Well, this is my one year anniversary managing this blog. If you've been a reader for longer than six months, you'll remember that I had a lot of content prior to the season. I hope all of you will continue to read all through out the year. In the off-season I do talk some recruiting (though I'm not one of those recruiting freaks who lives and dies by rumors, phone calls, plane rides and AAU games). I profile the current players, coaches, and previous players. I pick up stories from around the country that I think are interesting. The number of posts will certainly go down, but Tiger basketball is never forgotten and the count down to October 15th has already started - 203 days!!
This blog's purpose is to increase the exposure this program receives. I want to see the University of Memphis viewed in the same light as the traditional powerhouse schools. That is only accomplished by winning games (Cal and the team's job) and developing a dedicated fan base (yours and my responsibility).
Please feel free to comment on this blog anytime or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I certainly enjoy conversations with Tiger fans, the media, or just sports enthusiasts.
If your a regular reader, I'd like to hear from you. Please tell me what you like, what you don't and what you'd like to see more of.
Ok, moving right along..............
WHO WOULD HAVE DREAMED MEMPHIS WOULD HAVE THIS GOOD OF A SEASON???
Sure, the question was always out there, "Is this team as good as last year's team?" Lots of people asked the question, but very few people actually believed you could remove Rodney Carney, Shawne Williams and Darius Washington and repeat in the Elite Eight.
This year we saw the emergence of a star in Chris Douglas-Roberts. It was kind of funny considering that Robert Dozier is (was?) considered the best NBA prospect on this team. I assume that CDR will be considered the Tigers' best player this time next year assuming Derrick Rose doesn't turn heads as a freshman like Kevin Durant did this year. Chris needs to become a better outside shooter (perhaps he should adopt Jeremy Hunt's off-season regiment - 500 jump shots a day). Chris has excellent leadership skills along with Antonio Anderson. Of course, we as fans and media do not get to see the inside of the locker room or the practice court, but by all accounts those two guys are the de facto leaders of the team even as sophomores.
Earlier in the season I wrote a piece asking who was the most valuable player on this team (Wednesday, January 03, 2007, My Tiger MVP So Far This Season). At the time, I gave Jeremy Hunt a slight edge over CDR. Even now when I compare these two, it is really hard to say one was more important than another. I guess if you pin me down, I'd have to give CDR the nod, but only by the narrowest of margin. It was CDR's post-season that pushed him over the top. Jeremy had the huge game at Gonzaga, which was critical for the win. And Jeremy's performance against Ohio State was fantastic. He kept Memphis close in the first half which allowed the Tigers to get by with CDR and Dorsey having no offense in the first half.
I am very happy to think that CDR will be wearing a Tiger uniform for another two years (I am assuming he isn't draft worthy next year), but replacing Jeremy Hunt will be no small task.
Who would have imagined that Jeremy Hunt would turn into a consistent contributor after the off-court issues and injuries that plagued his first couple of years? While I know Jeremy still has a contingent of naysayers, I believe you have to admire the guy for going through the pain and agony and true public embarrassment of his situation, and still he finished his degree, rejoined the team and became a leader. Let the man with no sin be the first to cast a stone. Jeremy Hunt's own mother told him to take his medicine like a man. We don't all screw up, but many of us do at his age. Jeremy appears to have learned from his mistakes and is determine to succeed in spite of them.
I am on record as saying Jeremy Hunt will probably never play basketball at another level past college (Tuesday, August 22, 2006, Memphis Fans Split over University's Decision to Reinstate Jeremy Hunt), but I think now I might have been wrong. I don't see Jeremy getting drafted, but he is easily good enough to play overseas and possibly even work his way on to an NBA roster in a year or two. There are plenty of lesser talents playing in the NBA.
Robert Dozier is a mystery to me. Will the real Robert Dozier please stand up? Will it be the Robert Dozier who can be a lock-down defender (i.e. Nevada and Texas A&M games), or will it be the Robert Dozier who seemed to sleep walk through a number of games throughout the regular season. I hope and pray that next year will be the year we expected this year to be for Rob. Robert, please demonstrate that talent and desire everyone says you have.
Dozier does seem to be the only Tiger with real post moves. Rob has the ability to catch the ball in the paint and spin to the basket. Cooper has a baby hook, but his lack of quickness negates his advantage. Dorsey, for all of his defensive and rebounding abilities, is not a very good offensive player. Joey is very slow to develop a post move and the defense always has plenty of time to react to him when he catches the ball in the lane. Joey must develop something to keep the defense on its heels. Perhaps watching Greg Oden film in the off-season will help.
Ok, back to Dozier. Rob does show flashes of brilliance. His greatest weakness appears to be consistency. He just had problems this year being relevant sometimes. There were moments when the Tigers appeared to only have four players on the court because Rob just didn't seem to be playing for stretches at a time.
Joey Dorsey is a guy you love for his energy and hate for his lack of energy. I do think Joey showed growth in his maturity this year (at least until the pre-game interview in the Elite Eight). He did seem to latch on to the "Ben Wallace" model - defense and rebound. That model can work for the Tigers. But in my opinion, Joey needs to work on four things in the off-season. One, Joey must keep his head in the game. That means play smart. Don't pick up cheap fouls 20 feet from the basket. Don't let fans or the other team bait you into anger (read technical fouls). Two, learn some post moves - a spin move, a baby hook, a 10 foot jumper. Three, work on your hands (I know you either have soft hands or you don't). There are so many times when Joey has problems holding on to the ball. Joey gets lots of offensive rebounds, but many are rebounding his own missed shot and the ball seems to fumble out of his hands. Four, learn to pass the ball back out. Perhaps Cal just doesn't want this, but with so many wing shooters, it seems like Memphis has plenty of opportunities for Joey to pass back out for open looks. Joey had very few assists on the season - something NBA scouts will be looking for.
It is hard to be critical of Antonio Anderson because the guy can do so much in a game. Fans always gravitate to points scored, but Antonio (or "San Antonio" as I heard him called after the Texas A&M game) does so much more. Anderson's weakness clearly is shooting the ball and that can get better with practice. Antonio is probably haunted by his performance at Cincinnati his freshman year (32 points). He was unconscious shooting the ball that afternoon and hasn't had a great shooting performance since. But, he probably is the only guy on the team capable of registering a triple double and that defines his role. What can you say about Antonio's defense? He is a great defender and typically draws some pretty tough assignments (i.e. Morris Almond, Acie Law).
Willie Kemp had a typical year for a freshman. He had great games and very poor games. He was pretty solid in the friendly atmosphere of the FedEx Forum, but seemed to struggle on the road. On the positive side, Kemp was a solid offensive performer in San Antonio (especially versus Ohio State, on the negative, he was poor in New Orleans.
Fortunately for the Tigers, Kemp and Andre Allen seemed to complement each other. As Kemp was playing poorly in New Orleans, Andre was solid (especially with his defense). In San Antonio, Andre fell off a bit and Kemp stepped up.
If you've read my posts this season you know I'm no big fan of Andre Allen. I did offer several complements on his defense later in the season and he had a few big games where he stood out offensively (i.e. Arizona, North Texas, Nevada). Really my issue with Andre is his poor judgment. He is not a good offensive player and he should know that. Statistics don't lie. He can't shoot very well. That doesn't mean he should pass up open shots. Cal demands guys to shoot when open. That is fine. Shoot when open, but don't be fading backwards or sideways. Don't drive the lane and take wild shots at inopportune times. Andre's 3 point attempt in the second half of the OSU game came at a poor time. Memphis needed a good possession. It was a poor attempt when momentum had already shifted to Ohio State.
It will be very interesting to see how the guard rotation occurs next season with the addition of Derrick Rose. By all accounts Rose is good enough to jump to the NBA which means he starts at Memphis. Anderson will clearly be the starting 2 guard, so Kemp and Allen are mostly likely coming off the bench. Allen may become a defensive specialist assigned to guard the opponent's point guard or used to harass a team with less than stellar ball-handling skills.
Kemp should still get good minutes because Cal needs to still have Willie developing. If you lose Rose after a year to the NBA and Allen graduates, Kemp is suddenly the number one point guard again with no one to back him up (of course, I assume Cal will be looking for another high profile point guard thinking Rose is one and done).
One of the biggest disappointments this year for fans was the fall off in the quality of the non-conference schedule. In my post (Monday, February 19, 2007, The Memphis Schedule......What Went Wrong?), I detailed the differences between this year and last. I boiled it down to losing two non-conference games when the conference schedule expanded to 16 games and the fact that teams like Cincinnati and Manhattan hurt the RPI instead of helped it like Cincinnati and Winthrop did in '05-'06. Much of that was just bad luck. Cal certainly didn't expect Manhattan to wind up with a #231 RPI ranking.
Next year should be more fun for Memphis season ticket holders. You'll get to see Tennessee, Arizona and Gonzaga in the FedEx Forum. Additionally, I'll buy into the notion that C-USA is improving. Clearly, Southern Mississippi will be better. I suspect Tulane and UTEP will be as well. I believe that Tulsa has the right coach in Wojcik to make a move up. I'm less convinced about UAB and SMU. Mike Davis has proved more to me over the years than Matt Doherty. Davis took an Indiana team to the national championship game. Doherty didn't reach so high. I need to see more from both of these guys. Recruiting to Indiana and North Carolina isn't all that hard (though Tubby clearly struggled at a similar program, Kentucky). Recruiting to UAB and SMU will show what your made of.
I hear that Memphis will face Southern Cal on a neutral court next season and we know that Memphis will visit Ole Miss. I wish that the schedule was a bit more mixed because having Tennessee, Arizona and Gonzaga all home and then all away is definitely not optimal.
So what about Cal? Personally, I like the guy. How can you not like what he has done for this program? Sure, I know he rubs some people wrong and he isn't shy about recognizing his critics (the "miserables"), but he is a winner. Look at his record taking two non-BCS teams to national powers. He has a excellent recruiting record - Memphis is poised for top 15 classes annually. He is a excellent motivator. He is a excellent marketer of the program on a national basis. He demands excellence - the guys are graduating. Does Cal deserve the salary? I say yes. I hope Cal is happy in Memphis and retires here in about 25 more years.
Congratulations on a fine season.
Go Tigers Go!!