No time for Tigers to relax
Arizona provides different set of challenges for U of M
By Dan Wolken
Thursday, December 27, 2007
When senior Joey Dorsey arrived in Baltimore on Saturday night, he was welcomed home by a sign his mother and sister hung across the living room reading, "Memphis 85, Georgetown 71."
Though the Tigers didn't need a banner to remind them, it further underscored the impact of how well they played last weekend, how thoroughly they dominated a top-10 team in the second half and how important the victory was to their national image.
But the schedule has not given No. 2-ranked Memphis much time to revel. Indeed, as the Tigers returned to practice Wednesday evening, they were faced with an even bigger challenge than the one they overcame last Saturday: Doing it again.
Though it would be unrealistic to routinely expect a performance as thorough as the one they mustered against Georgetown, the Tigers might need a quick recall Saturday at FedExForum against No. 17 Arizona.
"This team is going to be way harder, in my opinion, for us to beat," coach John Calipari said. "They're totally different than Georgetown."
Indeed, Arizona (9-2) presents a new set of issues for the Tigers (10-0).
While Georgetown is talented, even the Hoyas can't boast two projected 2008 NBA lottery picks like Arizona's Jerryd Bayless and Chase Budinger. Arizona may be one of the few teams in the country with the personnel to compete with Memphis in an up-tempo game, something Georgetown struggled with in the second half. And unlike the Hoyas, whose Princeton-style offense often hinders their ability to come back quickly from deficits, Arizona has already this season beaten No. 14 Texas A&M and Illinois after falling behind by double-digits.
"There's more mano-a-mano challenges in this game," Calipari said. "Can you guard Bayless? We're going to help you, but can you guard him? Can you guard Budinger? We're going to help and play team defense, but the bottom line is, can he guard you better than you can guard him? That's what this will be."
The bigger problem for Memphis, however, could be simple physics. The Tigers reached an emotional pinnacle against Georgetown, and what goes up in sports usually comes down. Is it even feasible for Memphis to duplicate the level of execution and intensity that carried it to a win over Georgetown?
"That," Dorsey said, "is gonna be tough."
Tough, but not impossible. After all, Arizona is one of just four red-letter days on the Tigers' non-conference schedule, along with dates against Tennessee and Gonzaga. And Memphis has, to this point, relished its early-season opportunities against elite opponents.
Calipari compared this portion of the schedule to preparing for a conference or NCAA tournament, when you can only enjoy a victory for a short time before turning your attention to the next round.
"You've got to be disciplined," junior guard Antonio Anderson said. "Every day we get here, coach tries to keep it disciplined so when we get to that point we'll get to that performance. But it's very hard to do that. Fortunately we got to do it against a great team, and hopefully we can do it against teams aren't as good as Georgetown and teams as good as Georgetown."
Though some fans might expect the Tigers to play as well as they did against Georgetown all the time, it's admittedly tougher for them to get as amped up for teams they are heavily favored to beat.
The good news for Calipari is that his bench is deep enough that he can usually find someone to help Memphis win. Already this season, the Tigers' reserves have bailed out starters on several occasions, whether it was Andre Allen making 3-pointers in Cincinnati or Willie Kemp and Doneal Mack firing away against Arkansas State.
And if Memphis' starters do suffer the dreaded letdown against Arizona, Calipari hopes he has a bench full of players hungry to make an impact after they played sparingly against Georgetown.
"They're not robots. They're not machines," Calipari said. "You're not going to play perfect every time out. Things are going to happen; we just hope we have enough guys that we can do it anyway. With a team as deep as ours, if one or two of those starters don't have it, you hope you can plug in two others and you can keep it. That's what you're striving for, and what a game like (Georgetown) does is show you what they're capable of."
Next for Tigers
Opponent: No.17 Arizona
When, where: 9 p.m. Saturday at FedExForum