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Friday, December 21, 2007

Dick Vitale - Calipari's plan at Memphis proves to be a masterpiece

Calipari's plan at Memphis proves to be a masterpiece

By Dick Vitale, special for USA TODAY

Trust me, baby, when Memphis and John Calipari were not part of Commissioner Mike Tranghese's Big East expansion plan in 2003, many people in the basketball community were snickering and predicting this would lead to the demise of Tigers basketball.

Remember when Tranghese, one of the premier commissioners in the game, made a call to hoop powers Marquette, Louisville and Cincinnati and had them wave bye-bye to Conference USA? Left behind were the Tigers.

Obviously, Marquette, Louisville and Cincinnati left for the incredible television exposure and the increased competition that would be big time in every way.

However, my friends, people underestimated Calipari's drive to remain among the elite.

Let me tell you now why Mr. Calipari is getting the last laugh.

Oh, the exposure is fantastic for those who left, but think about the pounding they give each other that ultimately leads in many cases to mediocrity. It has even become an obstacle for putting together a first-class résumé for NCAA tournament evaluation.

Calipari has developed what I would call the "John Calipari Plan."

It is simply: Be the crème de la crème in your conference and then add seven major non-conference TV games.

That provided a spark and impetus to the Tigers' national reputation.

Check out the world of recruiting, and you can see that the Tigers staff has sparkled.

Think about Diaper Dandy deluxe Derrick Rose, a USA TODAY All-USA player in high school.

No, it hasn't hurt recruiting one bit.

Now let's look at the Calipari math and the system that shows why his plan is a masterpiece of success.

Let's give the good folks of Conference USA — which includes such programs as Alabama-Birmingham, Houston, Texas-El Paso and Southern Mississippi — the good fortune, if they are lucky, to put two "L's" on the Memphis ledger.

Along the way, if Calipari loses two of his remaining four quality games against the likes of Georgetown, Arizona, Gonzaga and Tennessee — and that is being generous, my friends — he is staring at a potential record of no worse than 30-4.

The last two years he has posted 66 wins. I ask you, who do you think is getting the last laugh?

And how much has all of this affected Memphis at NCAA tournament time?

Just go to the records, my friends.

The last two years the Tigers made it to the Elite Eight. With the addition of Rose to a lineup that has one of the premier wing players in the nation in Chris Douglas-Roberts, the Tigers have a legit shot to make the journey to San Antonio for the Final Four.

Now do you think Calipari is laughing at all those cynics?

I guess you get the picture, my friends.

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