Memphis basketball mailbag: Emoni Bates or Alex Lomax? And the latest on Chandler Lawson

Jason Munz
Memphis Commercial Appeal
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Nothing is more difficult than the waiting. 

Or, something like that. 

After what's felt like an eternity, Memphis basketball's highly anticipated regular season is set to begin Tuesday (7 p.m., ESPN+). That's when the Tigers will tip things off against Tennessee Tech at FedExForum in the season opener for both teams. 

Tigers coach Penny Hardaway says he's seen enough and he's ready to get things rolling. That doesn't mean there aren't still questions, though. So, let's dig into the mailbag and find out what's on fans' minds. 

MEMPHIS BASKETBALL:Tigers are ranked 16th by KenPom. Why? Ken Pomeroy explains

EMONI BATES:What star signee Emoni Bates showed in his Memphis basketball debut in Tigers' exhibition vs Lane

JA MORANT AND EMONI BATES:Grizzlies star taking Tigers star under his wing as the basketball stars align in Memphis

Can't we just fast-forward to Thanksgiving and the Tigers are 7-0 and trash-talking Ole Miss fans on social media? — @tipton_bry

Wow. Here I am thinking Tennessee Tech is enough to satiate the Memphis fan base's voracious appetite, and some of y'all are wanting to bypass the first six games of the season. 

To answer the question, unfortunately not. I understand the sentiment, believe me. But I'll use this as a way to take a closer look at the early part of the schedule. After Tennessee Tech and North Carolina Central – both preseason sub-290 teams in KenPom – the Tigers have a string of what could be very telling opponents. Four of what will likely be their next five games (depending on how things go at the NIT Season Tip-Off in Brooklyn) will come against top 100 KenPom squads. Georgia is the only one outside the top 100 and that will be Memphis' first true road game of the season. 

Overlooking any of those teams could turn out to be quite damaging to the Tigers' NCAA Tournament résumé down the road. 

But, again, I get it. That game at Ole Miss (No. 57 in KenPom) is certainly a big one. 

Mark Giannotto thinks playing Emoni Bates at point guard will be the key to making a deep run. Given Emoni has never played PG nor proven PG skills, I think Alex Lomax is the key to a deep run. We have a lot of scorers but only one true facilitator/primary ball handler. Which side do you land on? — @tigersgrizz07

I lean toward Mark's stance. If Bates isn't at point guard, that lessens the likelihood that Landers Nolley II is on the floor. It doesn't mean he can't or won't be in the game with Bates at the two or the three. It's just not as likely. 

Memphis Tigers guard Emoni Bates shoots over Tyler Harris during their first official practice, which they held in front of fans from the Rebounders Club at the Laurie-Walton Family Basketball Center on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021.

This isn't to say that there aren't times where Lomax shouldn't be used at point guard. Of course, Lomax is going to get his minutes there. Some pretty significant ones, in my opinion. But it can't come at the expense of Bates. Whatever has to be done to keep Bates and Nolley on the floor – arguably the team's two most potent scoring threats – it should be done. 

If it works out that Lomax, Bates and Nolley can all stay on the floor together and make things work, that's fine. But I have Bates and everything he offers from an offensive standpoint as the more valuable asset. 

What’s the issue with Chandler Lawson? Is it a similar issue with Oregon that DeAndre Williams had with Evansville? — @SluggaSports

Based on the conversations I've had, no. It's not a question of Oregon not being willing to release Lawson so he can play at Memphis, simply because schools can no longer hold things up the same way Evansville did with Williams. 

The trouble is very few people are either willing to go into detail about what the holdup is or very few people know enough about it to shed some light on the matter. 

“Chandler is kind of awaiting a decision from Oregon,” Hardaway said on Oct. 24. “I’m not as well-versed on it, but I do know we’re just still waiting on that.”

A few days later, Hardaway said again the school is "still waiting." 

I asked Oregon whether they could provide any further clarity. This was the response I received via email from an athletic department spokesperson: "We have not heard from Memphis related to any request for information but would be happy to assist however we can."

I have a hunch Lawson's situation is somehow related to academics. The fact that it hasn't been cleared up before now suggests the possibility he might have to wait until the spring semester to be eligible. 

Your thoughts on lost commitments? — @tigersgrizz07

Let's recap: Memphis had three verbal pledges in the Class of 2022, but Hardaway is now down to one – three-star 6-foot-6 forward Noah Batchelor (IMG Academy). Last week, Bartlett guard Amarr Knox decommitted. Before that, guard Zocko Littleton also backed off his commitment to the Tigers. 

Both Knox and Littleton are considered quality prospects, but Memphis never stopped recruiting 2022 guards. The Tigers like their positioning with four-stars Ty Rodgers (Thornton Township, Illinois) and Zion Cruz (The Patrick School, New Jersey). There's also the probability Memphis has its eye on a guard or two it thinks will eventually land in the transfer portal. 

So we should hear an update in the next few days from the investigation? — email 

If what I was told last month by a spokesperson for the Independent Accountability Resolution Process is true, yes. 

The IARP, which recently released updated timelines for each of the six cases it is currently reviewing, expects to update each timeline at the beginning of each month until those cases are resolved, so long as there are procedural updates to provide. 

The spokesperson did not specify an exact date for when the updates will drop each month. 

Reach sports writer Jason Munz at [email protected] or on Twitter @munzly.

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