North Florida faces tall task in clash with Memphis

The Memphis Tigers tip off the 2012-13 season at home on Monday night against the North Florida Ospreys.

North Florida opened its season on Saturday with a 79-65 win over local rival Edward Waters College. The Ospreys are hoping to make some serious noise in the Atlantic Sun Conference as they return all five starters and eight letterwinners from last year's club that went 16-16 overall and 10-8 in conference.

Memphis is hoping to pick up where it left off last season when it went 26-9 overall and won the Conference USA crown with a 13-3 league ledger. The Tigers will have to find someone to pick up the slack left by the departed Will Barton (18 ppg), but coach Josh Pastner has done a solid job recruiting, and with a healthy does of returning players Memphis is once again the team to beat in this, its last year in C-USA before bolting to the Big East Conference for the 2013-14 campaign.

This bout marks the first-ever meeting between North Florida and Memphis in men's basketball.

Senior Parker Smith, a Second-Team All-Atlantic Sun honoree last year when he averaged 14.5 ppg, scored 19 of his game-high 22 points in the second half to power North Florida to its season-opening win over Edward Waters. Smith nailed six three-pointers, the team as a whole connecting on 9-of-21 long-range attempts and an even 50 percent of its total shots in the game. Travis Wallace was the Osprey's only other double-digit scorer in the game, chipping in 13 points in 22 minutes of action off the bench. Will Wilson handed out 12 assists, which matched the single-game school record, and he had only one turnover in the game. UNF was credited with nine blocked shots, five of which belonged to freshman BaeBae Daniels. The Ospreys goaded the opposition into 21 turnovers, and won the game despite being outrebounded (36-33) and outscored at the foul line (12-10).

Memphis begins the season without starting guard Geron Johnson, who will miss the first three games as he serves an NCAA-imposed suspension for apparently receiving extra benefits prior to his enrollment at the school. Still, the Tigers aren't devoid of talent as returning to the fold are junior guard Joe Jackson (11.0 ppg, 3.9 apg) and junior forward Tarik Black (10.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg). A lack of identifiable starpower means Pastner will have to find someone capable of taking their game to the next level, so in the meantime expect the Tigers to increase their effort at the defensive end. Some guys to keep an eye on include sophomore forward Adonis Thomas, junior guard Chris Crawford and freshman forward Shaq Goodwin.