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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Columnist Geoff Caulkins - Stars, depth, experience? Championship!

Stars, depth, experience? Championship!
By Geoff Calkins
Monday, November 5, 2007

The Memphis Tigers will win the national title this year.

Pay no attention to this man

He's a hater, a miserable, and surely you can see that.

He's appealing to your deepest fears.

"This is the year," said Memphis guard Chris Douglas-Roberts.

Why would CDR lie to you?

Memphis will win because it has the best depth, and the best speed, and the best combination of experience and star power.

Sure, some young teams have had success in the NCAA Tournament. See Greg Oden's Ohio State or Michigan's Fab Five.

But Ohio State lost to Florida, a team filled with juniors. Michigan lost to Duke, another seasoned team.

This Memphis team is loaded with experience. CDR, Robert Dozier, Antonio Anderson, Joey Dorsey and Andre Allen have been to two straight Elite Eights. Now they're back, wiser than ever.

"There's nothing we haven't experienced," Anderson said.

Well, OK, there might be one thing: A freshman who can go the length of the court in a blink.

That would be Derrick Rose, the point guard who is every bit as good as advertised.

"He's the fastest guy I've ever seen," said Dorsey.

Usually, you'd expect an accomplished veteran like Dorsey to be skeptical of a freshman. Not this freshman.

The other day, Dorsey, CDR and Anderson sat around talking about the kid. They couldn't stop telling stories, about the time he did this, or dunked that, or made other some ridiculous blur of a move.

So don't tell me a freshman point guard can't win a championship. Not the year after a much less celebrated point guard (Mike Conley) fell one game short.

And it's not like there's some super team out there this year, some Florida (circa 2007) or Kentucky (circa 1996) or UCLA (circa 1973).

North Carolina is the No. 1 team in the Associated Press preseason poll. The basketball world is not exactly shaking in its baggy shorts.

Last year's North Carolina team finished exactly one spot ahead of Memphis in last year's AP rankings, No. 4 to No. 5. North Carolina lost two starters off that team (Brandan Wright and Reyshawn Terry) and added nobody of consequence. Memphis lost one nice backup player (Jeremy Hunt) and added Rose and two other top-100 players (Shawn Taggart and Jeff Robinson).

So why is North Carolina still ranked ahead of Memphis?

The RPI guy must have gotten a job with AP.

That would also explain why No. 2 UCLA is also ahead of Memphis, despite losing Arron Afflalo, a first-team all-American.

"They don't like non-BCS teams," said Dorsey.

OK, that's another theory.

But this non-BCS team uses its outsider status as an advantage, blowing through Conference USA on its way to a No. 2 seed last year and a No. 1 seed the year before. Last year was particularly telling, given that the Tigers lost nearly every important out-of-conference game. They lost to Georgia Tech and Tennessee and Arizona. On Selection Sunday, there there were, still sitting at No. 2.

How can this team possibly do worse than that? When nearly every important player is back and all the big games are at home?

If Memphis gets a No. 1 or No. 2, it will play its first-round games in Little Rock. Memphis isn't going to lose at Little Rock.

Which gets us to the regionals and two huge games and, really, what team is better equipped?

This is a team that beat Texas A&M in Texas, in front of 30,000 crazy fans. This is a team that has gone 33-4 each of the last two years.

Heck, the guys from Laurinburg went 40-0 the year before that. In the last three years, they're 106-8.

They're pure winners, toughened by experience. And they know this is their chance.

"This is our year," said Dorsey.

It's going to happen.

Just you wait and see.

To reach Geoff Calkins, call him at 529-2364 or e-mail

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