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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

ESPN's Andy Katz on Memphis

Tigers Have Something Good Going


Conference USA remains defined by Memphis.

When the league's marquee team can be just as good, if not better, after losing three players to the NBA draft (and only one was a senior), then you know you've got something good going. Add in the news this week that senior Jeremy Hunt is back on the squad and the Tigers are ready to make another deep run.

How deep? Well, head coach John Calipari isn't ready to say Final Four, No. 1 seed, or even Elite Eight, but he isn't shy about promoting this squad, either. His quick comment upon learning that Hunt was eligible was, "it's on, now.''

What's on? The Tigers are as a national player. Every returning coach talked to mentioned that you could take a pick of players among Memphis' marquee returnees for a potential league player of the year, and Calipari agrees.

"Chris Douglas-Roberts, Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier all have a chance to be player of the year,'' Calipari said. "I know Morris Almond (of Rice) does, too. No one is going to pick us to be as good as we [were last season], but we will be.

"We're going to be better than people think,'' Calipari said. "We can just come out and play with anybody. There were other years when we were picked high and we knew that we were that good. We want to make a statement and we can make one."

The reason this season is that Calipari has a rotation that can go deep. Douglas-Roberts, Anderson, Dozier, Andre Allen, Joey Dorsey, Willie Kemp, former Florida signee Doneal Mack and more give the Tigers up to 10 players who could go in and contribute without hesitation.

The Tigers will play a big-time schedule as always, with teams like Arizona and Gonzaga dotting the slate. That's after the Maui Invitational, where the Tigers are in a field with UCLA, Kentucky, Georgia Tech, DePaul, Purdue and Oklahoma.

If everything breaks the way Calipari thinks it can, losing Darius Washington, Rodney Carney and Shawne Williams actually might have little effect. That's saying something for a program that seemed to have lost its way prior to Calipari's hiring.

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