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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Tigers #1 in C-USA, But Likely Only #2 or #3 in 'Big Dance'

Tigers No. 1 in league, but likely only 2 or 3 in 'Big Dance'

By Dan Wolken
March 11, 2007

One year ago, the University of Memphis got the news it was hoping for from the NCAA Tournament selection committee, which awarded the Tigers the first No. 1 seed in program history.

Memphis, which celebrated its second consecutive Conference USA championship at FedExForum on Saturday, is looking for more good news today when CBS announces the NCAA Tournament pairings during a show beginning at 5 p.m.

Though it's unlikely Memphis is headed for another No. 1 seed, the Tigers believe their 30-3 record is worthy of a No. 2 or No. 3 seed. Memphis reached the 30-win plateau for the second consecutive year with a 71-59 victory over Houston in the C-USA championship game, finishing off an undefeated run through its league.
Memphis owns the nation's longest winning streak at 22 games. The Tigers last lost Dec. 20 at Arizona.

"I know it's going to be between a 1, 2 or 3," sophomore guard Chris Douglas-Roberts said. "I honestly don't think they're going to give us a 1, but whatever they give us, we still have to play whoever we're matched up against.

"I feel we deserve it. We have the best record in college basketball and 22 straight (wins)."

Coach John Calipari said he didn't feel the need to campaign for a high seed.

"We won 22 straight games. We won nine road games," Calipari said. "It's hard doing what we did."

Regardless of where Memphis is placed, the Tigers will be well-positioned for another deep run into the NCAAs just two years after missing the tournament entirely.

Last year, Memphis reached the Elite Eight but lost its top-three scorers to the professional ranks in Rodney Carney, Shawne Williams and Darius Washington. Instead of falling back, new stars have emerged, including Douglas-Roberts, sophomore guard Antonio Anderson and junior forward Joey Dorsey.

That group led Memphis to a 16-0 conference record and a sweep of the C-USA Tournament. The biggest knock against Memphis is the strength of its league, which is ranked 11th in the Ratings Percentage Index, a key tool for the selection committee.

Memphis lost three early season games to quality opponents but has only two victories over teams that are going to the NCAA Tournament: Kentucky and Gonzaga. (Actually, that is incorrect - The Tigers also defeated Jackson State #16 Seed in the Midwest Region, ed.)

Still, the Tigers believe their league accomplishments are worthy of recognition.

"At the beginning of the year, you never think you're going through a whole conference without having one slip-up or two," sophomore forward Robert Dozier said. "But we're excited we did it."

-- Dan Wolken: 529-2365

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