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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Columnist Geoff Calkins on the Tigers


Tigers look good - as they must every game
Geoff Calkins
December 10, 2006

The Tigers won by a dozen! Joey Dorsey only had three fouls! Kareem Cooper was back from purgatory and looked darn good!

So, you think they can go out and beat Arizona in 10 days? Or Gonzaga in February at Spokane?

If not, they may have a problem.

But, hey, hope you enjoyed the game!

The Memphis Tigers defeated Ole Miss at FedExForum Saturday, 82-70, to run their record to 7-2.

"We're where we want to be," John Calipari said. "If you said to me, prior to this season, 'You'd be 7-2,' I'd have done backflips."

Hmmmmm.

You really believe that? Especially with that hip?

And with that preposterous system/conference/schedule that gives the Tigers so few chances to prove they deserve a high seed in the NCAA Tournament?

This is life outside the BCS. This is another reason the people who run the athletic program should be fired if they don't have a strategy for getting Memphis out of Conference USA.

Kansas has two losses and it's no big deal. The Jayhawks have a whole conference season to prove they deserve a high seed. Florida has two losses and nobody frets. The Gators can get it all back by winning the SEC.

Memphis has two losses and it's close to a calamity. Because there's only so much you can prove when you're playing 16 games against Southern Miss, Tulane, Marshall, Rice, Central Florida, East Carolina and, oh, the sad thing is we really could go on.

George Washington went 26-2 in the Atlantic 10 last year. On Selection Sunday, the Colonials were awarded with a No. 8 seed.

Gonzaga -- the best team from a crummy conference over the last decade -- was a No. 10 seed in 1999, a No. 9 seed in 2000, a No. 12 seed in 2001, a No. 6 seed in 2002 and a No. 9 seed in 2003.

So it's not easy to transcend conference schlock.

"You have to be perfect," said Calipari, whose Tigers were close to that last year.

This year, by contrast, Memphis has beaten Kentucky but lost to Georgia Tech and Tennessee. Tiger fans have spent the last few days going nutso over the Tennessee loss.

But if the Tigers played in, say, the old Conference USA, they could get it back by beating Cincinnati, Louisville and Marquette.

Instead, they're left with games at Arizona on Dec. 20 and at Gonzaga on Feb. 17.

"To say we must beat Arizona or Gonzaga on the road, well, that's a hard statement," Calipari said.

OK, but they must beat Arizona or Gonzaga on the road.

In the meantime, there are games like Saturday's, which was a nice little bounce-back after Tennessee. Memphis didn't play the kind of game it will take to beat a high-level opponent -- Antonio Anderson, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Andre Allen combined to go 4-of-13 from the line -- but there were some positive signs.

The biggest was Cooper, in every sense of the word. The one thing that didn't change while he was away: The kid is large.

And he has wonderful, soft hands, hands that could make him millions down the road if he'd lose weight and do all the right things.

His first shot, he hit a falling-down, off-glass baby hook.

"Simple and effective," said Douglas-Roberts.

"That's a big dude," said Calipari.

Cooper finished with nine points and seven rebounds in 15 minutes.

He talked to the press for the first time in ages after the game.

"I'm grateful to get another chance," he said.

See, positive signs.

And at another school, a BCS school, that would be enough for the day. The season would unfold the way the season would unfold. No need to rush anything.

Unfortunately, that's not the situation at Memphis. Like, for instance, Cooper needs to lose some weight.

"I'm going to get in shape," he said.

Great. That's fabulous news.

Could you do it in the next two weeks?

Contact Geoff Calkins at 529-2364 or send an e-mail.

2 comments:

g said...

i'm not sure it is so important to get the high seed. i think that puts unnecessary pressure on the team. and i think it is OK to be in the Conference USA. who knows, maybe the league will improve with this new batch of coaches.

calipari did fine at UMass, in the A-10. the important thing is to get the invitation to the big dance, and i think this team can do it.

especially with Cooper back in the fold. if he can only stick to basics. rebounding and the baby hook. it's when he thinks he is NBA bound and wants to demonstrate his 3 point range, that he angers the coach.

and having Cooper back, means less pressure on Dorsey.

Coach said...

Generally, I agree with you, but a 3 or better seed can really be helpful getting you to at least the Sweet 16.

Geoff Calkins point abount George Washington is a great one. I'm note the the Tigers would have exactly the same problem because they have more name recognition and last year's team is fresh in the eyes of the committee. However we are 2 and 2 against better competition. The Arizona and Gonzaga games are critical. The Tigers must win one of the two. Going 0 and 4 against the top 20 will not help you break inside of a top 8 seed.