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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Covers.com on the Memphis Tigers

Memphis Bleak: Books Tagging Tigers as Tough Cover

By Jason Logan, Covers.com
Wed, Dec 13, 2006

There are some very big shoes outside the Memphis Tigers’ locker room and head coach John Calipari is still waiting to see who is going to fill them.

After losing stars Rodney Carney, Shawne Williams and Darius Washington to the pros, the Tigers are trying to plug major holes in their roster and find go-to options in the offense.

Despite putting up more than 80 points per contest, Memphis has a 2-6 record against the spread. While it has been able to muster enough effort to get wins, starting the year 7-2 straight up, this production has fallen short of oddsmakers’ expectations.

Books continue to set the Tigers as big favorites against weaker opponents, posting spreads as large as 27 points this season. Although they rank No. 19 in the country, some sharp bettors believe their odds are skewed because of past success and the early expectations put on their inexperienced players.

"There`s no doubt that oddsmakers have the ability to jack up spreads for teams like Memphis," says Pat Miller of Covers Experts. "The public is going to bite the majority of the time, regardless of the fact that the Tigers are just 2-6 ATS on the season. It`s simply a case of a team`s reputation preceding them."

The young Tigers have shot 43.9 percent from the floor and under 30 percent from beyond the arc. The biggest problem, according to point guard Andre Allen, is that no one wants the ball and the offense isn’t getting the same movement it did last season.

"When they hustle to get to the right spot, we get them the ball,” Allen told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “But when they`re just jogging down the court, we`re under pressure the whole time. Then we`re forced to do some things we don`t want to do."

Allen and fellow point guard Willie Kemp have become fed up with the weak effort on offense and voiced their opinions to Coach Calipari. Both Allen and Kemp have been forced to create on the offensive end, leading to their dismal shooting numbers which Calipari has acknowledged.

"The way we`re playing has nothing to do with the point guards," Calipari told reporters. "Go down the list and no one is playing to the level they need to play."

The closest thing Memphis has to a first option is sophomore guard Chris Douglas-Roberts, who leads the team with 15.4 points per game. Forward Robert Dozier and senior guard Jeremy Hunt have shown flashes of brilliance, but have remained inconsistent early in the season.

"They have the potential to be as good as last year’s edition over time, but it looks like the betting markets were expecting too much too soon,” says professional handicapper David Malinsky. “New faces do not gel that quickly, especially without the right kind of veterans to help them to mature.”

Calipari has used some time off between games to change his players` mindset on the offensive attack. Heading into last weekend’s game against Ole Miss, he increased the level of intensity at practice by keeping his drills quick and competitive. This change of pace was enough to get an 82-70 win over the Rebels, but once again was not enough to cover the chalk set by bookmakers.

Tigers backers are looking for more of an effort when Memphis hosts Austin Peay on Thursday night. Books have not yet set a line for this game, but the hometown Tigers will likely see another 20-plus-point spread.

"I`d stay far away from that matchup on Thursday,” says Miller. “You just don`t know what type of effort you`re going to get from the Tigers. The potential is certainly there for a breakout performance but this isn`t the time to be laying any significant digits with so many unknowns in play.”

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