Early tip-off set for Tiger basketball opener in Maui
John Calipari isn't concerned about his Tigers' morning tip-off for their opening game of the Maui Classic against Oklahoma. An early trip to the islands should help the players acclimate.
By Jim Masilak, Memphis Commercial Appeal
August 4, 2006
The University of Memphis basketball team can forget any late-night luaus when it travels to Hawaii in November for the Maui Invitational. Pairings for the eight-team, pre-Thanksgiving tournament were announced Thursday morning, with the Tigers receiving an eye-watering 9:30 a.m. (1:30 p.m. CST) first-round wake-up call against Oklahoma on Monday, Nov. 20. "At that time, whoever's most ready to play that early in the morning will usually win," said Tigers coach John Calipari, who isn't too concerned about the early start. The Tigers, who are 4-0 all-time against the Sooners, will fly to Hawaii on the Friday before the tournament, giving them plenty of time to adjust to the made-for-ESPN tip-off time.
"It'll end up being just like an afternoon game for the kids," Calipari said Thursday before flying to Los Angeles, where he is scheduled to appear on ESPN's "Rome is Burning" with Jim Rome today at 3:30 p.m. "It's not a big deal."
The other game in the Tigers' half of the Maui bracket pits Georgia Tech against Purdue.
Should the Tigers advance to meet the Yellow Jackets in the semifinals -- or in the losers' bracket -- it would pit them against former Mitchell High star and one-time UofM target Thaddeus Young, Tech's highly regarded freshman forward.
"It would be interesting," Calipari said. "We've got a young team, including some really talented freshmen, and they've got two good freshmen (in Young and guard Javaris Crittenton)."
In the other half of the bracket, Kentucky will meet DePaul and UCLA, which beat the Tigers in last season's Elite Eight, will take on tournament host Chaminade.
"It's gonna be a great field," Calipari said. "You're talking about four or five potential top-25 teams that are all going to be very young."
Awaiting on dates
The Tigers' list of non-conference opponents for the 2006-07 season is now set, but the dates for some of those games have yet to be finalized.
In addition to contests at Tennessee, Arizona and Gonzaga, the UofM will host Ole Miss, Cincinnati, Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee, Manhattan, Jackson State, Lamar and Arkansas State, assistant coach Tony Barbee confirmed.
While dates have been announced for the games at FedExForum against Manhattan (Dec. 2), Austin Peay (Dec. 15) and MTSU (Dec. 23), potential conflicts have arisen with the announcement of the NBA's regular-season schedule.
The Grizzlies are scheduled to play 7 p.m. home games on each of those dates against defending champion Miami, Atlanta and Utah, respectively.
"We'll probably do some of those games in the afternoon," said Calipari, who is excited about a non-conference schedule that, including the game against Oklahoma, will feature at least four teams that participated in last season's NCAA Tournament.
"When you're talking about the teams we're playing, you're talking about some of the best in the country," Calipari said.
The Conference USA regular-season schedule has yet to be released, but the Tigers will play 16 league games this season, up from 14 a year ago.
With eight league games and eight non-conference games at the FedExForum, they will play a total of 16 home games.
The UofM will also host the C-USA Tournament in March.
Like most assistants, Ryan Miller dreams of one day running his own program.
If the former UofM assistant coordinator of basketball operations needed additional motivation, he got it upon joining Vance Walberg's staff at Pepperdine.
"You've got to make seven figures to live out here (in Malibu, Calif.)," Miller said. "I can't afford anything."
The older brother of Grizzlies guard Mike Miller, Ryan is relishing the chance to work alongside Walberg, a longtime friend of Calipari who has served as an offensive muse for the Tigers' coach.
"It's a great opportunity," Miller said. "(Walberg) came in three or four years ago to watch practice and we struck up a good relationship ... When he got the job, he thought it would be a good fit."
Calipari, who has long extolled Walberg's virtues as an offensive innovator, said he was delighted for Miller.
"He was really good for us," Calipari said. "He had a good rapport with the players, he helped with scouting and did all our highlight tapes.
"He was really, really good and I'm excited for him."
-- Jim Masilak: 901-529-2311