Win streak pays off as Tigers land in top 10
By Dan Wolken
February 6, 2007
Unable to do anything about the quality of its Conference USA opponents, the University of Memphis simply kept winning.
On Monday, Memphis' 11-game winning streak was rewarded when the Tigers landed in the top 10 of both major college basketball polls, coming in at No. 8 in The Associated Press poll and No. 10 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll.
Though critics would argue that Memphis, at 19-3, has only beaten one top-25 caliber team -- Kentucky on Nov. 22 -- the improving Tigers have apparently done enough to convince voters they are one of the nation's elite teams.
"It's a good feeling," freshman guard Doneal Mack said. "We thought we should have been top 10 a long time ago, but we're taking it one day at a time. We're not letting it get to our heads, because we've got a lot of games to play."
Staying in the top 10 will probably be even harder than getting there. Including Thursday's matchup at UAB, Memphis has eight games remaining before the C-USA Tournament. Should the Tigers lose any of those, they might find it difficult to climb back up as high as they are currently.
"What it becomes is a bigger target," coach John Calipari said. "You don't want it to be an albatross around your neck. You want to be prideful that people have enough respect for this program to pick us that high. But who knows who's where? We just happen to be winning, so we're moving by some people."
Though polls aren't necessarily a factor in NCAA Tournament seeding, the Tigers appear to be in good shape despite their early season losses at Tennessee, at Arizona and to Georgia Tech in the Maui Invitational. Memphis began the season at No. 14 in both polls and was ranked as low as No. 23 on New Year's Day.
Memphis was No. 10 in the RPI ratings as of Monday, according to Ken Pomeroy's calculations on kenpom.com. If the Tigers can stay in the top 10 in both polls and the RPI, they would likely lock up a top-four seed in the NCAAs.
Though polls aren't always significant, especially in February, sophomore guard Antonio Anderson said there was "definitely" something special about being in the top 10.
"It's knowing you're one of the best teams in the country, and everything you work for is paying off," Anderson said.
-- Dan Wolken: 529-2365