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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Looking Into Tigers' Crystal Ball

Looking into Tigers' crystal ball
Year will feature lots to talk about
By Dan Wolken
Sunday, August 26, 2007

Classes at the University of Memphis begin on Monday, and college football starts Thursday, which means both more regular coverage of Tiger basketball and the end of this column for the summer.

To wrap things up, here are seven fearless predictions for the upcoming season, in honor of the seven weeks until Memphis Madness:

Expect a big season from Chris Douglas-Roberts this year. But it might also be the last for the Tigers' go-to guy.

1. Forward Angel Garcia will commit to Memphis in the next few weeks: The talented 6-11 Puerto Rican told is deciding between the Tigers and Indiana. That's very good news for Memphis, which badly wants Garcia to go along with already committed twins Marcus and Markieff Morris from Philadelphia. The Tigers are a better fit for Garcia's style of play -- similar to Shawne Williams -- and have a big edge due to John Calipari's history of developing players for the NBA. It also helps that assistant coach Chuck Martin is of Puerto Rican descent.

2. Joey Dorsey will be the star of Conference USA Media Day: After barely speaking publicly until last season's NCAA Tournament, Dorsey has proven quite quotable lately (for better or worse). The truth is, Dorsey is engaging and funny, and you never know what he'll say next. Hopefully Dorsey will stay that way, though Calipari would probably prefer he not make the kind of incendiary comments that made national headlines last season before his matchup with Greg Oden and Ohio State.

3. Memphis will lose a game at some point and drop from its No. 1 ranking, prompting Tiger fans to whine about a "lack of respect": Maybe in the past, this was a legitimate gripe. Not anymore. The Tigers are ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in nearly every preseason poll. No team in the country has gotten more positive ink this summer than Memphis. Put away the lack of respect card, please. It's tired.

4. Chris Douglas-Roberts will be a first-team all-American: Though he probably won't be among the nation's leading scorers, who would you rather have with the ball in his hand when you need a bucket? CDR was as impressive as ever early this summer in pickup games at the Finch Center and reportedly got to the rim at will during the Nike/LeBron James Camp in Akron. This will be a huge -- and probably final -- year at Memphis for CDR.

5. The Tigers will go 14-2 in Conference USA: Wouldn't it be ironic if Memphis' best team lost more games in C-USA than the 2006 and 2007 versions combined? But unlike the last two seasons, C-USA has three potential NCAA teams besides Memphis (Houston, UAB, Southern Miss), and the Tigers will have to play road games against all three. From a quality standpoint, 14-2 this season would probably be about equal to last year's 16-0 record.

6. Despite the loss of Jeremy Hunt, Memphis will be a better 3-point shooting team this season: As a team, Memphis made a very respectable 35.1 percent last year from the 3-point line, and it wasn't all Hunt. Willie Kemp connected on 38.6 percent, and Doneal Mack actually led the team at 40.5 percent (he was 50 percent from Jan. 1 to the end of the year). It's reasonable to expect Antonio Anderson to shoot better than 24.5 percent, and newcomers Shawn Taggart and Jeff Robinson can both shoot the three.

7. Memphis will open the 2008 NCAA Tournament in North Little Rock: That's right, 18,000-seat Alltel Arena is a host site for first- and second-round games next March. Assuming Memphis is one of the top four seeds, the Tigers (and their fans) likely won't have to travel more than two hours by bus to open what could be a long NCAA run. Fans might want to go ahead and look into accommodations. Tickets are sold out for the March 21 and 23 games, and I'm told hotel rooms for that weekend in Little Rock are already hard to come by.

Changes afoot

Over the three seasons Memphis has shared FedExForum with the Grizzlies, actual attendance for Tiger games has been determined by arena officials counting torn ticket stubs by hand.

That fact caused some controversy last season when The Commercial Appeal learned that Memphis had some surprisingly low crowds and didn't average the 10,000 in attendance necessary to trigger a $100,000 payment from the Grizzlies.

Counting stubs, however, may not be necessary in the near future. Paciolan Systems, which handles ticketing for the UofM (and a number of other colleges), is in the process of being acquired by Ticketmaster, which has a contract with FedExForum for all other events.

In other words, if the merger goes through, tickets to Tiger games could soon include bar codes compatible with the scanning equipment already used at FedExForum for Grizzlies games.

Not only would that make attendance counts easier and more accurate, it would allow Memphis to track which season ticket holders are actually using their tickets.

"A lot of our problems would go away," associate athletic director Bill Lofton said. "It would certainly be great for us and our fans and the people that operate the different facilities. We would love to be in that position where the tickets that we sell both on a season basis and individual game basis would be compatible with the equipment down there. It's my understanding that Ticketmaster owns that equipment, so hopefully there will be a smooth, seamless transition."

Because the sale probably won't be finalized until after this basketball season begins, it's unlikely Memphis' ticketing system will change until 2008-09.

To reach reporter Dan Wolken, call 529-2365; e-mail:

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