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Monday, March 12, 2007 on Memphis

Dan Rodell's Sports Rambles

Saturday, March 10, 2007
Memphis Tigers, Who are These Cats?

Tigers win Conference USA Tournament, and extend wining streak to 22 by disposing of Houston 71-59

Last season, Memphis reached the Elite 8 as a number one seed before falling to UCLA 50-45. This season's crop of Tigers remembers their exit vividly.

After taking down Houston 71-59, Memphis wrapped up their second consecutive Conference USA tournament title, as well as finishing the season 30-3 and 16-0 in conference play. The Tigers will enter the NCAA tournament as the only representative from their weak conference. However, don't be fooled by the lack of competition within Conference USA. Whenever a team wins 22 games consecutively and nine straight on the road they're a force to be reckoned with.

Leading the way for this year's squad are guards Chris Douglas-Roberts and Jeremy Hunt. Douglas-Roberts is averaging 15 points a game, while Hunt is averaging 14. Both players create constant match-up problems for opposing teams due to their huge physiques at the guard position, Douglas-Roberts is 6-6 and Hunt is 6-5. In case that doesn't scare the opposition enough come tourney time when back court play is emphasized, the Tigers have plenty of muscle in forwards Robert Dozier and Joey Dorsey. Dozier averages 10 points and six rebound a game, while the man-child Dorsey averages nine points and 10 rebounds. Dorsey also puts fear in the eyes of opponents with his jaw-dropping, powerful dunks.

Watching Dorsey rock the rim is a scary sight due to him having the physique of a NFL linebacker. There is one thing this year's Tigers are not lacking and that is size, height and strength.

Over the last two seasons, head coach John Calipari has led the Tigers to a 63-7 record and back-to-back conference titles. However, the Tigers have not played anyone worthwhile. Their best win came against Kentucky all the way back on November 22nd. Meanwhile, they have lost to Georgia Tech, Tennessee, and Arizona this year. Their last lost came against then no. 9 Arizona on December 20th, 79-71. At the time that lost looked understandable, now it is unacceptable as Arizona finished the season unranked at 20-10 overall and 11-7 in Pac-10 play.
Despite these glaring weaknesses, Memphis can not change the fact they play in Conference USA. They can not change the fact that four teams left following the 2004-05 season to join the Big East. These teams include Louisville, Marquette, DePaul, and Cincinnati. If those four teams would have stayed then may be Memphis would get more respect or may be they would not even be in this position. However, there is no way to determine that and Memphis will enter this tourney with little idea of how good they really are.

Regardless of that, winning 22 straight shows consistency, discipline, and a hunger. A tiger in the wild is a tenacious and deadly hunter, these Tigers on the court have the same characteristics. With their run and gun style they can bury any team in minutes and have done so with 15 of their 30 wins coming by 20 or more points.

Whatever their seeding come Sunday, the Tigers are a team to watch because no one knows what they are truly capable of. That unpredictability alone puts fear in the opposition.

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