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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

C-USA's League RPI Is Better Than Last Year's ( I beat you to it Dan, see my post from Feb 19, ed.)

League's RPI better than last year's

By Dan Wolken
February 27, 2007

While the perception nationally has been that Conference USA is weaker than it was a year ago, University of Memphis coach John Calipari disagrees. And he's got the numbers to back him up.

Just consider: Last season, Conference USA ranked 13th in the Ratings Percentage Index among all conferences. This year, Conference USA is ranked 11th.

Last year, the average RPI of the 12 teams was 170. This year, it's 152.

Last season, seven C-USA teams were ranked below 200 in the RPI. This year, just three teams are worse than that.

Several teams in the league have made big jumps in the RPI including Central Florida (from 190 to 109), Rice (from 218 to 154), Tulsa (from 203 to 126), Southern Miss (from 246 to 132) and Tulane (from 217 to 180).

So what Calipari wants to know is: Why does Memphis get less credit for its 14-0 league record currently with an average victory margin of 20.1 points than it did for finishing 13-1 last year with an average victory margin of 16.1?

"I'm hearing about this league stuff, and they tried that on us a year ago, and I think we did OK," Calipari said. "The only thing we can do is say, hey you're not giving us credit for this league. It's better than you think."

The biggest factor in the suffering perception of C-USA has been UAB and Houston having less impressive seasons than they did a year ago. UAB won't be going to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four years, and Houston is a long shot to get an NIT bid.

But purely from an RPI standpoint, Memphis has been far more impressive in its C-USA run this year than last. The question is, will that matter to the NCAA Tournament selection committee for seeding purposes?

According to Joe Lunardi, who does "Bracketology" for ESPN, Memphis is a No. 3 seed currently with an opportunity to move up to a No. 2 if the Tigers can win out. Meanwhile, Calipari will spend the next two weeks trying to make the case that his team's league record should be rewarded.

"Just about every coach that plays us says, you're better than you were a year ago," Calipari said. "And we were a No. 1 seed last year. I know all these other teams got way better, but we're better than we were a year ago according to the people that play us."

Douglas-Roberts honored

Memphis sophomore guard Chris Douglas-Roberts has won the C-USA player of the week award for the second time this season.

Despite several strong performances by other players last week, Douglas-Roberts got the honor for his performances in victories over Rice and Houston. Douglas-Roberts had 14 points and five assists in 18 minutes against Rice and 19 points with four steals against Houston. The Tigers' leading scorer made 13-of-23 field goals (56.5 percent) for the week.

Travel woes

After losing 66-64 at Tulsa on Saturday, the last thing UCF wanted to do was hang around town.

But the Golden Knights had a miserable time getting back to Orlando on Sunday due to flight cancellations and delays. After spending four hours at the ticket counter, the team finally went back to its hotel. Then, the team had to split up and fly stand-by to get back to Orlando. All told, the trip took nearly 24 hours, which cut short a day of preparation for Wednesday's second-place showdown with Houston.

"We had a 4:45 (a.m.) wake-up call to get to the airport by 5:15 to catch a flight," coach Kirk Speraw said. "We had a lot of issues. I don't think our guys got back into their rooms until about 1:30 or 1:45 in the morning."

Coming on strong

Don't look now, but UAB is looking like the one team playing well enough to possibly upset Memphis in the C-USA Tournament next week.

And the irony is, it all started after Memphis beat the Blazers, 70-56, in Birmingham on Feb. 8. After the game, coach Mike Davis said he felt better about his team after that game than he had in weeks. Turns out, he was right. UAB has won four of five, and with wins at Southern Miss and at home against Tulane, the Blazers would finish 9-7 in the league and possibly snag the No. 4 spot and a first-round bye.

"We still have a long way to go, but we have a better feel for what we're going to do from a systems standpoint," Davis said.

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