Tigers' seed subject of conjecture
By Jim Masilak
March 11, 2007
The players think they deserve a No. 1 seed.
The TV analysts say they're a cinch for a 2.
The RPI guys, meanwhile, are forecasting them as a 3.
The only people who know for sure where the University of Memphis will be seeded in the NCAA Tournament are the 10 members of the Division 1 selection committee.
And they aren't talking -- not until the brackets are unveiled today at approximately 5 p.m., that is.
"I don't know what's gonna happen," Memphis coach John Calipari said following the Tigers' 71-59 victory over Houston in Saturday morning's Conference USA Tournament title game at FedExForum.
He's not alone.
Whereas a year ago at this time the Tigers were making a confident claim for a No. 1 seed, they sound a little less certain about their status now.
"We really don't have an idea," sophomore guard and C-USA tournament MVP Chris Douglas-Roberts said. "I don't want to jinx us, but I think it will be between 1, 2 and 3. I don't think they'll give us a 1, but I feel we deserve it. We have the best record in college (30-3), and we've won 22 straight."
Sophomore guard Antonio Anderson said he'd be disappointed if the Tigers ended up with anything less than one of the top eight spots in the bracket.
"I'm expecting either a 1 or a 2 seed," he said. "Hopefully it'll be a 1, but we'll settle for a 2."
The Tigers would seem to present the selection committee with something of a dilemma.
On one hand, they boast the nation's longest winning streak (22 games and counting), went a perfect 19-0 against league opponents, 11-3 in road and neutral-site games and were ranked No. 7 in the RPI following their win over the Cougars.
On the other hand, they are just 1-2 against teams in the RPI top 50 (Georgia Tech, which beat the Tigers in November, dropped out of the top 50), played merely the 79th-toughest schedule in the country according to realtimerpi.com and benefited from competing in the nation's 11th-ranked conference.
The consensus Saturday among experts canvassed by The Commercial Appeal was that the Tigers would likely be either a 2 or a 3.
"I think they're a 2 seed," said Dan Bonner, who provided analysis of Saturday's title game for CBS. "Twenty-two in a row is a very impressive thing. You can make all the comments you want about their lack of wins against top-50 RPI teams, but you win the games you play. Lots of teams get upset, but Memphis didn't."
CSTV analyst and former college coach Pete Gillen, who watched all three of the Tigers' C-USA tournament games, agreed with Bonner's assessment.
"I wouldn't mind them being a 1," Gillen said. "... But I think they're a No. 2, honestly. If they get good point-guard play and make their free throws, they'll have a chance to go to the Elite Eight again or to the Final Four."
Ken Pomeroy, who compiles his own RPI figures at kenpom.com, disagrees with Bonner and Gillen.
"I think they're set for a 3," Pomeroy said via e-mail moments after the Tigers wrapped up their second straight C-USA tournament title. "The 1 and 2 lines are pretty full right now, and while I feel Memphis is competitive enough to deserve a 2, the bottom line is they only have one top-50 win, so their case for a 2 isn't very good on paper."
Analyst Joe Lunardi, in his latest Bracketology update at ESPN.com, had the Tigers targeted for a No. 3 seed as well. Lunardi projects the Tigers playing first- and second-round games in Lexington as part of the South Regional.
While Jerry Palm of collegerpi.com credits the Tigers for dominating their league and for "not having any bad losses," he nevertheless also predicts they'll be a No. 3 seed due to a lack of top-50 RPI victories and "too much competition for the top eight positions."
"Memphis is a team that just didn't play that good a schedule," Palm said. "You can't do anything about your league, which is very down. But their best win is Kentucky, which played itself into the bottom half of the bracket. That's not enough to rate anything better than a 3, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was lower than that."
Palm said the Tigers could conceivably fall to a No. 4 seed if results in other conference tournaments this weekend went against them.
That likely wouldn't sit well with the Tigers.
"No lower than a 2," senior guard Jeremy Hunt said when asked what he and his teammates would deem acceptable. "If they seed us 1, that's good. If they don't, we still have to go out and play."
Most experts agree that Florida, Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio State, UCLA and Wisconsin are set for either a No. 1 or a No. 2 seed. That figures to leave the likes of Georgetown, Pittsburgh and Texas A&M battling with Memphis for the last two No. 2s.
Calipari said he "thinks there'll be people stunned" if the Tigers don't at least get a 2.
"It's hard doing what we did," he said in reference to his team's 22-game winning run.
Houston coach Tom Penders, whose Cougars (18-15) went 0-3 against the Tigers this season, doesn't think it matters which little number is placed on Memphis' line today.
"They're an awesome team," said Penders, who thinks the Tigers will end up with at least a No. 2 seed. "I'd like to see the 13, 14 or 15 seed that's gonna beat those guys."
-- Jim Masilak: 529-2311