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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Tigers to Open College Basketball Season Nov. 5th on ESPN

Tigers will be season opener
2k College Hoops Classic matchup is first of '07-'08

By Dan Wolken
July 8, 2007

John Calipari isn't shy espousing his belief the Tigers are talented enough to play in the last college basketball game of the season. If they do, it would provide some interesting symmetry, since Memphis will also be playing in the first game of the 2007-08 season.

Gazelle Group president Rick Giles, whose company puts on several major early season tournaments, said college basketball will officially begin in Memphis on Nov. 5 when the Tigers host the first round of the 2k College Hoops Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer in an ESPNU-televised game.

"We've got the arena on Nov. 5 and 6, and nobody else is playing games before that," Giles said.

The opponents for the Memphis region of the tournament won't be finalized for a few days, but Giles confirmed Appalachian State won't be one of them. Originally, the Memphis coaching staff thought they would play Appalachian State in the first round, but those plans fell through. Don't be surprised if an Atlantic 10 team is placed in Memphis instead.

Should Memphis and fellow regional hosts Kentucky, Connecticut and Oklahoma win their first two games, they will advance to New York for the semifinals. Giles said tournament organizers and ESPN still haven't decided how to set the semifinal bracket.

ESPN would probably prefer to guarantee a Memphis-UConn matchup because it involves two high profile coaches who feuded when Calipari was at UMass going head-to-head with Jim Calhoun. On the other hand, a UConn-Kentucky semifinal would be very attractive, with the winner potentially playing a No. 1-ranked Memphis in the final.

"We always go back and forth on that," Giles said. "In 1999, we had UConn and Duke, and Connecticut had just defeated Duke in the national championship game. We debated that for a long time and decided to put them opposite.

"So what happened? Duke lost the first semifinal to Stanford and UConn lost to Iowa, so we had Duke-UConn in the consolation game. No matter what, we'll have four great games in New York regardless of how the bracket plays out."

Giles also pointed out that three of the last six national champions have started their seasons in the Coaches vs. Cancer event: Florida in 2005-06, Syracuse in 2002-03 and Maryland in 2001-02. Memphis would love to oblige Giles in making it four out of seven.

"It's great to have them this year," Giles said. "Coming in ranked No. 1 or No. 2 is terrific. That adds a little buzz to the whole event."

Confidence boost

Antonio Anderson's free throws with 3.1 seconds left to push Memphis past Texas A&M and into the Elite Eight was named the year's most memorable sports moment by readers of Memphis Sport magazine.

Anderson remembers, too. And that's a good thing for the Tigers, since nobody was more in need of a good memory from the 2006-07 season than Anderson.

Though Anderson played more minutes than any Tiger and led the team with 130 assists, it was a strange season to say the least. Across the board, Anderson's shooting numbers were down from the year before: 39 percent from the field, 24.5 percent from the 3-point line and 63.4 percent on free throws.

Why did Anderson's jump shot abruptly stop going in, especially after a solid start in Maui? Nobody really knows. But it continued to snowball, affecting Anderson to the point where he didn't even want to shoot.

"As a freshman, I shot it good. This year, I shot it bad," Anderson said. "I'm trying to get it back. Freshman year, I don't know, I was confident. I was confident at the beginning this year, but when I started missing a lot, I couldn't get my confidence back. That's all it was."

Anderson has spent a large part of the offseason in the gym shooting jumpers, hoping to rediscover the touch that helped him finish among the top 12 in Conference USA in 3-point percentage as a freshman.

Just as important, Anderson said making those free throws in a pressure-packed situation went a long way toward healing his psyche.

"Definitely, it should," he said. "It would be a confidence boost for anybody."

Early commitment?

One of the top 13-year-old basketball players in the country told the Philadelphia Inquirer he wants to play college basketball at Memphis. In a story about Michael Gilchrist, a 6-6 wing from Somerdale, N.J., Gilchrist casually told reporter Keith Pompey that he wanted to "play (college basketball) at Memphis for two or three years. I don't want to do only one year in college, because I want to get an education. And after two or three years, hopefully, I can go to the NBA."

Reached by phone Friday, Gilchrist's mother, Cindy Richardson, declined to clarify what he meant or to explain her son's interest in Memphis. Gilchrist was not available for comment.

"He's a mature 13-year-old," Richardson said.

Though Gilchrist is by all accounts a legitimate prospect -- yes, there are recruiting services that rank 13-year-olds -- it's a little early for Tiger fans to get excited. But it is a situation worth following, especially given his comments.

To reach reporter Dan Wolken, call 529-2365; e-mail: wolken@commercialappeal.com

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