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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Bounce: Add Wildcats to Calipari's Killer Skein

The Bounce: Add Cats to Calipari's killer skein
STEVE RIVERA and The Associated Press
Tucson Citizen

Memphis basketball coach John Calipari isn't ready to ax his team's schedule maker quite yet.

His young Tigers have faced Oklahoma, Georgia Tech, Kentucky and Tennessee. Next, No. 18-ranked Memphis visits No. 9 Arizona on Wednesday.

Calipari likes the guy who drew up the murderous schedule.

"He's me," he said, smiling. "He's not very smart."

But like Arizona coach Lute Olson, Calipari said he likes facing tough teams in the nonconference schedule. It helps down the road.

"We're all trying to get a high seed in the NCAA Tournament," Calipari said. "The only way you do that is by playing good people.

"If we win (Wednesday), it's a huge game. It's important in how we play and the level of opponent. You want to learn about your team and the only way you do that is against good teams that are well-coached. You can't do that against Popcorn State."
Tucson? McKale Center?

Calipari has been a head coach for 14-plus years and has never faced Olson.
Calipari, however, has been to Tucson before, although he had to think about it a second.

He was an assistant for the University of Pittsburgh in the mid-1980s. Pitt played in Tucson for the first and second rounds of the 1987 NCAA Tournament. The Panthers lost in the second round to Oklahoma.

Tucson-style greeting

As is typical for the annual Fiesta Bowl Classic, the visiting teams are greeted at the airport by a mariachi band.

Players from the opposing teams are always caught off-guard; Memphis was no different.

"When I came off the plane, I was like, (surprised)," said senior Jeremy Hunt. "I asked coach, "Do they do this all the time?' I was like, 'wow.' People here are very nice."

Calipari just laughed.

"It was kind of like them asking me, 'Are these cactus real?" Calipari said.

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