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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Some Harsh Words From CSTV's Josh Herwitt - Don't Be Deceived By Tigers' Wins

Don't Be Deceived By Tigers' Wins
By Josh Herwitt - January 01, 2008

After last weekend's assortment of upsets and surprises, there now remain six teams in the nation who have yet to suffer defeat this season.

One of those happens to be, of course, second-ranked Memphis, who gained some more first-place votes this week from the AP voters, yet only trails No. 1 North Carolina by 28 points now.

But while I've given my fair share of props to John Calipari and his kids, I'm not about to write the Tigers off as national champs or even the No. 1 team in the country as we ring in the New Year with conference play beginning this week.

Memphis, first off, should have lost its game against USC in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden. The Tigers' Chris Douglas-Roberts stupidly decided to foul Daniel Hackett after missing the second of two free throws, giving the sophomore combo guard a chance to win the game with a pair of free throws with 5.9 seconds left.

Luckily for the Tigers, though, Hackett missed the second one and Memphis eventually escaped in overtime with a 62-58 victory in a game that it most likely should have lost, particularly after shooting under 40 percent from the field and free throw line.

Those numbers are certainly not going to win you games in March.

And even better, following the win over the Trojans, Calipari openly admitted he got "thoroughly outcoached" by USC's Tim Floyd, something that you don't hear the former UMass head man saying too often, or possibly at all (you can ask blogger extraordinaire D. Scott yourself and see what the Professor has to say on the matter).

So for Calipari's' sake, let's just hope that someone else like Floyd doesn't decide to throw out the triangle and two on the Tigers during conference play or in the NCAA Tournament this season. But the eighth-year coach better be prepared to face your everyday 2-3 zones, match-up zones and box-and-ones any time they step on the hardwood.

Because at 33.3 percent from the three-point line, that's not really going to cut it. Not in the NCAA Tournament and not when you're going up against teams like No. 14 Texas (42.9), No. 9 Duke (42.3), No. 20 Dayton (41.6) and No. 22 USC (41.1) -- all teams that have foreseeable futures in the Big Dance this season.

"You guys know I don't call timeouts very often," Calipari said after last Saturday's 76-63 victory over No. 21 Arizona. "That's why you play games like this. This is all good for us."

But if Memphis can't find of a way to attack the zone through the rest of this season, you can bet that Calipari will be calling a lot more timeouts.

Of course, it's no secret either that Calipari has one of the worst free throw-shooting teams in the country, coming in at 60.2 percent, and we all know how important those free points are come tourney time.

Look, I'm not here to totally bash Memphis and what they've accomplished so far. The Tigers have certainly taken care of business and done what I expected them to do up until this point.

"Look at who we've beat," sophomore transfer Shawn Taggart said. "We still have some really tough games ahead. But to be where we are right now, it's hard not to be happy."

Yeah, I am looking at who they've beat and it says "FedExForum" next to the location of every game except the win over USC in New York City. That night a rather large section of Memphis fans made their presence known, in fact, as the Trojans were cheered on by a number of fans that could be counted on two hands. Trust me, I was there.

Oh, and that big game against now unranked Gonzaga on Jan. 26 and big rivalry game against No. 8 Tennessee on Feb. 23, yeah, those are both in Memphis as well.

So while I won't be divulging any New Year's resolutions right now, I am confident in saying that Memphis is not the No. 1 team in the nation at the moment.

That will likely change when North Carolina suffers its first loss of the season in the trenches of the ACC over the next two months, but don't be fooled by quality home wins and shooting percentages from the perimeter that make it hard for anyone not to see those being potential issues when other teams are finally peaking in March.

Posted by Josh Herwitt at 09:01 PM on January 01, 2008

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