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Friday, January 25, 2008

Kansas City Star - Memphis’ Rose could be thorn to KU

Memphis’ Rose could be thorn to KU
By BLAIR KERKHOFF, Kansas City Star

T ULSA, Okla. | Memphis freshman sensation Derrick Rose blew past Tulsa’s Brett McDade. Would he have slipped past Mario Chalmers or Russell Robinson?

Tigers big man Joey Dorsey got position on Golden Hurricanes center Jerome Jordan. Would Darnell Jackson have let Dorsey catch it in such an advantageous position?

Memphis put the finishing touches on a 56-41 punch out of Tulsa on Wednesday about 220 miles from and an hour after Kansas took out Iowa State in Lawrence — a perfect occasion for a fantasy hoop challenge.

The 18-0 and top-ranked Tigers versus the 19-0 and second-ranked Jayhawks in college basketball’s duel of perfection. At their rate of winning, the only time they’d see each other would be in the NCAA championship game at San Antonio.

But why wait? Let the debate begin.

One player, Memphis’ forward Shawn Taggert, may be in the best position to compare. He started his career at Iowa State and played against several current Jayhawks. Taggert also was a high school teammate of Brandon Rush at Mount Zion in North Carolina.

But the lean 6-10 sophomore who scored 14 off the bench on Wednesday wasn’t biting.

“How would we stack up against each other? Well, he’s a small forward and I’m not,” Taggert said.

No, your teams.

“Ah, I don’t want to talk about that,” Taggert said.

Coach John Calipari did, briefly.

“The games I’ve seen, they’re unbelievable,” Calipari said. “I don’t know if we’re the best team, but we’re the most highly thought-of team right now.”

So let’s put them together, if only on paper.

The backcourt matchups would pit some of the game’s best players. Rose and Antonio Anderson on Robinson and Chalmers. Rose is the quickest of the bunch with a wicked first step. Robinson is the best defender, but it might be Chalmers drawing the assignment. Either way, Rose would be challenged by some of the nation’s top defensive guards.

The game’s marquee battle pits wingmen Chris Douglas-Roberts, the Tigers’ leading scorer, against Rush, the Jayhawks’ most skilled offensive player. Roberts is excellent at getting his shot. Rush is a top-notch defender.

Up front, Dorsey is a bruiser who bulled his way to 19 rebounds against Tulsa, and Robert Dozier is the leaner shot-blocker. Put Darnell Jackson on Dorsey and Darrell Arthur on Dozier and see who stays out of foul trouble. Better offense with Kansas, better defense with Memphis.

Give the backcourt edge to Kansas — although Rose could take over a game — and the frontcourt edge to Memphis.

Both teams have excellent benches. The Tigers might have the nation’s deepest team with 10 who play at least 10 minutes.

“We have a second five that could be top 20 in the nation,” said Taggert.

Memphis needed some of the reserve strength Wednesday. Dozier and Dorsey went a combined one for 11 from the floor.

Kansas and Memphis entered the night first and second in scoring margin with the Jayhawks beating teams by 24.3 points and Memphis by 22.6. The Jayhawks’ defensive reputation is deserved, but the Tigers are also ferocious.

Wednesday, several Tulsa shots — once they cleared the defender’s outstretched arms — missed the rim. The Tigers’ press suffocated Tulsa.

With both teams about two weeks into conference play, it is easy to pick on Memphis’ softer league schedule. But a few figures reveal something else.

The Tigers have played more teams in the RPI top 50 than Kansas, five to four. And the Jayhawks don’t have a victory more impressive than Memphis’ over Georgetown.

But, if they meet this year, give the edge to Kansas. Slightly.

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, send e-mail to

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