Tigers vs. Vols on TV beefs up schedule
Calipari says he 'over scheduled' with Arizona, Gonzaga, others
By Dan Wolken
April 25, 2007
There are still a few details to work out, a handful of dates to finalize. But the University of Memphis' non-conference basketball schedule for 2007-08 is practically done, and it includes challenges at every turn.
Perhaps the biggest of those will occur Feb. 23, when Memphis hosts Tennessee in what could be a matchup of two top-10 teams. ESPN has already committed to the game as its feature that night, and the network's "College GameDay" broadcast will originate from Memphis.
Memphis will face at least three more teams that project to be in the top-25, hosting Arizona on Dec. 29 and Gonzaga on Jan. 19.
The schedule also includes a December trip to New York to face Southern Cal in a made for TV game. That contest will be billed as a matchup of arguably the top freshmen guards in the country in Derrick Rose and USC's O.J. Mayo.
The Tigers will likely make another trip to New York to start the season in the Coaches vs. Cancer event.
Should Memphis win two games at FedExForum against mid-major level opponents -- those are still unknown at this point -- it will advance to Madison Square Garden for the semifinals. The other regional hosts are Connecticut, Oklahoma and Kentucky.
Memphis will play two true road games during the non-conference schedule, traveling to Cincinnati and Ole Miss.
"I probably overscheduled again this year," coach John Calipari said. "But if you're going to do it, this is probably the year."
The Tigers will play Middle Tennessee State at the Nashville Arena -- that game might be part of a double-header with Tennessee and another regional school -- and round out its schedule with home games against Pepperdine, Holy Cross, Appalachian State, Arkansas State and Austin Peay.
Those "buy games" were chosen to help boost the Tigers' strength of schedule. Appalachian State, for instance, just missed an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament last season after going 25-7 including victories over Vanderbilt and Virginia.
Holy Cross won the Patriot League last season and lost to Southern Illinois in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Ralph Willard, who coaches Holy Cross, upset Memphis in the 1993 NCAA Tournament when he coached at Western Kentucky.
Though Pepperdine struggled to an 8-23 record, that team is expected to be better next season with a solid recruiting class coming in. Pepperdine is coached by Calipari's friend, Vance Walberg, who created the offensive system Memphis now runs.
Arkansas State, Austin Peay and Middle Tennessee were kept on the schedule because Calipari believes they are going to be competitive in their respective leagues.
"Those teams are going to win 20 games," Calipari said.
The date of the Tennessee matchup is intriguing, because non-conference games are very rarely played that late in the season. Calipari's scheduling philosophy -- especially since Conference USA's reorganization -- has been to play one big non-conference game in January and one in February.
The date of the Memphis-Tennessee game has been a point of contention for both sides the last two years, with UT coach Bruce Pearl unhappy that the 2005-06 game was played in January and Calipari upset last season that the Tigers had to go to Knoxville and play their third game in five days.
But the amount of exposure ESPN will generate for this game is something both coaches can agree on.
"ESPN's 'GameDay' will be there, and we're assured of tremendous exposure all day long because they'll be broadcasting from the early morning,'' Pearl told the Knoxville News-Sentinel. "Normally, I would prefer to play the game during the traditional non-conference portion of our schedule.''
-- Dan Wolken: 529-2365
2007-08 non-conference opponents
Unless noted, dates have not been determined:
Arizona (Dec. 29), Gonzaga (Jan. 19), Tennessee (Feb. 23), Pepperdine, Holy Cross, Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Austin Peay
On the road
Ole Miss, Cincinnati
At New York
USC (in Jimmy V Classic), Coaches vs. Cancer Classic