return to the big stage next year. The two man class's impact will be felt down the road.
"Simpkins gives them more rebounding and defending-wise. Garcia gives Memphis more of what it wants on the offensive side of the ball. Whichever one improves his weaknesses the most has the best chance to have an impact," Meyer said. "In the end, though, I expect it to be later in the year or maybe not until they are sophomores before they are really ready."
Memphis isn't done though in 2008. In fact, the Tigers are involved with two of the best players in the nation that have yet to find a collegiate home. Five-star prospects Tyreke Evans and Devin Ebanks
The two are instant offense type of players with big-time scoring potential. Evans visited Memphis already and will announce his decision on April 15. Ebanks, however, is looking closely at the Tigers, Rutgers, Texas, West Virginia and Indiana.
Both players would obviously help out from day one. In fact, either one could have big numbers as a true freshman like so many of the current freshmen class in college.
"The key to Memphis' recruiting class is landing Tyreke Evans or Devin Ebanks," Meyer said. "If Evans and/or Ebanks choose the Tigers, they will both have an opportunity to put up points. The dribble drive attack is conducive to Evans ball skills, and Ebanks has great ball skills for a combo forward."
Now all eyes shift to Evans and Ebanks. You better believe they will be locked into the games this weekend.