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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Attacking The Zone

So Syracuse played zone defense the whole game.

I remember writing to a friend in March of 2007

(If Coach Cal wants to play the dribble drive motion) "he has to teach his team how to attack the zone, and they have to accomplish it so successfully that their opponents will want to go back to man to man. And it's real easy to attack a zone. I got a DVD for my son recently, about play in the Post. They had a chapter about how to attack the zone. Simple stuff. You position your men depending upon what kind of zone you see. You attack the seams with precise passing. You move the ball and not your feet. You don't dribble into the zone. Your offensive players make their move before or after the zone moves, not with it. In the post, you screen and seal your defender, before the ball rotates to your side."

Or you pop the three point shots. But then you have to make them. If Coach Cal insists on attacking the zone by taking three point shots, then he needs to be playing his best three point shooters. That would be Robert Sallie and Preston Laird.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Memphis vs. UALR Comment by Brett Speer

By Brett Speer

Sitting amongst my fellow basketball starved students, minutes before tip off, I stop and look around to take it all in. In the midst of a season that has so far not gone the way Coach Calipari had hoped, I still notice the "hope" that every tiger fan has before a game. After tip off fear started to set in as Pierre Henderson-Niles turned over the ball to allow UALR's, Matt Mouzy, to hit a three pointer. This was followed up by a Robert Dozier turn over, in which he was able to steal back only to pass the ball to Antonio Anderson who turned it over and allow UALR to make an easy lay up. The first two minutes of the game saw the Tigers losing 5-0 and the inadequacy that every Memphis fan has deep down started to seep out of that place we keep hidden away. Before all hope could be lost Tyreke Evans took the ball down court, put up a quick three pointer that caused tiger nation's fears to be subdued. It was a back and forth struggle for the first twelve minutes of the game, with a score of 18-19, Shawn Taggart snatched the offensive rebound and was fouled while attempting a lay up. Taggart made both free-throws to give the Tigers a 20-19 lead, which the Tigers would not relinquish for the rest of the game. The game was a hard nosed clash that required every point to be truly earned. The Tigers made 26-40 free throws, mainly by the superb shooting of Evans(7-11) and Dozier(9-12). The Tigers field goal percentage was abysmal (shooting 15-45) and making 3-20 three pointers. The final score was Tigers 59, UALR 51.

The game was a defensive battle with ups and downs on both teams. Pierre saw more minutes than he has seen all season with 27 minutes, and this was also only the 2nd time he has played over twenty minutes this season. Although, his statistics were not mind blowing, his physical presence was felt by UALR. Early on in the game Pierre looked a little lost in the paint but by the 2nd half he had found his way. Throughout the game Antonio Anderson struggled to find consistency but his leadership flourished. The enigma known as Willie Kemp, continued his season of performing poorly. Hopefully this game will be the wake-up call the Tigers need to turn around their season, just as the loss to Arizona a couple of seasons ago was the wake-up call that lead to an Elite eight appearance.

By Brett Speer

A Preview

On CBS today, just before the Memphis game, we are treated to a great matchup between Gonzaga and Connecticut.

With Stanley Robinson back, Connecticut may well have all the pieces to contend for number one. I surely think the Connecticut front line could give Tyler Hansborough a tough time in the paint.

Commenting on the their recent rout of Stony Brook, ESPN says:

"The Huskies have won 134 of their last 135 home games played before January against opponents from outside the Big East."

I know that is supposed to say great things about Connecticut, but doesn't it really mean that the Huskies normally puff up their won lost record before Big East play, by playing only the little guys in their neighborhood?

I'm not saying Gonzaga is going to win. Pargo could be the difference maker. But the game might give us some ideas about how to handle Hytvelt and Daye.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Post Xavier, Pre-Georgetown

It is amazing to me to see the reaction from so many Memphis fans even two weeks after the heartbreaking loss to Xavier. It has been like the Tigers really disappointed people with that loss. Certainly any loss is tough, but Xavier is pretty good and currently 10th in the country in the AP(6th in the RPI, 25th in Pomeroy). In a way that is part of the problem. Memphis just doesn't have a hard enough schedule this year, so losing ANY top 25 game is disappointment and potentially problematic.

If you think about two years ago, Memphis was in the exact same boat. One they lost a few games early - especially the Georgia Tech loss in Hawaii - and they lost several of their tougher games against highly rated teams (at Tennessee comes to mind).

Memphis does have a way to redeem themselves - win at Georgetown (19th AP, 23rd RPI, 3rd Pomeroy). Any win over that kind of program on the road will be huge and Memphis has three games of significance this year (@ G-Town, @ Tennessee and @ Gonzaga)

Of course, what is most disappointing about the Xavier game was HOW the Tigers lost - they didn't look very good offensively and the free throws at the end of the game were disasterous. Let's all hope that the last two weeks have been an opportunity to learn from their mistakes. We have heard how Tyreke Evans has spent hours working on his outside jump shot (if he has any hope of moving to the NBA in the next year, he better keep up the 500 jumpers a day routine). The Tigers have gotten some good news in Matt Simpkins being ok'd by the NCAA clearinghouse (wow, what speed). Hopefully, they have figured out that your offense can't ONLY rely on steals and fastbreaks. Hey on occasions you even have to set up a half court play.

Go Tigers !!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Modest Proposal

I woke up this morning thinking about the special teams in football, and the role of the reliver in baseball.

Particularly the closer, the pitcher who comes in, in the last inning, when you have the lead, and simply shuts down the opposing team.

We have a sixth man in basketball. How about a twelth man?

How about bringing in Preston Laird, for the last two minutes of every game. Even the close games.

Have him get off the bench with just about ten minutes to go in the game, and warm up on a hoop in some remote part of the gym, with a coach watching.

Calipari could call the coach with about four minutes left in the game, on the phone, and the coach could fill him in, on whether Preston's shot is falling, and if it is, he'd be the closer.

You know, hitting a couple of threes, and every one of his foul shots.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Lessons From the Vols and Zags

It't not often that you get a chance, early in the season, to see two of your toughest scheduled opponents go head to head, but on Sunday November 30th, we got a chance to preview Tennessee (scheduled for January 24th) and Gonzaga (scheduled for February 7th)

The game was a battle....

Hopefully, by January and February, Wesley Witherspoon will be able to run the point, and Tyreke Evans will be able to hit the floater. We are going to need their offensive firepower.

What was most interesting about this November matchup was the depth both teams showed.

The commentators quoted Coach Pearl several times during the game: Your five may be better than our five, but are your ten better than our ten? Turns out, Gonzaga's nine were better than Bruce's ten.

Believe me, both of these teams are long and deep.

Gonzaga starts 6-10 Austin Daye, 6-11 Josh Heytvelt, 6-2 Jeremy Pargo, 6-5 Matt Bouldin, and 6-8 Micah Downs, and brings in 7-0 Robert Sacre, 6-0 Demetri Goodson, 6-4 Steven Gray, and 6-4 Ira Brown, but four of the starters (Heytvelt, Pargo, Bouldin and Downs) all played 30 minutes or more.

Tennessee starts 6-7 Tyler Smith, 6-6 Cameron Tatum, 6-9 Wayne Chism, 6-8 Renaldo Woolridge, and 6-2 Bobby Maze, and brings in 6-7 Immanuel Negedu, 6-4 Josh Tabb, 6-7 JP Prince, 6-7 Scotty Hopson and 6-10 Brian Williams. Only Tyler Smith played more than 30 minutes.

Normally, Tennesse's depth and athletecism can wear you down. Sound familiar? It's been a Memphis trademark of late.

And when Tennessee and Memphis tangle this year, we can expect a very physical game. Lots of pressing. Everything will be contested. Even the coaches, Calipari and Pearl, would duke it out, if they could.

The commentators called it "toughness." I don't know.

At one point in the Gonzaga-Tennessee game, JP Prince reached in for a ball Micah Downs was holding high at the sideline at midcourt, and got his mouth instead. Micah was so surprised he turned away, looking for the foul (which never came.)

It's scrappiness, that's what it is, and Memphis should be able to hold it's own, if forty percent of our threes pointers fall, if the team can shoot free throws at seventy five percent, and if Wesley Witherspoon becomes a point guard.

What concerned me was how Gonzaga managed to interrupt the Tennessee offense. It was in the first half with about 4:30 to go, that Gonzaga dropped their man to man, and moved into the zone, with Heytvelt, Downs and Daye on the back line. The score was Tennessee 28, Gonzaga 26. From that point to the end of the half, Gonzaga went on a 9 to 3 run.

Gonzaga opened the second half in the same zone defense.

Woolridge made a quick three to bring Tennessee up to 34-35, but then, over the next twelve minutes Gonzago wore Tennessee down, and lead by ten, at the Tennessee timeout with 8:26 to go. With two minutes to go, Gonzaga led by thirteen, and although Tennesse went on a brief 8-1 run, Gonzaga made their free throws down the stretch to close it out.

In my mind it was the Gonzaga switch to the disruptive zone defense that took the Vols out of their halfcourt offense.

In February I'd like to see the Tigers attack that Gonzaga zone by going down low to Taggart and Dozier. Lets see if we can get Daye and Heytvelt in foul trouble early.

Tonight it will ge Marist. How will Chuck Martin play the defense. Will he try to deploy the zone against the Tigers?

And will the Tigers respond by aggessively attacking the zone, or by lofting numerous threes?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Opinion on Tigers After First Three Games

If your a returning reader I apologize for my lack of postings. Things has been a lot busier this year, so less time to blog.

Anyway, I have been very fortunate to see the Tigers live three times (vs. Christian Brothers, Fairfield, UMass) and once on television (vs. Chattanooga) early this season. There are many positives to take away and just as many negatives so early on.


1) The early play of Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier. I've been pretty impressed. Anderson is making good decisions with the ball and showing excellent team leadership. He is taking good shots and not a whole lot of them. I can truly say I've only seen one ill-advised shot by Antonio in the four games combined. Sans the turnovers in today's win over Chattanooga, Anderson has been marvelous moving the ball around the court.

One of the most impressive things to me about Antonio has been the physical change. He has put on roughly 45 pounds since coming to Memphis three years ago. He now has the physical frame of a legitimate NBA guard (sort of like Tyreke Evans).

I suspect Anderson will put up very impressive "overall" statistics this year. I predict 9 points a game, 5 rebounds a game, 6 assists a game, better than a 3 to 1 assist to turnover ratio. He will shot 46% from the floor and 35% from the arc. He will be the defensive specialist and play on opponents best 1,2 or 3 position player.

Robert Dozier has also been impressive and has FINALLY stepped up to be the player we always knew was out there, but always seemed to get lost in games. Robert has played with authority including going strong to the basket. He had a strong outing this afternoon and was very business-like putting on a consistent, productive effort without trying to do too much.

2) Tyreke Evans' composure and impressive ability to score around the rim (caveat - Reke needs serious help on developing an outside shooting touch).

3) Doneal Mack. Damn dude, aren't you glad your not suited up for the New Orleans Privateers.

4) Wesley Witherspoon. Wow, this guy has long term superstar type ability - think Todd Day, former Arkansas All-American and Razorback all-time leading scorer.

5) The D-FENSE !!!!!!!!!!!!


1) Continued weakness from outside the arc. Never mind the awful performance against UMass. Versus Chattanooga Memphis was still bad sans Doneal Mack's 4 of 7 effort. Memphis needs more guys at a 33% to 38% clip.

2) Overall rebounding.

3) Playing for a full 40 minutes. Do you realize that Memphis has been behind in all four games they played 5 to 10 minutes in to the game? Sure they have woken up the second half of the first half (using defensive pressure), but the competition hasn't been top 50 either.

4) Turnovers. Sure it is early and freshman (Reke and Wesley) have combined for a lot of the errors.

5) Willie Kemp's confidence. Clearly Willie is struggling and Cal seems to have lost significant confidence in Kemp also replacing him as a starter and barely playing him versus Chattanooga today.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


DOZIER --------------- 0 - 1 - 1 - 2 - 29
HENDERSON-NILES - 0 - 1 - 2 - 1 - 21
KEMP ----------------- 5 - 3 - 0 - 1 - 32
SALLIE --------------- 1 - 3 - 0 - 3 - 29
MACK ---------------- 0 - 4 - 0 - 1 - 28
TAGGART ------------ 0 - 1 - 1 - 0 - 24
WITHERSPOON ------ 1 - 4 - 0 - 3 - 26
ROBINSON ----------- 1 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 11

Totals............... 8 - 17 - 4 - 11 - 200

There are several items of interest coming out of the CBU game.

Of course, you never want to see your players get injured, but having Anderson and Evans out at this time, to rest up and recover, isn't the worst thing in the world, at this point in the season.

It gives Coach Cal plenty of opportunities to evaluate the other players.

It gives these number eight, nine, and ten men in the rotation a chance to show Coach what they can do in real world situations, and it gives these guys time to get more comfortable with the notion of playing at full tilt, on every possession.

Certainly, seeing Pierre in the game, and seeing what he is bringing to the table, is a wonderful relief.

If Pierre can start, then Cal can bring Taggart in off the bench, and maybe we won't see the tip off jitters that used to get Joey Dorsey in foul trouble in the early moments of the game.

The little chart above lists assists, turnovers, blocks, steals and minutes from the CBU game.

Eight assists to seventeen turnovers is not good, but Kemp's ratio is not bad.

Three steals apiece from Sallie and Witherspoon is nice.

In the minutes department, we expect to see Dozier, Niles, and Taggart share the bigs role, and their numbers might continue just this way, through the season, especially if Simpkins doesn't get clearance.

However, for the guards, a healthy Anderson and Evans could each do a good 30+ minutes per game.

So down the stretch it looks like Robinson's minutes could dwindle, to near nothing, while Kemp, Mack, Sallie and Witherspoon would hover somewhere between 12 and 20 minutes per game.

All told, it was a good beginning.

Dan Wolken - Calipari after scrimmage: We need work

Calipari after scrimmage: We need work
By Dan Wolken, Memphis Commercial Appeal
Sunday, November 2, 2008

After watching his team fail to get offensive rebounds and suffer yet another injury when freshman star Tyreke Evans sprained his ankle Saturday in a closed scrimmage at Saint Louis, coach John Calipari had a message for University of Memphis fans.

"We have so far to go to be any good, it's incredible," Calipari said by phone. "So the people who were mad when we were ranked 12th (in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' poll), I say 'rejoice.' But maybe there are a lot of other bad teams out there, too."

Though Calipari may have engaged in some hyperbole -- it's difficult to know, since the NCAA doesn't allow fans or media members to observe preseason scrimmages between Division 1 teams -- it's no shock that the Tigers have a long way to go.

That much has been obvious in early workouts, with several new players added to the mix and veteran role players being asked to step into new roles. But the point was apparently driven home even further when they got on the court against the Billikens.

Though Calipari wasn't allowed to talk specifically about statistics or scores, he characterized the morning session as "ugly," with a lot of unforced turnovers and a lack of presence on the boards.

"We're not offensive rebounding at all," Calipari said. "We're not even attempting. Last year we didn't shoot the ball well, but we'd rebound, and it wasn't just Joey (Dorsey). It was our team and how we played. Right now, if they even come near us we run the other way. We have to get that squared away."

The Tigers were also unable to come out the scrimmage injury-free, which was important given that senior guard Antonio Anderson is sitting out with shin splints, freshman forward Angel Garcia is out with a sprained knee and freshman guard C.J. Henry is recovering from surgery on a broken foot.

Calipari said Evans would be out one week, meaning he won't play in Tuesday's exhibition game against Christian Brothers at FedExForum.

Unless Anderson gets better quickly, the Tigers could have just eight or nine scholarship players available for the CBU game depending on whether freshman forward Matt Simpkins is declared academically eligible by the NCAA.

The major point for Calipari will be bringing out a consistent effort from whoever is on the court.

"We get there, and after 20 minutes I want to go throw up like, we're awful," Calipari said. "And then they play for 5-to-7 minutes and really look like they're competing. They don't understand how to play a full possession; there's one guy that just stops. But it was a great scrimmage to learn about our team."

Ron Tillery - Short memory for former Tiger Rose

Short memory for former Tiger Rose
By Ronald Tillery, Memphis Commercial Appeal
Sunday, November 2, 2008

He's already forgotten:

The dazzling spotlight on a national stage with a team primed for great achievements.


The ridiculously dominant run through Conference USA.

The shake-the-haters-off tournament run that ended in a NCAA national title game appearance.

The southern hospitality and admiration.

Derrick Rose has a startling and sad case of amnesia when it comes to University of Memphis basketball, the city and its loyal fans.

During pregame introductions with his NBA team, the Chicago Bulls, Rose is announced as being from "Chicago" and not Memphis where he played his college basketball last year.

No, this isn't done by mistake. It's done by design. It's done with Rose's unfortunate consent.

"It was my idea," the talented point guard said. "They asked me about it, I thought about it a while and I finally came up with the decision to announce I'm from (Chicago). I've been here my whole life and I was in Memphis only one year, so I think the fans in Memphis will understand."

Sure, Rose played just one season for Memphis.

Sure, he's a Chicago product living the dream of playing pro ball where he grew up.

Sure, it's Rose's prerogative to orchestrate his nightly introduction.

This much is certain, too: It's a slap in the face to Memphis no matter how much Rose hopes for understanding.

Where's Steven Black when you need him?

Worrisome Warriors

Monta Ellis was suspended 30 games (fined $3 million) for his moped escapade. His camp is now arguing (in an official grievance) that the Warriors' can't also punish him by saying that if Ellis doesn't return totally healthy they can still fine/suspend/terminate the deal.

Although Ellis' appeal has been expected for weeks, it comes on the heels of Al Harrington publicly demanding a trade, and as reports surface that the Warriors are already in a legal dispute with former coach Mike Montgomery.

Media covering the Warriors confirmed that Montgomery is in arbitration over payments Golden State stopped making after Montgomery was fired two seasons into the four-year, $10 million deal he signed in 2004.

And, oh yeah, Al Harrington wants to be traded.

"I've wanted to be traded since the end of last season," said Harrington, who doesn't like playing for coach Don Nelson. "I was hoping things were going to work out between me and Nellie, but I don't think that's going to happen."

Love from the bench

The only other time Kevin Love can remember not starting a basketball game was UCLA's Senior Night last season, when the freshman deferred to Lorenzo Mata-Real for the game's opening tip.

Last Wednesday, Love made his NBA debut when he entered Minnesota's season-opening victory over Sacramento late in the first quarter. The best player on his team all his life until now, Love is the NBA newcomer who knows he must prove he is tall enough, athletic enough, talented enough and fit enough to warrant Minnesota's big draft-night trade that brought his draft rights from Memphis in an eight-player deal.

"People, wherever they are, they like to doubt me because they say, 'He's a slow, white guy, he can't get off the ground,'" Love said. "No matter what, I'm going to get it done. I'll show people that, too."

Comback on track

Former slam dunk champ Gerald Green is with his fourth team in four years after entering the NBA out of a Houston area high school. Dallas has been pleased with him because he not only is a great athlete but he's been a better shooter than they expected. Green regularly ends practice by shooting 25 3-pointers and has made as many as 18.

"Based on his preseason, he's certainly in the equation as a guy we got to consider for the rotation," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "But in the last game, you saw some of the things that have been his nemeses: over-dribbling a little bit, turnovers, a couple defensive mistakes.

"But he established over the first seven games some real consistency in those areas. So I don't look at those things as super-negatives."

First time for Wade

Miami's Dwyane Wade has accomplished plenty in the NBA so there's not much to shoot for other than another title. Believe it or not, though, Wade has never been captain for the Heat.

For the first time in his six seasons, Wade has been named a Heat captain, sharing the designation with Udonis Haslem and Shawn Marion.

"Anytime you get a distinction of leadership, it's always great," Wade said.

Life is good for Wade. After months of rehabilitation on his troublesome left knee, a month with the U.S. national team at the Beijing Olympics, and then a month of training camp that included a week in Europe, Wade nonetheless said he feels refreshed.

"I've been healthy for a whole summer," he said, having led the U.S. Olympic team in scoring on the way to the gold medal. "Coming into the season, I feel good and ready to go: Nothing to worry about right now, hopefully nothing to worry about any time soon."

House hunting

Dwight Howard, the Magic's brutally strong big man, is apparently making the most of a struggling Florida economy and housing market.

Howard bought a spacious new house in Seminole County for $8 million -- possibly the priciest single-family home on record in a county known for its mini-mansions.

The Chateau d'Usse, which had been listed for $9.7 million, captured all the awards earlier this year during the local Street of Dreams luxury-home show. The 11,026-square-foot home in the upscale Lake Club development is described as a "castle."

From the baseline

Shaun Livingston's comeback in Miami is reminding some of last season's Penny Hardaway experiment. Livingston knows what to do with the ball and where to be, but has physical limitations in getting there. Cleveland is supposedly "monitoring" New York power forward Zach Randolph. But the Cavs aren't interested in acquiring a large contract. They want to keep financial flexibility for 2010 when James can become a free agent. When the Celtics raised their 17th world championship banner to the rafters the Cavs decided to stay in the locker room for the affair. Said Celtics coach Doc Rivers: "I didn't know they were invited." This week, the Milwaukee Bucks announced a promotion in which all of the seats in the upper bowl will go for $10 in November and December. Those seats in the past have gone for $24 or $29.

10 from Tillery

How young is the NBA getting? Elias Sports Bureau calculated the average age of the eight youngest teams in the league based on opening-night rosters. Below are the teams in order by average age in years:

----Begin Table----

Team / Average / Players /

1. Golden State Warriors / 24.192 / 15 /

2. Portland Trail Blazers / 24.399 / 15 /

3. Memphis Grizzlies / 24.784 / 14 /

4. Charlotte Bobcats / 25.128 / 14 /

5. Oklahoma City Thunder / 25.184 / 15 /

6. Chicago Bulls / 25.411 / 14 /

7. Atlanta Hawks / 25.415 / 15 /

8. New Jersey Nets / 25.804 / 15 /

9. League average / 26.815 /15 /

Dan Wolken - Tigers' new assistants cram like freshmen

Tigers' new assistants cram like freshmen
Antigua, Pastner recruit, but dribble-drive takes time
By Dan Wolken, Memphis Commercial Appeal
Sunday, November 2, 2008

While the first two weeks of practice have been crucial for six first-year players on the University of Memphis roster, it's been just as educational for two other newcomers looking to make an impact on the program.

Though assistant coaches Orlando Antigua and Josh Pastner didn't need much tutoring to start quickly on the recruiting trail, they have spent most of their on-court time so far doing more observing than teaching.

"I do as much listening as the freshmen on the team just to get a grasp of everything," said Antigua, who came from Pittsburgh, his alma mater.

Likewise, Pastner has spent the opening weeks of the season trying to get a feel for the Tigers' personnel and coach John Calipari's unorthodox style of offense after spending the past seven years at his alma mater, Arizona.

"For me, it's been like a clinic in the sense that I've been able to learn and pick things up," Pastner said. "Every day you're just being a sponge."

The way Calipari structures his coaching staff, Antigua and Pastner were hired primarily to do the groundwork on recruiting, while John Robic, who has been with the Tigers for four seasons, specializes in scouting opponents and building gameplans.

So far, it's been a good fit, with Antigua working his home base in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast and Pastner getting the Tigers involved with players on the West Coast and in Texas.

Already, Antigua has been crucial in recruiting big man Will Coleman and sharpshooter Darnell Dodson from Miami-Dade Junior College Antigua recruited both of them while at Pittsburgh while Pastner helped get a commitment from top-50 shooting guard Nolan Dennis.

Antigua said he's seen little difference in recruiting a player from the Northeast to Memphis as opposed to Pittsburgh. Pastner, in fact, recruited many of the same players or knew them through AAU teammates.

"Memphis is very similar to Arizona," Pastner said. "You're recruiting elite-level players and guys from different backgrounds and everything else. I think guys here compete as hard and play as hard as anybody in the country. They get after each other, and I think it's great. Competition breeds excellence because when guys have to compete and push each other, that's when they really start to get to an elite level."

But for all the recruiting success Antigua and Pastner anticipate having at Memphis, the primary reason both left their alma maters was to boost their resumes by learning Calipari's dribble-drive offense, which helped Tony Barbee (UTEP), Derek Kellogg (UMass) and Chuck Martin (Marist) all land head-coaching jobs.

During the mayhem of the summer recruiting period, Calipari brought in Pastner and Antigua for intense cram sessions on the Tigers' dribble-drive offense. Even so, he doesn't expect them to pick it up right away.

"Until they watch me do it and for a year, it's hard," Calipari said. "John Robic can throw stuff in, but they just don't know it yet. They know it, but not to the level of being confident to step in there where Derek and Chuck did. Chuck didn't say anything for a year. John Robic didn't say anything for a year. He was just silent, like, 'I don't know what to say.' But I can count on those guys to do (other things)."

Pastner and Antigua have had the added task of bonding with the players, which isn't necessarily as easy as it sounds. Assistant coaches often develop deep relationships with the players they recruit and become sounding-boards later on.

Though there was some crossover -- Antigua, for instance, knew Jeff Robinson and Tyreke Evans when they were coming up in the Philadelphia area -- there has been an adjustment period on both sides of the equation.

"You develop relationships with them, you show them you care about them, you follow up," Antigua said. "So there's a timeframe of trying to show them that you're going to be vested in them and that's kind of what you have to do when you're on a new staff."

From the players' perspective, it's taken some time too.

"They're cool guys but there's nobody like our coaching staff last year. That's a cool coaching staff right there," junior forward Pierre Henderson-Niles said. "They're gone to a better place, though, so we have to get used to them. They're not going to jump right in, be like, you do this, you do that. They're just like some of the freshmen. They have to get used to us."

Calipari knew that bringing in two assistant coaches at once would be a difficult transition in some ways. That's why he took the unusual approach of bringing Pastner and Antigua in together for their interviews as a way to gauge how the new staff might function.

So far, he's pleased with the results.

"We walked together, we ate together, talked to them together," Calipari said. "I wanted to make sure. The most important thing for me is family. I don't want one guy thinking, 'I've got to get this one, you've got to get this one, it's my recruit, your recruit.' I don't do it that way. We all recruit everybody. We need everybody in this thing together, and they hit it off."

No. 13 Tigers vs. CBU

What: The U of M's lone exhibition game before the regular-season opener Nov. 15

When, where: 7 p.m. Tuesday at FedExForum

Radio: WEGR-FM (102.7)

The new guys

Orlando Antigua

Assistant coach

Last job: Five years as an assistant at Pittsburgh

Noteworthy: In 1995, Antigua started a seven-year stint as the first Latin American player on the Harlem Globetrotters.

Josh Pastner

Assistant coach

Last job: Six years as an assistant at Arizona

Noteworthy: Earned bachelor's degree in family studies in just 21/2 years, faster than any other Arizona student-athlete.

Reach Dan Wolken at 529-2365; read his blogs on the Tigers at

Athlon Sports - Mid-majors face extra challenges to win big

Mid-majors face extra challenges to win big
By Michael Bradley
Published: October 31st, 2008
Athlon Sports Contributor

John Calipari was perusing the program at the Reebok All-American Basketball Camp in early July, checking out the talent, when he came across something that suprised him, and that’s not easy to do. During his time as a head coach in both the collegiate ranks and in the NBA, Calipari has seen just about everything. But when he looked at the brief biography of a certain player, he read something he didn’t expect.

Right there, next to the “What Schools Are You Considering?” question, was Calipari’s school, Memphis.

“I didn’t even know the player was interested in us,” Calipari says, laughing. “But you can bet I had one of my assistants check it out.”

The Tigers have been the destination of some pretty big names over the past few years, most notably Derrick Rose, the top pick in June’s NBA Draft. So it’s not as if Memphis never had interest from top prospects. After a three-year run that has produced 104 wins, including 38 last season — “That might never be beaten,” Calipari says — the Tigers have moved into somewhat rarified air, especially for a school that isn’t in one of the BCS power conferences. You know the ones: Big Ten, SEC, Big 12, Pac-10, ACC, Big East. Those leagues are defined predominantly by their football profiles and access to big-money bowl games, but their influence carries over to the hardwood. They’re the folks who get the most TV games in the choice spots. Who get the most money from the NCAA come tournament time. And who get the widest interest from top recruits.

Leagues like Memphis’ Conference USA, the Atlantic 10, the Missouri Valley and the like are the “mid-majors,” which for some is almost a profane designation. Last year, when Xavier’s Drew Lavender was named “Mid-Major Player of the Week,” the school turned down the award, arguing that its success over the past decade-plus had put it in the big time and that it shouldn’t be considered mid-major in status.

No matter how much Xavier protests, there is a clear designation between the football power conferences and the rest of the D-I hoops world. Because of that, there are extra stresses and challenges presented to the non-BCS conferences that require considerable imagination, cooperation and commitment. When Calipari met the media at last year’s Final Four, he said, “It takes a village” to raise a mid-major program to great heights. He wasn’t just channeling Hillary Clinton.

Before you try to include Memphis with the rest of the big-timers, because of its Final Four appearances in 1973 and ’85, remember that tradition means little to the average high school student these days. “We’re talking about kids who are 17 years old,” Calipari says. “They remember back to when they were 12, 13 or 14. That’s it.” And the Tigers weren’t roaring too loudly when Calipari showed up in 2000. Memphis was coming off two straight losing seasons and had not won an NCAA Tournament game since 1995. He had work to do, and he needed plenty of help.

“Everybody has to be involved to do everything we can possibly do,” Calipari says. “Our building holds 19,000 people, so even the people who buy the upper-level seats, and they’re way up there, are important, too. (Their buying tickets) gets you the sellouts that build excitement and helps get TV to come, too.”

Calipari talks about the program’s “ambassadors,” who give $500,000 each to help the program. “We have 32 of them,” he says. Memphis may have a football program, but it sure doesn’t make money, so basketball needs to maximize every asset it has. When the Tigers do something special, like advance to the NCAA tourney final, it’s up to Calipari to capitalize on the impact. So, he’ll be looking for every recruit who now considers Memphis hot. He’ll be rustling up some more ambassadors. Looking to improve the program’s facilities. Calling on every member of that “village” to do his part.

And he has plenty of company throughout the non-BCS world. It’s tough enough to earn an invitation to one NCAA Tournament, much less become a regular participant. And once you get there on a consistent basis, it becomes incredibly challenging to stick around for a couple weekends. The trick is to do more than just dream big; schools must devote every moment to making those dreams come true.

“We always have to be realistic about the world around us, and try not to trick ourselves that we are someone we’re not,” Xavier AD Mike Bobinski says. “But we also put no limits on ourselves. How do we accomplish what we can accomplish? Putting the right plan together is a day-to-day mindset.”

Bobinski has been at Xavier through much of its recent success. Dating back to 1983, the Musketeers have played in 18 NCAA Tournaments. That alone is reason to laud the program and its progress. For part of that period, however, X was thriving as a bully in a weak neighborhood, dominating the Midwestern Collegiate Conference until its move to the A-10 for the 1995-96 season. Since then, Xavier has committed itself to behaving more like a BCS school. In 2000, it opened the on-campus Cintas Center, which seats 10,250 and is as sharp as any place you’ll find in the nation. It has begun to get respect from the tournament selection committee as well, grabbing No. 3 seeds last season and in 2003 and No. 7 seeds in 2002 and ’04.

The fallout has been substantial. Not only is Xavier now considered a national factor, from its TV coverage to its recruiting scope; it is also behaving more like a team that belongs among the upper echelon of the country’s powers. When coach Sean Miller recruits, he often travels by private jet. The school’s locker and training facilities are first-rate. Assistant coaches’ salaries are more in line with those paid by BCS schools, helping to promote continuity. It comes down to a priority and a commitment designed to make Xavier basketball thrive.

“In the early ’90s, (school) president Father James Hoff had a great affinity for athletics and realized they were a great asset for Xavier going forward,” Bobinski says. “People told him ‘this’ needs to happen or ‘that,’ and he was a visionary. He said, ‘Get it done.’ He made it a priority, and because of his ability to raise funds at a high level, it has been done.”

Because there is no football revenue, and the basketball programs can’t fund capital improvements on their own, other income streams are needed. When a team has success, it’s important to capitalize. Saint Joseph’s is in the midst of a project that will expand the capacity of its on-campus fieldhouse by 1,000 and provide new practice and office facilities. It was important to make a move while the team was successful and popular. “You have to express to upper administration and the people who make decisions that when we danced on the clouds, everybody liked it,” Hawks’ coach Phil Martelli says. “It meant something in admissions and annual giving and community pride, but it’s not done with smoke and mirrors.”

No, success is sustained often with steel and brick. Upgrading facilities is big in luring recruits, who don’t care about a school’s tradition. So, there must be upgrades made, especially after successful periods, because that’s when people are more likely to open their wallets. But some programs don’t have the luxury of being able to make substantial changes. For them, sustained success is more of a mindset and an ability to convince players that they can achieve what they want by coming to a school that might not be on TV every week.

Valparaiso’s Homer Drew has been a head coach for 31 years, the last 19 for the Crusaders (with a one-year hiatus, in 2002-03). He has noticed prospects are more interested in getting to the professional ranks than learning about a school’s campus life and educational opportunities. So, he stresses that in the past 14 years, 27 Valpo players have played professionally around the world. Oh, and they all have their degrees, too. But none of them, even Drew’s son Bryce, who played in the NBA, left early. Often, the key to winning at the mid-major level is developing players and building a team, rather than putting together all-stars.

“When we went to the Sweet 16 (in 1998), we had five seniors,” Drew says. “Experience can offset talent. That’s why you’re seeing so many mid-majors do well. Experience counteracts talent at other schools.”

Experience on the bench is huge, too. Creighton’s Dana Altman has been at the small, private school in Omaha for 14 years — save a few days when he was hired at Arkansas and then resigned. During his time there, he has taken the Bluejays to seven NCAA Tournaments. It’s important that assistants Darian DeVries and Brian Fish have been with Altman almost every step of the way. DeVries spent three years as a graduate manager before joining the Bluejays’ staff full time in 2001, while Fish has been at Creighton for two stops and has worked with Altman for a total of 10 seasons. Before he took the job at Indiana State last spring, Kevin McKenna was a nine-year assistant.

“(Having long-time assistants) keeps your recruiting stable,” Altman says. “A lot of the players who come here are here for five years. When they’re working with the same coaches, they develop a bond and the trust needed to be successful.

“When you’re working on improvement with a player, until you get that player to believe everything you do is for a purpose, you don’t get progress. That takes time.”

Facilities, continuity, a sense of community, fundraising, a winning attitude and TV exposure are all part of the non-BCS basketball success story. Nothing, however, beats wild success. That’s why George Mason remains a big name. Its run to the 2006 Final Four triggered an avalanche of progress and good will that continues today. Attendance is way up. Sales of merchandise have skyrocketed. TV opportunities are so abundant that GMU coach Jim Larranaga often must choose between a great game and a greater game. Admission applications are up. The Patriots’ recruiting has improved. The “Mason Nation” logo on the Patriot Center floor is more than a marketing emblem.

George Mason has maximized the wild, one-time ride to the upper reaches of the NCAA tourney. Few people know the Pats have made four tournament appearances during Larranaga’s tenure. They just know about the one biggie. Larranaga is not being arrogant or demeaning when he says that there is no contest between the benefits of one colossal achievement and a prolonged period of less dramatic success. “There are other schools out there that are consistently at the top of their (non-BCS) conferences and get back to the NCAA Tournament each year for a decade; that’s special,” he says. “But until one of them gets to the Final Four, they won’t reach us.”

Memphis made it this past season, and Calipari is eager to get everybody in the village to help keep it going. And that means everybody.

Tiger basketball camp report

Tiger basketball camp report
Saturday, November 1, 2008

In what can only be described as a bizarre clash of worlds, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) put out a press release Thursday asking Tigers junior Pierre Henderson-Niles to become a vegetarian in his quest to lose weight.

In a letter addressed to the Memphis forward, who went from 350 to under 300 pounds this summer, PETA director Dan Shannon wrote that "losing those last 20 so or so pounds can be the toughest" and offered "assistance as you transition to a healthy, humane vegetarian diet."

Henderson-Niles presumably caught the attention of PETA through the series of documentary-style videos about the Tigers' program on

PETA clearly seized on that story to further its political agenda. In the letter, Shannon wrote, "By going vegetarian, you'll save more than 100 animals a year from the horrors of the industrialized meat industry."

On Friday afternoon, Henderson-Niles said he had not heard anything about PETA, but the group probably shouldn't hold its breath waiting for a conversion.

"Once I lose these 15 more pounds, I can eat all the meat I want," he said.

NCAA to rule on Tigers

The Tigers expected to hear from the NCAA Eligibility Center this week on the status of freshman forwards Angel Garcia and Matt Simpkins, but Friday passed without a ruling.

"It looks like it will be Monday," coach John Calipari said. "We called to ask, 'Are you going to have something for us?' And they said no."

The NCAA grants a grace period of two weeks where a player can practice while his academic eligibility is under review.

-- Dan Wolken

Memphis Announces Limited Number Of Corporate Season Tickets For Public To Purchase

Memphis Announces Limited Number Of Corporate Season Tickets For Public To Purchase
Terrace-level season tickets are $195 for all 18 Tiger home dates.

Oct. 31, 2008

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - For those Tiger fans that thought there was no chance of obtaining season tickets for the 2008-09 campaign, they have one last opportunity, thanks to the University of Memphis athletics corporate partners.

Memphis Director of Athletics R.C. Johnson announced Friday that the department's corporate sponsors have released a limited number of season tickets for the general public to purchase. The season tickets are $195 and include all 18 Tiger home dates at FedExForum.

"This is a tremendous gesture on behalf of our corporate sponsors," said Johnson. "They realize there is a lot of interest in watching our Tigers play in person, and they want as many fans as possible to experience the excitement of Memphis basketball at FedExForum.

"We are grateful that these tickets have become available to accommodate all those fans that want to come and watch us play. We are looking forward to another exciting ride with this year's Tigers."

To purchase season tickets, fans can go to the Memphis athletics web site at Fans may also purchase tickets by calling the Athletic Ticket Office at 678-2331.

Memphis tips off its 2008-09 home schedule Nov. 4 with a 7 p.m. (CT) exhibition against Christian Brothers at FedExForum. The Tigers, ranked No. 12 in the preseason ESPN/USA Today preseason poll, open regular season play at home Nov. 15 versus Fairfield. That game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. (CT) tip.

Fans still have the opportunity to purchase season tickets to watch the Tigers play in 2008-09.

Sports Illustrated - 2008-09 Conference Capsules

Sports Illustrated
2008-09 Conference Capsules


07-08 CHAMPIONS: xy-Memphis.


PRESEASON POLL: Memphis; UAB; Tulsa; Texas-El Paso; Southern Mississippi (only five teams picked).

PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM: Robert Vaden, UAB; Robert Dozier, Memphis; Stefon Jackson, Texas-El Paso; Jerome Jordan, Tulsa; Jermaine Taylor, Central Florida.

THREE THINGS: Memphis had a season for the ages in 2007-08 winning an NCAA-record 38 games, running unbeaten through C-USA again to run its in-conference winning streak to 42 games, reaching No. 1 in the poll, but the Tigers lost to Kansas in overtime in the national championship game. Four players are gone from that team, but coach John Calipari recruited a stellar class to go with Robert Dozier. ... When Mike Davis took over as coach at UAB, Robert Vaden transferred from Indiana, and he set a C-USA record last season with 142 3-pointers. He'll be joined by Paul Delaney III, an all-conference guard who missed last season with a knee injury. ... Ben Braun didn't take long to get back in the coaching ranks when California let him go after the season. He'll be in charge at Rice, which ended the season on a 20-game losing streak.


NCAA-Memphis; UAB; Tulsa.

NIT-Texas-El Paso.

Dan Wolken - Tiger basketball camp: No shortage of Rebounders

Tiger basketball camp: No shortage of Rebounders
By Dan Wolken, Memphis Commercial Appeal
Friday, October 31, 2008

No shortage of Rebounders

The Tigers practiced Thursday in front of a standing-room crowd of roughly 370 people cramming every inch of free space at the Finch Center. And according to Rebounders Club president Harold Byrd, even more members of the group wanted to attend its annual Tip-Off Dinner & Basketball Practice.

"Last year, we had somewhere around 150 or 170," Byrd said. "This year, we had a waiting list of about 75 people we couldn't accommodate (due to space limitations)."

Many in the group were unable to contain their enthusiasm when somebody made a shot or executed a pretty pass, which didn't necessarily make for a productive practice atmosphere. But coach John Calipari never asked the Rebounders to tamp down their enthusiasm, especially since the group has been partly responsible for selling out the upper deck of FedExForum the last two seasons.

With Byrd connecting the sale of $100 season tickets to a Rebounders membership and an annual party at Calipari's house in September, the booster club has grown exponentially.

"We're still tabulating, but we think it's over 800 people now," Byrd said. "We've doubled, over-doubled and then doubled again. That's attributed to John Calipari."

Shin splints troubling Anderson

Calipari all but ruled senior guard Antonio Anderson out of this Saturday's closed scrimmage against Saint Louis and wasn't optimistic that he'd be ready for Tuesday's exhibition game against Christian Brothers.

Anderson has been suffering from shin splints -- a painful condition usually caused by intense running and jumping -- since early in Tuesday's practice. His absence has been noticeable.

"We're not the same team," Calipari said. "Now, you lose four-fifths of what we had a year ago and you're asking people to step up and do stuff they haven't had to do."

Though the Tigers have not been as sharp without Anderson, especially offensively, it might not be so bad in the long run. While Anderson sits out, younger players will be forced to figure out how to survive in a physical battle, which is ultimately the point of scrimmaging Saint Louis.

Still, Calipari doesn't want Anderson's injury to linger too long as the Nov. 15 opener against Fairfield approaches.

"It's bothering him. For him to be out, you know he's hurt," Calipari said. "I feel bad for him, but like I said to him, get yourself healthy."

Trojans not to be taken lightly

Recent visitors to the Finch Center, including NBA personnel and national reporters, have been talking up Southern Cal, which could be the Tigers' opponent in the second round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

"They're telling me the USC game, if we're lucky enough to win (the first round) and they're lucky enough to win, will be the best non-conference game maybe of the season," Calipari said. "We better be ready."

The Trojans are ranked 21st in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll released Thursday, and a big reason is guard DeMar DeRozan. He and Memphis guard Tyreke Evans are arguably the two top freshmen in the country.

Of course, when the Tigers played USC last season, the big storyline was also about two superstar freshmen in Derrick Rose and O.J. Mayo. The game, however, didn't quite live up to the hype in terms of aesthetic value. The Tigers escaped with a 62-58 overtime victory despite being thrown off by USC's triangle-and-two defense.

Memphis would have to beat Tennessee-Chattanooga and USC would have to defeat Seton Hall in the first round to meet once again on Nov. 21.

-- Dan Wolken

Q&A: Sporting News catches up with John Calipari

Q&A: Sporting News catches up with John Calipari
Posted: October 31, 2008
Ken Bradley
Sporting News

John Calipari's teams have won at least 21 games in his eight seasons at Memphis and reached the postseason -- NCAA or NIT -- every year. Last season, his Tigers set a NCAA record for victories when they went 38-2 and lost to Kansas in overtime in the NCAA Tournament final.

Gone is Derrick Rose, who was taken No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft this summer. Also gone are draft picks Chris Douglas-Roberts and Joey Dorsey. Still, the Tigers are sitting at No. 10 in the Sporting News' preseason rankings. Calipari discussed the upcoming season with Sporting News' Ken Bradley.

Q: Derrick Rose was the top pick in the NBA Draft. Obviously, it's hard to replace him, but you have others to replace, too.

A: We also had Chris Douglas-(Roberts) who played like Earl "The Pearl" Monroe. We had Joey Dorsey who played basketball like Lawrence Taylor played football. So we've lost 50 percent of rebounding, 50 percent of scoring, 60 percent of our starting lineup. We've lost experience, athleticism -- we lost a lot.

Q: What about the players you have returning?

A: The guys that we have coming back, two of them are great leaders -- Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier. Shawn Taggart, Willie Kemp, Doneal Mack all got experience. Those five and we brought in a group of good players to add to those guys. We'll play the same, you know the dribble-drive motion, but we'll have to start it different. Because you can't start the way we did through Derrick or Chris because they're not here. Willie doesn't have the same kind of game. Tyreke (Evans) is different, more physical than Chris, but different. So we just have to figure it out.

Q: Your teams get recognized for their offense, but you've said your defense was key to last year's success?

A: The other thing is, without Joey, one of the things people don't realize -- the coaches do -- we were a great defensive team. Our offense made us different, but we only shot 46 percent from the floor, 34 from the three and 61 from the line. We played fast and attacked the goal and shot a lot of free throws; we just didn't make a lot. It was our defense that set us apart. Now the question is: Do we press more? Do we trap more? We're longer, do we think about some zone? We have so many questions to answer.

Q: Do you feel you've gotten to the point that Memphis simply reloads?

A: I hope so. We will see. I don't think we'll be quite as good, but I have one comment about that. Let's just hope the rest of the country isn't as good either. As long as everyone else comes down a little bit, we'll be fine. I think North Carolina may have stepped up a little bit, but the rest of the country has come back a little bit, we all have. So now, as you regroup, who's going to get their team playing their best in March?

Q: You've had good talent before and turned out OK, right?

A: You know the one thing that's happened? We lost the same kind of numbers in 2006. We lost to the NBA Rodney Carney, we lost Shawne Williams -- 16th and 17th picks -- and then we lost Darius Washington. That was over 50 percent of our offense, 50 percent of our rebounding, 60 percent of us. We came back the next year and were just as good, went to the Elite 8. When guys are in the habit of success it leads to other guys wanting to come and that's what's happened to us.

Q: Does that make it easier to recruit the top players and get them?

A: Here's what's happening. There's two sides to this. The families -- the mothers, the fathers -- want to know about the academic situation here. Well, we've graduated 16 of our last 19 seniors. Our four seniors, Antonio, Robert Dozier, Shawn Taggart (a senior with junior eligibility) and Chance McGrady will all graduate in four years. So they want to know that. They also want to know do you bring kids back. We brought seven back, who some of them have played for me, some of them did not who left early to come back and graduate. One of them is Penny Hardaway. He graduated. So they want to know that.

Q: Does it take a certain type of player to fit your system?

A: Part of it is they see it looks good, but it's really, really hard to play because you've got to be in the best shape of your life, you gotta be willing to run as fast as you can, sprint on every possession. You got to be willing to defend. If you can't guard, it's hard to run this because you don't get enough breakouts and you end up being on defense too much. It's hard to play this way. I had a couple of the freshmen in (recently) and I said, "How hard is this?" and they said, "Oh my gosh." It's hard and if you're looking for something easy, this isn't the place to go.

Sporting News - College hoops countdown: No. 10 Memphis

College hoops countdown: No. 10 Memphis
Posted: October 31, 2008
Eric Bailey
For Sporting News

Sporting News is counting down its Top 40 teams leading into the beginning of the season. For more on No. 10 Memphis, be sure to visit Sporting News Today.

More: Find your team among the 40.

One miraculous shot stuck a dagger in Memphis' dream season last year. The Tigers looked destined for an NCAA championship before Kansas' Mario Chalmers busted a 3-pointer to send the national title game to overtime.

To spare Memphis fans, that's as much detail needed. But one agonizing loss will not swallow the Tigers' hopes for a national championship this season.

Coach John Calipari lost four players from last year's 38-2 squad--three of them drafted by NBA teams--but replaced the cupboard with one of the nation's top recruiting classes.

"I'm excited about the team that we have coming back," Calipari says. "We have size and we have length. Obviously we're going to be missing three tremendous players (Joey Dorsey, Chris Douglas-Roberts and No. 1 overall NBA pick Derrick Rose).

"We are losing a lot. That puts the responsibility on the players coming back to have great summers. We've talked about it and we are thinking of different ways to do things."

It starts with two returning senior starters. Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier tested the NBA draft waters before deciding to return to Memphis.

Anderson, a 6-6 guard, is one of Conference USA's top defenders. He also showed his complete game by being named MVP of the league tournament in March. Dozier is an athletic 6-9 forward who will be asked to do more in his final season. He worked out for a handful of NBA teams this summer before choosing his final year of college eligibility.

"What I enjoyed hearing were those (general managers) telling me that if he goes back (to school), he could be a lottery pick •," Calipari says. "But he has to get stronger and he has to improve his skills. He is long and he is a good athlete."

Six other letterwinners return, with all of them needing to improve their contributing status.

Guard Doneal Mack announced he was going to transfer during the summer, but then changed his mind. Forward Shawn Taggart has been steady, but will be asked to do more. Willie Kemp played in all 40 games last year, and 6-8 Pierre Niles has been battling weight issues throughout his career. Calipari said the forward hit 350 pounds at one point and must be 300 to practice, 280 to put on a uniform.

In years past, Memphis had a "go-to" player targeted like Rodney Carney, Douglas-Roberts or Rose before a game started. This year, it's anyone's guess.

"We don't know yet how that will all play out," Calipari says. "We think (incoming freshman) Tyreke Evans will be one of them. I don't think it will be like a year ago where we all know every game who it is. It could be Robert Dozier. Antonio Anderson is a blue-collar kind of guy. We are going to be a team that can come at you in a lot of different ways."

Recruiting has never tapered off as long as Calipari has been in Memphis. After last year's run, more potential players are considering the Tigers.

"The excitement about our program has impacted recruiting," Calipari says. "A lot of kids that have interest in us are interested in the specific style in which we play. When you talk to all of them, it's the style and the ability to do certain things offensively and how we play defensively."

Five newcomers will wear Tigers jerseys in 2008-09. The gem of this year's class is Evans, a Philadelphia native.

The 6-6 guard is expected to take over at Douglas-Roberts' position on the wing, and already is a solid candidate for C-USA's Freshman of the Year.

Evans averaged 29 points and eight assists a game as a high school senior, and many expect him to dominate in his inaugural college season.

Calipari said it's important for Evans to be his own player, and not expect to equal Rose's accomplishments in his one season.

"I want (Evans) to just be who he is, no one else," Calipari says. "He's in a natural position (on the wing) for him to do what he does best, which is score with the ball and create double teams so he can pass the ball to his teammates."

Calipari: Preseason No. 12 rank no cause for alarm

Calipari: Preseason No. 12 rank no cause for alarm
Coach believes team has chances to climb

The Commercial Appeal
Thursday, October 30, 2008

The University of Memphis disrespect train is leaving the station for the 2008-09 season. But this time, you won't find coach John Calipari driving the engine.

Memphis was ranked 12th Thursday in the ESPN/USA Today preseason poll, and the verdict isn't expected to be much different when the Associated Press releases its poll today. But unlike last season, when the Tigers were admittedly perturbed by being slotted third behind North Carolina and UCLA, the reaction to Thursday's news amounted to a collective shrug of the shoulders.

"I don't think anybody should be disappointed," Calipari said. "And it doesn't really matter right now anyway. Three years ago, I think we were 10, 11 12 and within a week we were fourth. So we'll have opportunities to prove whether we're 12 or 25 or 40 or six."

Make no mistake, the Tigers' program and its fans have been obsessed with national rankings in recent years. The school even put up a billboard in the summer of 2007 proclaiming itself as "Preseason No. 1," which was essentially undermined by the two major national polls.

The disrespect theme continued all season. Even when the Tigers were obviously going to ascend to No. 1 on Jan. 19 after beating Southern Miss (North Carolina had lost earlier that day), players and coaches spent the next two days in a fog of paranoia, thinking that voters would resist vaulting them to the top.

But with the Tigers having finally broken through with a Final Four appearance, followed by the departure of three starters and an influx of new talent, their preseason ranking has barely registered as a topic of conversation.

"To be honest, I haven't even looked at no rankings or none of that," junior forward Pierre Henderson-Niles said. "This is the first I've heard of it. We should be good. People should think we'll be good. We lost three big scorers and a rebounder. But it's not like all of our players are gone."

In reality, ranking the Tigers 12th heading into this season is a far greater acknowledgement of how the program is viewed nationally than ranking them third before last season.

Anybody could have deduced that Memphis, led by Chris Douglas-Roberts, Joey Dorsey and Derrick Rose, was a national championship contender. It takes much more faith, however, for voters to rank this Memphis team anywhere close to the top 10.

"We have some things we have to prove," Calipari said. "We have some numbers, but there's inexperience, there's unproven players, there's players that need to break through that maybe don't think they need to break through. We've got a lot of questions and a lot of guys we're trying to bring along."

So far, it's been difficult to tell how the Tigers will answer those questions. They've been hit with some injuries, including to senior guard Antonio Anderson (shin splints) and freshman forward Angel Garcia (knee sprain), hindering their early progress. And much of Calipari's practice time so far has been spent teaching talented freshmen like guard Tyreke Evans and wing Wesley Witherspoon how to play in their system.

But junior forward Shawn Taggart, who provided the dissenting view, said the Tigers should be given even more credit in the polls because they're coming off a Final Four.

"I don't think it's fair, but we need motivation anyway," he said. "I think we should at least be in the top seven, top five. We're coming from a national championship game and it ain't like we got blown out. We had it. We almost clutched it.

"I know we lost three guys, but we've got great players. We've got role players then who are stepping up now to become significant players, and we've got a very good team."

Two seasons ago, voters gave Memphis the benefit of the doubt despite losing two first-round NBA Draft picks in Shawne Williams and Rodney Carney, ranking the Tigers 12th in the preseason. They delivered and then some, eventually rising to No. 5 and making the Elite Eight.

Even if it's unfair to expect Memphis to do the same thing, Calipari said he accepts the pressure.

"The expectations in this city are 30, 35, 37 wins," he said. "And it's what it is, but we understand. What we're trying to do is let's be the best we can be. Let's try to win in March like we always have. Let's have the team that's up at bat in March."

Reach Dan Wolken at 529-2365; read his blogs on the Tigers at

Tigers' first contest draws near - but nobody can watch

Tigers' first contest draws near - but nobody can watch
By: Joseph Russell

The opening game for The University of Memphis men's basketball team is Saturday, but all of the action will be behind closed doors.For the second year in a row, Coach John Calipari and the Memphis Tigers will take on St. Louis University in a closed scrimmage before the start of the season. The Tigers will travel to St. Louis for the afternoon contest.The Bilikens, coached by Rick Majerus, are expected to reveal some of the Tigers' weaknesses before their Nov. 4 exhibition match-up with Christian Brothers University."They play very physical. They hold the ball offensively. They set tremendous screens. They're great in transition defense. They'll be very careful with the ball," said Calipari, going through a list of the other team's strengths.Even though last year's scrimmage gave Tiger fans a scare with Derrick Rose tweaking his knee and a shoulder injury to Joey Dorsey, Calipari said he wanted to do it again to get an idea of where his team is and where they need to be."(They're) the type of team that will give us trouble," he said. "It's exactly what we need at this point."As well as a measuring gauge, The U of M coaching staff will also use this scrimmage as a teaching exercise for some of the younger players.With so many new players coming in and looking to play significant minutes, Calipari said, it's taken more time for this year's team to get as far along as the "dream team" in 2007, but they're trying."Last year, we could buzz through a lot of stuff, and it was just refreshing," he said. "Right now we're not refreshing, we're teaching."The Tigers take to the court Saturday against St. Louis, and their exhibition opener is Nov. 4 against CBU at FedEx Forum.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Xavier Henry No. 1 in revised ESPNU 100

Xavier Henry No. 1 in revised ESPNU 100
By Paul Biancardi and Antonio Williams
Scouts Inc.
Updated: August 21, 2008

Les Bentley for

Xavier Henry's dominant summer puts him atop the revised ESPNU 100.

A lot can be accomplished and established over a hot summer in the world of basketball recruiting. It's when you find guys who love the game, practicing long hours in the gym, working diligently on their skills and competing in AAU basketball against all types of talent.

After our staff watched games all over the country and evaluated and re-evaluated hundreds of prospects, we have revised the ESPNU 100 and crowned a new No. 1 prospect.

For a player to be No.1 he has to separate himself from all the rest. A truly great player consistently dominates his opponents through some statistical manner (scoring, rebounding, assists or blocks) and non-statistical manner (on-ball defense, team defense, hustle plays, passion). That player also should make everyone around him better. He has a personality that extracts the best out of his teammates while performing at a high level. The best players always help their team win games and championships.

Six-foot-6 SG Xavier Henry's (Oklahoma City/Putnam City) game rose to another level this summer and earned him the No. 1 ranking in the ESPNU 100. The lefty is a prolific scorer who can take over a game with his high skill level, long-range shooting and a chiseled, strong frame with good wingspan.

Rising to be No.1 takes an incredible amount of hard work and dedication -- staying there takes more. Six-foot-9 PF Derrick Favors (Atlanta/South Atlanta), who falls only slightly from No. 1 to No. 2, is in his own right a dominating player and a force around the basket. He played very well and was consistent all summer, but Henry's performance was extraordinary.

In leading his Athlete's First AAU team to the invitation-only AAU Super Showcase title in Orlando, Henry had incredible performances in all his games and played his best as the tournament progressed and the intensity built. Besides developing a midrange game -- the hardest shot for young players to learn -- and improving his right hand, he is the total package.
Henry can take and make from the NBA 3-point line, and with his size and elevation on his jumper, he shoots over most defenders. His signature move right now is his step-back jumper, on which he takes a hard dribble to create space before stepping back for the shot. What makes him most dangerous is he uses his dribble-drive very effectively to complement his accurate shooting. He drives with power to the basket and can absorb contact, score the ball and get to the free-throw line for the old fashion 3-point play. Defensively -- when motivated -- he is an excellent on-ball defender.

Currently undecided on his college choice, his leaders are Kansas and Memphis.

More ESPNU 100 Movers

Through his very strong play this summer, particularly at the LeBron James Skills Academy and the Nike Global Challenge, 6-10 PF John Henson (Tampa, Fla./Sickles) demonstrated why he should rank among the nation's elite prospects. The North Carolina verbal moves up from No. 16 to No. 3 in the ESPNU 100.

Henson has the ability to step away from the basket and connect on jumpers out to the 3-point line, but he needs to become a more consistent shooter. He excels in the transition game and finishes above the rim with ease, using his great leaping ability and length. Henson also rebounds the ball well and generally plays hard on both ends of the court. He blocks shots very well both coming from the weakside and on the ball. Henson also has the ability to handle the ball in the open court and passes well for his size. He has a great deal of upside and his best basketball lies ahead of him.

Six-foot-8 SF Tyler Honeycutt (Sylmar, Calif.) displayed his amazingly versatile offensive skill set throughout the summer, especially during the adidas Super 64 in Las Vegas, and vaults from No. 70 to No. 34.

He has very nice touch to go along with a textbook high release on his jumper, which allows him to hit perimeter shots beyond 3-point territory. He also can put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. His versatility really comes to the forefront when his team plays him as a power forward instead of at his more natural small forward slot. Honeycutt, despite giving up muscle and girth, battles for rebounds on both ends. He also has decent vision and passing skills and rarely forces the issue on offense. He will become an even better offensive talent with when he adds more strength and muscle to his frame.

6-3 SG Avery Bradley (Tacoma, Wash./Bellarmine Prep) effectively used the summer AAU circuit to catapult in the national player rankings from No. 49 to No. 15. He put together strong performance after strong performance in a number of events, especially in Las Vegas, the Best of the Summer in Los Angeles and the Nike Global Challenge in Portland.

Bradley makes use of his outstanding athletic ability to score the ball with ease. He has great quickness off the dribble and can get to the rim and score at the rim or connect on a pull-up jumper in the midrange. When Bradley gets to the rim, he has the leaping ability to produce highlight-reel, above-the-rim finishes. Bradley has also improved on the defensive end, using his lateral quickness to place good pressure on the ball.

Six-foot-7 SF Royce White (Minnetonka, Minn./Hopkins) made significant strides during the summer, especially through stellar play at the LeBron James Skills Academy. The Minnesota commit now ranks as the No. 23 prospect, jumping from No. 61.

He truly plays as an inside-outside threat with his ability to score close to the basket as well on the perimeter. White will hit the jump shot, but he has really improved his ability to create his own shot off the dribble. When he operates off the bounce, he also uses his good vision and passing skills to locate open teammates for easy shots either on the perimeter or in the paint. White also does a very good job of playing defense and has the size and quickness needed to defend the shooting guard, small forward and sometimes power forward spots.

Six-foot-5 SG Durand Scott (New York/Rice) used his ability to score in bunches to climb the ladder in the ESPNU 100 to No. 43 from No. 56. He scored with relative ease throughout the summer, using events such as the Boston Shootout, the NBPA Top 100 Camp and the LeBron James Skills Academy to further strengthen his position on the national landscape. Scott can create his own offense off the dribble by attacking the rim with great persistence. Once at the rim he has good body control and makes adjustments to connect on a number of difficult shot attempts. He also has the ability to hit pull-up jumpers in the midrange, though he needs to continue to improve his jump shot consistency; he tends to become a streak shooter from the perimeter.

New BloodSix-foot-9, 290-pound center Keith Gallon, who has transferred from Oak Hill Academy (Va.) to Word of God Academy (N.C.), enters the ESPNU 100 at No. 21. When positioning himself in the paint, he dominated opponents all summer long. His wide body, soft hands and nimble feet allow him to score easily in the paint. He possesses terrific skill facing the basket; "Tiny" has range to 17 feet and passes well in a high/low game.

At times he is lazy whether it is in low-post defense or running the floor. With that said, at the Nike Main Event in Las Vegas, he had numerous double-doubles. In Orlando at the Super Showcase and the AAU Nationals, he was productive again scoring double-figure points and rebounds. When he decreases his percentage of body fat and plays with intensity consistently, he will be hard to stop.

Six-foot-7 SF Khris Middleton (North Charleston, S.C./Porter-Gaud) has a well-rounded game and enters the ESPNU 100 at No. 64. The Texas A&M commit played extremely well in the adidas It Takes 5ive Classic.

He is a very good athlete who scores in a variety of ways. He rebounds well and can take it on the break himself, and his shot selection is good; he knocks down the open 3-point shot. He is a long, wiry athlete who is a solid defender on the ball and anticipates for steals well off the ball.
If you have not heard of 6-8 PF Thomas Robinson (Washington, D.C./Brewster Academy) by now, you will soon. Entering the ESPNU 100 at No. 54, he really blew up at the Reebok camp in July; he showed the ability to handle the ball in the open floor while doing what he does best -- rebound.

This strong, hard-working power forward rebounds both inside and outside of his area. At the Nike Main Event, he scored in the paint with a jump hook or drop step and from the high post demonstrated a sweet go-dribble to the basket.

In Orlando playing for Team Florida at the AAU nationals, 6-10 C Kyryl Natyazhko (Bradenton, Fla./IMG Academy) displayed a strong skill package. He enters the ESPNU 100 at No. 31.
Natyazhko can shoot the jumper out to the 3-point line and is a terrific passer. What is so impressive is his mobility for his size and feel for the game. He would be ideal in a two-man pick-and-pop game with his ability to spread out the defense.

Paul Biancardi, who spent 2007-08 as an assistant coach on Rick Majerus' staff at Saint Louis, is the sole national recruiting director for ESPN Scouts Inc. He has 18 years coaching experience at the Division I level. He was an assistant at Boston University, Boston College and Ohio State before becoming the head coach at Wright State, where he earned Horizon League coach of the year honors in the 2003-'04 season.

Antonio Williams is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. He previously worked as an NBA scout for Marty Blake Associates.

Related Topics: Men Basketball Recruiting, High School

Gary Parrish: The Impact Freshmen

The impact freshmen: Nice class, just not that nice
Oct. 27, 2008

By Gary Parrish

Four of the top five picks in last June's NBA Draft were freshmen.

Year before that, five of the top 10 picks were freshmen.

So let me be the first -- or actually the 500th -- person to tell you that, no, this season's freshman class will not be as good as last season's freshman class or the freshman class before that. Greg Oden and Michael Beasley are not walking through that door. But what you must understand is that even though this group of freshmen isn't as gifted as those groups of freshmen there are still many first-year players capable of making an immediate impact.

Any by impact, I mean impact.

Ed Davis might be one of the best freshmen in America; he's talented like that. But how much of an impact will the North Carolina forward make this season considering the Tar Heels already have Tyler Hansbrough and Deon Thompson in the frontcourt? Answer: I'm not sure. But what I do know is that Davis probably won't get the same opportunities as many of his classmates who signed elsewhere. So that's why Davis isn't on this list, because it's not necessarily a list of the best freshmen but rather a list of the freshmen best-positioned to have immediate impacts on relevant programs.

You dig?


Now here's the list of freshmen poised to make immediate impacts:

1. DeMar DeRozan (Southern California)
Why he's here: DeRozan did nothing to lower expectations when he scored 29 points in Sunday's intrasquad scrimmage. The 6-7 wing is a different player than O.J. Mayo, but his impact will be similar, if not more significant.

2. Jrue Holiday (UCLA)
Why he's here: Holiday does a little bit of everything -- including make predictions. In fact, the 6-3 combo guard didn't hesitate when he was asked at UCLA's annual media day for a prediction on the season. "National championship, national championship," Holiday said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "We've gone to the Final Four three years in a row, the history here. What else do I have to say? National championship."

3. B.J. Mullens (Ohio State)
Why he's here: A lot of these rankings are based on the impressions prospects made on me when I saw them at various times. I tell you that to tell you that the reason Mullens is so high is because every time I've ever seen him in person he's been awesome, just a jumping and dunking machine who should wreak havoc on the Big Ten. Is he Greg Oden? No, not quite. But he's certainly good enough to become the third straight OSU center to leave school after one season.

4. Tyreke Evans (Memphis)
Why he's here: Evans has to be John Calipari's best player if the Tigers are to make a fourth consecutive Elite Eight, and I suspect he will be. The 6-foot-6 combo guard has reportedly been great in preseason practices on both ends of the court. So the guess here is that Evans picks up a large portion of the points left behind by Chris Douglas-Roberts and becomes the sixth Memphis player in the past eight seasons to win C-USA Freshman of the Year honors.

5. Samardo Samuels (Louisville)
Why he's here: Samuels got 36 points and 16 rebounds in Sunday's Red-White scrimmage while reportedly "overpowering" Earl Clark and Terrence Jennings. Assuming that description is true (and that Samuels can dominate the paint) it's safe to pencil the Cardinals in as a legitimate threat to North Carolina, which makes me feel good about ranking Louisville second in the Top 25 (and one).

6. Willie Warren (Oklahoma)
Why he's here: Warren will team with Blake Griffin and provide one of the nation's best inside-outside duos. He's great at getting to the rim and should be one of the more entertaining freshmen given his unique ability to talk the talk and walk the walk.

7. Al-Farouq Aminu (Wake Forest)
Why he's here: Aminu is the centerpiece of Wake Forest's stellar recruiting class assembled by the late Skip Prosser and held together by his successor Dino Gaudi. When the Demon Deacons make the NCAA tournament this season, this 6-8 forward will be a huge reason.

8. Scotty Hopson (Tennessee)
Why he's here: Bruce Pearl has established himself in the SEC by doing more with less. Now he gets to do more with more because Hopson is a McDonald's All-American who will start from Day 1 and ensure the Vols have the type of talent to advance past the Sweet 16 for the first time in history.

9. Greg Monroe (Georgetown)
Why he's here: Remember what I wrote about Mullens and how he's ranked so high because every time I've seen him he's been great? Well, that's the same reason Monroe is lower than most would put him, because every time I've seen him he's merely been pretty good. Monroe spent much of his prep days as the nation's top-rated player, but I never saw him consistently dominate the way a No. 1 player should. That said, I know Monroe is talented; that's why he made the list. It's just that when watching him I never saw what I'm used to seeing from an elite prospect, but I'm willing to wait longer.

10. JaMychal Green (Alabama)
Why he's here: Alabama would be the easy pick to win the SEC West had Richard Hendrix returned to school. He didn't, and that's too bad for Alabama. But the reason Mark Gottfried isn't devastated is because Green is on campus after averaging 11.0 points and 8.4 rebounds in the FIBA Americas U18 Championship. As Davidson's Bob McKillop said after coaching him, Green is "terrific".

The next 10

11. Devin Ebanks (West Virginia)
16. Marcus Morris (Kansas)
12. Delvon Roe (Michigan State)
17. William Buford (Ohio State)
13. Kemba Walker (Connecticut)
18. Chris Singleton (Florida State)
14. Luke Babbitt (Nevada)
19. Yancy Gates (Cincinnati)
15. Iman Shumpert (Georgia Tech)
20. Tony Woods (Wake Forest)

Gary Parrish: Top 25 and Two Big Reasons Heels Could Be Perfect

Top 25 (and one): Two big reasons Heels could be perfect
Oct. 20, 2008
By Gary Parrish Senior Writer
I do not think North Carolina will go undefeated this season.

There, I said it.

So that should clear up any confusion in regards to my comment last week about how I couldn't wait to see "if" North Carolina can "go wire-to-wire and perhaps even undefeated." I purposely used the words "if" and "perhaps" because I wasn't predicting an undefeated season as much as presenting it as a possibility, and I thought that was obvious.

But the e-mails still arrived one after another with readers insisting the Tar Heels won't finish with a perfect record, which is why I'd like to take this opportunity to make two points before unveiling the preseason Top 25 (and one).

Point No. 1: I agree, the odds of UNC going undefeated aren't great.
Point No. 2: But you are insane if you don't think it's possible.

As always, I'm happy to explain. Before I do, let's establish two things about which we can surely all agree:

1. The Tar Heels should be better this season than they were last season.


Because the top six players are back -- a year older, stronger, wiser, etc., -- and joined by a pair of elite freshmen (Tyler Zeller and Ed Davis). So on paper, there is no question, this version of the Tar Heels is better than that version of the Tar Heels.

2. The nation as a whole should not be as good this season as it was last season.


Because the group of players entering college isn't as impactful as the group of players that just left college. In fact, I would argue no team this season (outside of North Carolina) will be as good as Kansas, Memphis, UCLA and North Carolina were last season, which means, on paper, there is no question that the quality of this season's elite teams won't be as high as the quality of last season's elite teams.

You still with me?


Now let's assume you're picking North Carolina to win the national title because everybody is picking North Carolina to win the national title. That implies the Tar Heels are expected to go 6-0 in the NCAA tournament, meaning that when the discussion is whether they can go undefeated, all we're really talking about is whether they can navigate the regular season without a loss.

And guess what?

They almost did it last season!

The Tar Heels only had two regular-season losses in 2007-08 -- one to Duke and one to Maryland. The Duke loss came when UNC played without its top two point guards (Ty Lawson and Bobby Frasor) because of injuries. But I think it's fair to suggest the Tar Heels would have won the game had Lawson been healthy if only because when he was healthy later in the season he helped North Carolina to a 76-68 victory at Duke.

As for the other loss, well, it was 82-80 to Maryland, and North Carolina led with less than 90 seconds left and missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. So that game could obviously have gone either way, which means North Carolina was perhaps just a healthy Lawson and last-second 3-pointer against Maryland away from entering the 2008 NCAA tournament undefeated.

So I ask: Why would anybody think it's unrealistic for North Carolina to go undefeated this season when it's clear the Tar Heels A) very well could have entered last season's NCAA tournament undefeated; B) should be better than they were last season; and C) will be competing against a national field that shouldn't be as challenging as the national field from last season?

Put that way, it doesn't seem so farfetched.

And with that, let's look at the preseason Top 25 (and one):

1. North Carolina: Despite my belief that UNC can go undefeated, I don't actually think it will happen. That's why my official prediction is that the Tar Heels will win the national title with a 38-1 record. But again, a perfect record is a possibility and don't even think about sending an e-mail suggesting otherwise.

2. Louisville: Rick Pitino will benefit from a pair of future pros (Terrence Williams and Earl Clark) who decided to delay their NBA dreams, and that's the kind of development that usually leads to great success. Don't believe me? Just look at Kansas, which won a national title in 2008 because Brandon Rush and Darrell Arthur weren't in the 2007 NBA Draft.

3. Connecticut: The Huskies will miss what freshman Nate Miles could have brought. But there's still enough talent to help Jim Calhoun win his third national title.

4. Duke: This Duke team is flawed, I admit. But Mike Krzyzewski won 28 games with a flawed team last season, and every relevant player from that flawed team is back except DeMarcus Nelson.

5. Notre Dame: Could a Final Four team really be the third-best team in its own league? Yes. Because that's how strong the Big East will be this season.

6. Purdue: The Boilermakers lack the wow factor. But there's something to be said for experienced and steady winners, and that's exactly what Matt Painter has at his disposal.

7. UCLA: It's crazy to think UCLA could lose three NBA Draft picks and still win the Pac-10. Crazy, but not wrong.

8. Gonzaga: Mark Few has the most talented team in Gonzaga history. Now let's see if it can become the best.

9. Michigan State: Does it not seem like the Drew Neitzel era lasted forever? If you're interested, Neitzel is now with the Artland Dragons in Germany.

10. Pittsburgh: The uncertainty about the health of Levance Fields is enough to keep Pitt fans worried. But if Fields is good, the Panthers can be really good.

11. Tennessee: It's possible the Vols have the best two NBA prospects in the SEC in Tyler Smith and Scotty Hopson.

12. Texas: The Longhorns would be ranked second if D.J. Augustin had returned. He didn't. But they'll still be strong without him.

13. Memphis: It says something about a program when an expected "down" year still garners a preseason top 15 ranking.

14. Marquette: The downside of the great situation Buzz Williams inherited is that he won't enjoy the same honeymoon most new coaches enjoy.

15. Georgetown: DaJuan Summers, Austin Freeman and Greg Monroe are the type of talents that can keep Georgetown near the top of the Big East.

16. Villanova: The guess here is that Villanova won't have to sneak into the NCAA tournament this season.

17. Miami (Fla.): Raise your hand if you ever imagined Miami basketball would be better than Miami football. It's almost as crazy as ever thinking Notre Dame basketball would be better than Notre Dame football or Tennessee basketball would be better than Tennessee football. Oh wait ...

18. Arizona State: While N.C. State should be down again, the coach N.C. State fans ran off (Herb Sendek) will be doing just fine in the Pac-10.

19. Ohio State: From Greg Oden to Kosta Koufos, Ohio State is becoming something of a Big Man U. Next up is B.J. Mullens, a 7-foot freshman who is likely a one-and-done player just like Oden and Koufos before him.

20. Oklahoma: Whenever Tom Crean is feeling down, he can look to Jeff Capel and realize it's possible to clean up a mess and make a program relevant again.

21. Southern California: DeMar DeRozan is not O.J. Mayo, but he's pretty darn good and capable of leading the Trojans to more wins than Mayo did.

22. Wisconsin: You know how Steve Spurrier always ranks Duke on his preseason football ballot? That's how I'm going to be with Wisconsin from now on, though it's worth noting Wisconsin is better at basketball than Duke is at football.

23. UNLV: Once again, the Rebels should be near the top of the Mountain West, winning games and preparing to advance in the NCAA tournament.

24. Florida: The Gators need points and rebounds from the center position, even if they come from some combination of players instead of just one.

25. Davidson: Here you go, Davidson fans. I put the Wildcats in the Top 25 (and one), as promised. Now don't let me down.

26. Baylor: The top five scorers are back from a 21-win team. Now if the Bears could just get John Wall committed everything would be perfect in Waco.

Ten teams that could make me pay for not ranking them (in alphabetical order):

Arizona; Kansas; Kentucky; LSU; Saint Mary's; Syracuse; Virginia Tech; Wake; Forest; West Virginia; Xavier.