No apologies as Tigers rise in the polls
January 25, 2007
Memphis, the No. 11 team in the country ...
That's right, the No. 11 team in the country. Anyone got a problem with that?
"I have them capped at No. 15," said Scott Cacciola, who writes for The Commercial Appeal and has the paper's vote in the AP poll.
"I don't think you can justify it," said Gary Parrish, who used to cover the Tigers for this paper and now writes for cbssportsline.com.
Can't justify it, eh?
"No," Parrish said. "Memphis doesn't have a win over a Top 25 team. I fundamentally disagree with the idea that, after other teams lose difficult conference games, Memphis can climb in the polls by beating bad teams."
Which is one way of looking at it, certainly. The other way is -- um, how to put this -- tough beans.
I say this after watching Memphis dispatch the latest bad team on its schedule, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane.
Tulsa has an RPI of 164 despite having a forward in Charles Ramsdell who, OK, who has read a lot of books.
It says so, right there in the media notes. Since August of 2006, Ramsdell has read 26 books including "The Iliad," "Divine Comedy," "The Last of the Mohicans" and "Moby Dick."
This is quite an accomplishment. Call me -- no, not Ishmael -- impressed!
Alas, Ramsdell and his teammates are not as prolific on the basketball court. The Tigers won, 72-59, extending its record in Conference USA to a perfect 6-0.
So Memphis fans were left wondering what Memphis fans are always left wondering: What does it all mean?
What does it mean when Joey Dorsey delivers a stunning two-handed block against someone named Sam Mitchell?
What does it mean when Willie Kemp rediscovers his game against a team that lost to Marshall, Houston and North Texas?
"It means we won," said Andre Allen. "Other teams keep losing."
What he said.
Listen, I have no idea if Memphis is the 11th best team in the country. Memphis coach John Calipari even said that Parrish is "probably" right.
But given how thoroughly the broader system of college athletics has shafted the Tigers, if they benefit in one small way from a quirk in the system, they darn sure don't have to apologize.
Wednesday's game was a prime example of that and, at some level, just plain sad. Nothing against Tulsa, mind you. Unlike most of the garbage programs in Conference USA, Tulsa at least tries to be good.
But there were three league games in our area Wednesday night. Two of the visitors were worth making a trip to watch.
Ole Miss hosted Tennessee, led by Bruce Pearl. Mississippi State hosted Florida, led by Billy Donovan.
Memphis hosted Tulsa, led by, quick, can you even name the Tulsa coach? Or any of the Tulsa players? Or -- heck -- any five players from Conference USA?
"We need to try to compete against us, not the other team," said Calipari.
Think he'd say that if the Louisville and Cincinnati were still in the league?
But they're not. Neither are Marquette nor Saint Louis nor Charlotte nor DePaul.
Remarkably, the fans still show up, nearly 16,000, for a late, week-night game utterly lacking in drama or suspense.
Tulsa hit a long jumper to take a 3-0 lead. Memphis went ahead 4-3 and never again trailed.
The fans stayed the whole time, cheering and hooting and generally having fun. It was even a little hard to believe. Coaches always say that fans should come to see their own team play but, c'mon, how many do?
Memphis fans do. They've learned to live with what they have. Even if the entire BCS system is stacked against non-BCS schools. Even if Memphis has a harder time in football and in basketball and in making ends meet.
But the Tigers do get one small compensation: They don't lose as often as teams with more difficult league schedules. And because AP voters tend to drop teams when they lose -- even very good teams -- Memphis continues to rise in the polls.
Last week, Memphis rose from No. 17 to No. 11 while winning games over East Carolina (RPI of 318) and Southern Miss (RPI of 110).
"I don't see how you can make a case for that," said Parrish.
And I don't really care.
To reach Geoff Calkins, call him at 529-2364 or e-mail.