Not just BBQ in Memphis
SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM
May 9, 2007
I recently read that my esteemed ESPN.com colleague Andy Katz picked Memphis number one for next season. In my book, I am going with North Carolina because the Tar Heels are loaded up front with Tyler Hansbrough, plus the backcourt is returning. I also feel North Carolina will have a chip on its shoulder after the disappointing loss to Georgetown in the Elite Eight.
Let me tell you, there is a lot to be said about how good John Calipari's Tigers will be. This is a program that has made the Elite Eight back-to-back seasons. I can tell this is going to be a big season for Memphis simply based on hearing the excitement in Calipari's voice when I spoke to him recently. There was a special tone that indicated he can't wait for the 2007-08 campaign to begin.
There is good reason for optimism with the addition of diaper dandy Derrick Rose. My friends, this young man will be a superstar right away out of the Windy City. He should contribute immediately as an instant dominator. Memphis also brings back the likes of Chris Douglas-Roberts, Robert Dozier, Antonio Anderson, Joey Dorsey, Andre Allen, Willie Kemp and Doneal Mack. The lone senior of note lost from last year's squad was Jeremy Hunt.
The Tigers will dominate Conference USA and the big question will be, "can the Tigers go unblemished in league play once again." Calipari will also play his share of tough non-conference foes to improve the program's RPI. The Tigers are in the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic with Kentucky, Connecticut and Oklahoma. Wow, could we see a match-up of Mr. Calipari and new Wildcats coach Billy Gillispie? Maybe a renewal of the Calipari vs. Jim Calhoun rivalry we saw when Massachusetts and Connecticut used to hook up? Those challenges will help in the long run as this team prepares for tournament play.
There will big things happening in Memphis. People are not just going out to see Elvis' mansion. Last year's 33-4 record wasn't a fluke and Calipari knew he had a young squad. Last season's experience will help make this team even better. They will be stopping off to the FedEx Forum to see Calipari's team make a run at the Final Four.
It's ironic that last season ended in a loss to Ohio State at San Antonio. This season's goal is a return to San Antonio as that is the site for the Final Four. Calipari's got the horses to get him there.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.