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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Memphis vs Tennessee - ESPN's Largest TV Audience EVER !!!

For Immediate Release
February 26, 2008 860-766-2000
Tennessee at Memphis – ESPN’s Most-Viewed
Men’s College Basketball Game

ESPN’s coverage of Tennessee at Memphis Saturday, Feb. 23 set a record as the network’s most-viewed men’s college basketball game. The showdown between then-#2 Tennessee and #1 Memphis – won by Tennessee 66-62 – averaged 3,636,000 households and 5,281,000 viewers. The Saturday Primetime telecast averaged a 3.8 rating, making it ESPN’s highest rated men’s college basketball game since December 22, 1998 (Kentucky vs. Duke in the Jimmy V Classic averaged a 3.9).

It also stands as the most-viewed regular-season men’s college basketball on any television outlet – broadcast or cable – since March 6, 2005 (CBS’ coverage of Duke at North Carolina averaged 3,977,000 households).

ESPN’s previous most-viewed men’s college basketball telecast was North Carolina at Duke on March 4, 2006, which averaged 3,134,000. The game was featured on every ESPN entity as part of ESPN’s Full Circle initiative and was seen by an average of 3,780,000 households on ESPN and ESPN2 (which televised the game from the “Above the Rim” camera) combined.

ESPN’s men’s regular-season college basketball coverage this season is averaging 946,000 households and a 1.0 rating, marking 11 % increases in households (vs. 850,000) and ratings (vs. 0.9) over last year through the same point.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tigers' Rose misses practice; may miss game on Wednesday

Tigers' Rose misses practice; may miss game on Wednesday
By Dan Wolken
Originally published 06:27 p.m., February 25, 2008

University of Memphis freshman Derrick Rose missed Monday’s practice due to a stomach illness, and coach John Calipari isn’t sure whether his star point guard will be ready to play Wednesday against Tulsa.

Rose was given an IV on Monday to help him replace fluids, but his status will hinge on how much his condition improves between now and the game. Rose was the Tigers’ best player Saturday in their 66-62 loss to Tennessee, scoring 23 points on 9-of-16 from the field.

“We’ll see,” Calipari said. “Hopefully it’s a 24-hour bug.”

Meanwhile, junior guard Chris Douglas-Roberts practiced Monday and said he’ll play against Tulsa after suffering an ankle injury in the closing minutes against Tennessee. Douglas-Roberts hurt himself with 2:28 to go on a stepthrough move for a layup that gave the Tigers a 61-58 lead. He had to come out of the game at the next whistle and couldn’t come back in until 41.5 seconds were left.

The injury clearly affected his ability to make a move and score on the game’s most important possession, when he tried to drive at J.P. Prince but instead gave the ball up, leading to Antonio Anderson’s miss with nine seconds to go.

“I twisted my ankle when I was about to jump off my right leg right before I jumped,” Douglas-Roberts said. “It’s alright. It was pretty sore, but that’s not an excuse at all.”

Etc.: ESPN’s Michael Humes said Saturday’s telecast averaged a 31.4 rating in Memphis and a 30.9 in Knoxville, meaning nearly one out of three television sets in the two markets were tuned to the game. Humes said that was about double what the Oscars telecast got Sunday night in the respective markets…Roughly 200 tickets for Wednesday’s game were returned from corporate partners and put on sale to the public. All tickets are located on the terrace level and can be purchased for $12.

The Sporting News - "Memphis will NOT make the trip to San Antonio "

The Sporting News

The Opening Pitch: Tennessee will win the national title. At least, the Vols will if they can channel that effort from Saturday night in Memphis, writes Sporting News' Dan Shanoff in this morning's Wake-Up Call.

It was the biggest/best single win by any team this season. Shanoff stands by his preseason pick that UCLA will win the national title, but here are two more predictions: The Vols will join the Bruins in the Final Four, and Memphis will NOT make the trip to San Antonio -- poor free-throw shooting ultimately will doom the Tigers.

Memphis falls hard from lofty perch


Memphis falls hard from lofty perch

(Boy, those ACC boys are getting smug. I guess they don't like outsiders like UT and Memphis ahead of them and getting the press. Perhaps, just perhaps, UT and Memphis have better athletes than UNC and Duke, ed.)

"A glance around Memphis' dressing room showed the challenge facing coach John Calipari now that the Tigers' chase for perfection is over." I'll say this and let it go: I was unimpressed with either team. It was one of the most fun, sloppy and uninspiring basketball games I have seen in some time. I suspect that their are at least 2 and perhaps 4 ACC teams that would beat (Duke and Carolina) and or give either of those teams an excellent run.

Fake Tigers' tickets anger fans

Fake Tigers' tickets anger fans
Counterfeit stubs result in occupied, nonexistent seats for unlucky few
By James Dowd
Monday, February 25, 2008

Two games, two words: Caveat emptor.

That's the message University of Memphis officials are sending to ticket-challenged fans hoping to gain entry to the Tiger basketball team's final home matchups.

The advice comes on the heels of the Tigers' 66-62 loss to the University of Tennessee on Saturday at FedEx Forum, where bogus tickets left some fans fuming.

An exact count won't be known until today, but at least eight to 10 counterfeit stubs were collected from unlucky fans who entered the building only to discover that their seats didn't exist or were already occupied.

"The last time this happened was back in the '90s during the NCAA tournament at The Pyramid," said Bill Lofton, U of M's associate athletic director for business and finance. "We want people to be careful and strongly encourage them not to buy tickets off people on the street."

With only two regular-season home games remaining -- Tulsa on Wednesday and the University of Alabama-Birmingham on March 8 -- Lofton said the potential for ticket fraud is very real. Added to the problem is the skill of the counterfeiters.

"They're similar in color and the resemblance between real tickets and fake ones is amazing and wouldn't be noticed by most people," Lofton said. "That's why it's important to get them from a legal source or from a ticket holder you know. Otherwise, you're taking a chance."

Those words of wisdom arrived too late for Steve Arena, who paid two men on Main Street nearly $900 for three tickets shortly before Saturday's tipoff. It wasn't his first time to buy same-day tickets from street scalpers, Arena said, and at first he thought it was a good deal.

But when he and his two sons arrived at what they thought were their seats, the occupants informed them their stubs were no good. On top of that, the ticket holders said that several others had fallen for the same scam.

"They said we were the third or fourth group of people who'd come to those seats and none of the tickets were good. They were all fake," Arena said. "Of course we knew then that we'd been taken, but at that point what can you do?"

The best thing, according to FedExForum officials, is not to get into that situation in the first place.

Stephen Zito, senior vice president of operations and entertainment for the Grizzlies and the Forum, said buyers should get tickets at the box office, online or over the phone. Never outside an event.

"You're usually paying much more than face value and you're taking a chance that you may be throwing your money away," Zito said. "And if your ticket is counterfeit, what are the odds that you'll find who sold it to you and get your money back?"

Currently, U of M tickets aren't compatible with the Forum's scanners. But that should be resolved before next basketball season rolls, so those with invalid tickets will be denied admission.

That didn't happen Saturday, when some fans saw the promise of an unbelievable deal vanish like the Tigers' dream of an unbeaten season.

Zito said several scammed fans roamed the concourses, watching the game on monitors. Arena and his sons fared a bit better.

After describing their circumstances to some corporate sponsors they happened to meet, the three were invited to watch the game in The Commercial Appeal's suite.

"We ended up having a great time, but I've definitely learned my lesson," Arena said. "No more scalpers, no way. It's not worth the risk."

-- James Dowd: 901-529-2737

The Detroit News - Tennessee's bigs answer disrespect

Dave Dye's court report
Dave Dye / The Detroit News
Tennessee's bigs answer disrespect

Motivation comes in many forms, but none as powerful at times as perceived disrespect.

Take the way 6-foot-9 sophomore Wayne Chism and the rest of Tennessee's front line approached Saturday's No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown at undefeated Memphis.

"We sat up in that hotel room (Saturday morning) watching those ESPN guys talk about (Joey ) Dorsey and (Robert ) Dozier , (and) saying Tennessee was weak inside," Chism said. "So me and Duke (Crews ) and Brian (Williams ) got together and said, 'Do we want to keep going to games with people saying we're weak inside, but we're saved by our guards?' "

Memphis' Dorsey and Dozier might have gotten the hype going in, but Chism and the Volunteers got the last laugh.

Shockingly, Tennessee outrebounded (50-34) and outscored (36-16) Memphis in the paint. Chism had 14 points and seven rebounds to Dorsey's one point, six rebounds.

As for his big men, Memphis coach John Calipari said, "They tried, but they got outfought."

Whether it was intentional or not, Calipari provided his own source of motivation for Tennessee's 6-7 sixth man J.P. Prince , who is a cousin of Piston Tayshaun Prince .

Calipari, who recruited Prince, had referred to him as "P.J." more than once earlier in the week.

Prince was born and raised in Memphis. He was the Tigers' ballboy when his father, John, was a Memphis assistant.

Prince, however, signed with Arizona instead of Memphis three years ago before transferring in January 2007 to Tennessee.

"Coach Cal was taking his shots," Prince said. "It's like he's never called my house asking for me. That got me fired up. I thank him for that."

Prince, a 46.7-percent free-throw shooter, made both in a one-and-one situation with 8.8 seconds left to give Tennessee a 64-61 lead. He scored 13.

Tennessee, which broke Memphis' streaks of 45 regular-season victories and 47 at home, will move to No. 1 for the first time in school history when the polls are released today.

There's not much time for pats on the back. Vanderbilt, which is 17-0 at home, will be waiting for Tennessee Tuesday night in Nashville, Tenn.

Prediction: Vanderbilt wins.

As for Memphis, well, the perfect season is gone, but that could take some of the pressure off and also help it refocus for March.

"You guys all said we needed to lose one, so we lost one," Calipari said.

Better now than a month from now.

NY Daily News' Dick Weiss - Memphis tries to cope with loss

New York Dail News
Dick Weiss
Memphis tries to cope with loss
Monday, February 25th 2008, 4:00 AM

MEMPHIS - This was supposed to be a coronation for University of Memphis basketball.

Graceland, Elvis' family home, was bathed in blue in honor of the beloved Tigers. "I Hate Orange" T-shirts sprouted up all over campus and and a giant silver No.1 made its way into the student section of the sold-out FedEx Forum.

But the party fizzled before it ever got started in the jazz and blues clubs on Beale Street. Top-ranked Memphis lost to second-ranked Tennessee, 66-62, Saturday night in the biggest regular-season college game ever played in this state.

Memphis (26-1), which only has one dificult game remaining - against UAB at home - and gets to host the Conference USA tournament, still should be a No.1 seed in the NCAA Tournament if it wins out. But the Tigers no longer may be a lock to play in the South Regional at Houston now that the selection committee has seen some of their warts.

Everything, of course, is fluid, but Texas could get that prime location if the red-hot Longhorns (23-4) win the Big 12, with Tennessee (25-2) as the No.1 in Charlotte and North Carolina (25-2) the No.1 in Phoenix.

"Now people are going to start questioning us again, start doubting us again," said freshman point guard Derrick Rose, one of the few Memphis players with enough maturity to meet the press after the game.

For the first time during what had been a magic carpet ride, Memphis coach John Calipari made this highly anticipated event more about the prize than the game. He seemed more concerned all week with being the king of Dixie, the No.1 team from a non-BCS conference, and less with the task at hand.

Calipari is a good coach and has Final Four talent. But on Saturday night, he and his Tigers were trumped by Bruce Pearl's preparation and the Volunteers' execution.

Calipari did a good job disguising his team's vulnerability for the first 26 games of the year, but the Tigers' weaknesses all came out at exactly the wrong time.

After last year's game in Knoxville, Pearl knew Memphis was not a great shooting team. So he played a packed-in zone and dared the Tigers to beat the Vols from the perimeter. He gambled and won big. The Tigers made seven of their first 11 three-point attempts, but just one of their last 16, including the 12 straight misses at the end.

The Tigers, the fourth-worst team in the NCAA at the line, were stone cold again, making just eight of 17 free throws, including one of six in the final four minutes, a flaw that could be fatal in March.

Engimatic senior power forward Joey Dorsey, the Tigers' biggest inside threat and best interior defender, attempted to bully the Vols' front line just as he did last year against Ohio State's Greg Oden, with a similar lack of success. He only produced one point, no field goals and six rebounds in 28 minutes. Neither Dorsey nor foul-prone Robert Dozier was able to contain UT's more active frontcourt players. Wayne Chism, J.P. Prince and Tyler Smith constantly and effectively attacked the basket. Tennessee ripped the Tigers, 50-34, on the boards.

"It was just sloppiness," Calipari said. "I mean, we got 10 steals, nine blocks. We hold them to 37% from the floor and lose, that's no such thing. They outscrapped us on the backboard. I can remember J.P. Prince just ran by two guys.

"Joey and Robert and our inside people really were going to have to fight like heck and they tried but they got outfought. Our whole team did."

"We've just got to learn from it," Dozier said. "We lost. They just out-toughed us. They got every loose ball, every offensive rebound. They just outplayed us."

Final Verdict on Tennessee-Memphis Game...Not Impressive

Final Verdict on Tennessee-Memphis Game...Not Impressive
submitted by droppinbombs

If you watched tonight's game featuring the #1 and #2 teams in the nation, you're probably thinking the same thing I am. These are the top two teams in the country? Maybe the best in the state of Tennessee. Calipari and Pearl better get their boys playing smarter, more fluid, fundamental basketball come tournament time. No way will this performance be good enough against UCLA, UNC, Duke, Stanford, Kansas, Georgetown, UCONN, WSU, or Texas in late March.

Dan Shulman summed it up best when telling his broadcast partner, Dicky V "you probably shoot better free throws in your suit and loafers without any warm-ups."

Memphis shot 41% from the line and under 40% from the field. Tennesse wasn't any better from the field, shooting 37%. At least they showed better than Shaq-like touch from the line, going 12-18. Even uglier were the sloppy turnovers and out-of-control guard play (besides Derrick Rose). I thought both teams were supposed to have the best athletes in the nation? All I saw were guys panting for air, unable to keep up with the frantic tempo.

Besides freshman phenom, Derrick Rose, nobody stepped it up for the Tigers. CDR is a solid player but too often he plays out-of-control. Dorsey lacks discipline and poise and has zero offensive game. Despite their loss to Tennessee, I still like Memphis better.

As for the Volunteers, the point-guard play was awful. They looked lost on offense and could barely bring the ball up the floor. Without the three Smiths and the spark from freshman, Prince, Tennessee would not have escaped with the W. Lofton was invisible out there, until the 2nd half when he was throwing up prayer fade-away 3s. More and more each day he reminds me of a poor man's J.J. Redick. Even the slow, pasty ex-Dookie could create his shot easier than Chris.

Neither coach did a very good job managing the game. Obviously Pearl did a little better than Calipari. Maybe I haven't seen these two teams play enough, but I'd say both are overrated. It's possible that both played great defense limiting each other's opportunities and forcing the sloppy turnovers. Still, I don't see either squad making it past the Elite 8 and only their high seeds will get them to the Sweet 16.

What North Carolina, Duke have that Tennessee, Memphis don't
Monday, February 25, 2008
What North Carolina, Duke have that Tennessee, Memphis don't

Observations after a weekend of basketball that brought a new No. 1 in the polls and a new No. 11 in the ACC standings:

-- Tennessee and Memphis are more athletic overall and better defensively than North Carolina or Duke. But the Tar Heels and Blue Devils are more polished and disciplined on offense. The Vols and Tigers took a lot of ill-advised shots before Tennessee emerged with a road win.

-- Memphis point guard Derrick Rose was the best player on the floor in the No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup, and he’s better than any freshman in the ACC.

-- If John Calipari was going to bring players like Joey Dorsey to N.C. State, it’s a good thing Calipari stayed at Memphis. Dorsey argued with the referees and apparently talked trash to J.P. Prince before some late free throws. Calipari shouldn’t let him get away with that kind of poor sportsmanship.

Memphis Must Regroup in Time for NCAA Tourney

Memphis Must Regroup in Time for NCAA Tourney
by The Associated Press

MEMPHIS - A glance around Memphis' dressing room showed the challenge facing coach John Calipari now that the Tigers' chase for perfection is over.

Chris Douglas-Roberts and Joey Dorsey sat at their lockers with their jerseys pulled over their heads and most Tigers declined to talk after No. 2 Tennessee stunned top-ranked Memphis 66-62 Saturday to likely grab their No. 1 ranking.

Freshman Derrick Rose, who led Memphis with 23 points, acknowledged that the Tigers had talked of perfection, trying to become the first team since Indiana in 1976 to go undefeated and win a national title.

"It's not just this one. If we had lost to anybody, it would have hurt the same way. We were supposed to come out with the victory," Rose said.

Memphis had been No. 1 in the country for five weeks and the unanimous pick for that spot the past three. The first matchup of Tennessee teams ranked No. 1 and No. 2 was supposed to be a crowning moment to prove that Memphis could get to its first national title game since 1973 - and win.

Letting go of having missed a shot at perfection will be the Tigers' initial hurdle in bouncing back from their first home loss since Jan. 2, 2006, against Texas. Memphis (26-1) also has to solve its rebounding and free-throw shooting woes to make a run to the Final Four.

If any coach can help Memphis through this situation it's Calipari. He faced exactly this challenge in 1996 at Massachusetts when his Minutemen had won their first 26 games and lost the 27th at home.

"I'll be honest with you, the next game was a tough game, too. ... There's going to be a natural letdown," Calipari said.

His Tigers had Sunday off, and their Conference USA schedule is such that they shouldn't face another stiff test until they play in the NCAA tournament, possibly as a No. 1 seed.

Two of their final four regular-season games are on their home floor starting Wednesday night with Tulsa, a team they beat 56-41 in Oklahoma on Jan. 23. Trips to Southern Miss and SMU will have big crowds but nowhere near the pressure of trying to remain undefeated.

Then they're back in Memphis hosting the Conference USA tournament, where they haven't lost since 2005, Louisville's last year in the league.

Doneal Mack called the loss a setback the Tigers will have to overcome.

"I didn't care about the perfect season, but you want to win any game you play. ... That's why this one hurts so much now," he said.

"There were things we should have done and we could have won. That's why it hurts. Some people stepped up. Some people didn't."

Memphis had been Conference USA's best at outrebounding opponents, but Tennessee had a season-best performance with a 50-34 advantage. The Vols dominated Memphis near the basket with a 20-point advantage.

Dorsey had a team-high six rebounds but only one point. Douglas-Roberts, who had been leading the Tigers and making a case for player of the year honors, struggled with 14 points and two turnovers.

Memphis, 326th out of 328 Division I teams in free-throw shooting, hit only one of five foul shots in the final 4:12 and was 8-of-17 for the game.

"It was just sloppiness," said Calipari, who went through his timeouts trying to keep Memphis in the game.

"I mean we got 10 steals, nine blocks. We hold them to 37 percent from the floor and lose, there's no such thing. They outscrapped us on the backboard. I can remember offensive plays, J.P. Prince just ran by two guys."

It was Tennessee that made the plays even as Memphis led 61-58. Calipari said his Tigers needed this game to learn how to make plays at the crucial moment, especially important for a team that has lost in the NCAA regional final the past two years.

"It's got to mean something to you. So, if that's the lesson we learn, then it's a good lesson for us," Calipari said.

Only March will tell whether the Tigers paid attention.

Memphis focuses on bigger picture, not one loss

Memphis focuses on bigger picture, not one loss
The Commercial Appeal
Originally published 11:03 p.m., February 24, 2008

For the soon-to-be former No. 1-ranked University of Memphis basketball team, Saturday's loss to Tennessee only felt like the end of the world.

No, Memphis will not emulate the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers as undefeated national champions. The No. 1-elect Vols, with their 66-62 victory, put paid to that notion.

But the reality, although it was too much for the despondent Tigers to contemplate it in the wake of a rare loss at FedExForum, is that there is still a great deal left to play for over the next six weeks.

The perfect record is gone, and a host of school-record winning streaks along with it, but Memphis (26-1) is still streaking toward a Conference USA regular-season title. The Tigers will be heavy favorites in next month's C-USA tournament and, barring a disastrous post-Tennessee hangover, are still in line for a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

"It's all still there," freshman point guard Derrick Rose said. "There ain't nothing to worry about."

Memphis has a couple more days to regroup before facing Tulsa on Wednesday night at FedExForum. Sophomore guard Doneal Mack expects the Tigers to put the loss behind them and proceed with their march toward March.

"We'll get it straight for the next game," Mack said. "We've got to use this for motivation. We've got to look at what we did wrong on the tape."

Although Sunday was technically an off day for the Tigers, who were outrebounded 50-34, shot 47.1 percent from the free-throw line and missed their last 12 3-point attempts against the Vols, Mack said "I know everybody's gonna be in the gym."

Tennessee, which almost certainly will assume the Tigers' place atop the rankings today, has less time to come to grips with its newfound status as a basketball superpower.

The Vols (25-2) travel to Nashville on Tuesday night to face a Vanderbilt team that hasn't lost at home to a top-ranked opponent in 30 years. The 20th-ranked Commodores (23-4) have won three consecutive games at Memorial Gym against teams ranked atop the Associated Press poll. They beat Florida last year, Kentucky in 1993 and North Carolina in 1987 when each of those teams was No. 1.

Senior guard Chris Lofton isn't worried about the Vols being overwhelmed by a No. 1 ranking. He's more concerned about beating the Commodores and preserving Tennessee's two-game lead in the SEC standings.

"I think we'll handle it fine. We've got to remember that on Tuesday night we play a very good team that's gonna be ready to play," Lofton said. "They don't lose a lot at home and they're gonna be ready for us."

While Vols coach Bruce Pearl whipped his team's fans into a frenzy at a pregame pep rally on Saturday - "We're 40 minutes from No. 1," he told them - his players expect him to downplay the ranking.

"Coach is gonna preach every day to us that it don't mean nothing," said sophomore forward Tyler Smith, whose turnaround jumper over Dozier with 26.5 seconds left proved to be the game-winner.

As for the Commodores, Smith said their recent 93-52 bludgeoning of Kentucky - it was the Wildcats' worst loss since 1989 - has commanded the Vols' full attention.

"They beat Kentucky by 40-odd points and Kentucky beat us," Smith said, "so it's gonna be a tough game."

Should Tennessee escape from quirky Memorial Gym with what would be its 10th straight win, the Vols can clinch at least a share of the SEC crown by beating Kentucky on Sunday in Knoxville.

Memphis, meanwhile, can wrap up its third outright C-USA title in as many years with wins over the Golden Hurricane on Wednesday and at Southern Miss on Saturday.

Dozier insists that the Tigers "never were" caught up in the increasing hoopla over their unbeaten start to the season. But the post-game scene in the Memphis locker room, where the majority of players declined to field questions from the media, gave lie to that.

"We were supposed to come up with a victory," said Rose, who did his part by scoring 23 points.

Dozier, despite what Rose described as the emptiness of the moment, was eventually willing to consider the fact that the Tigers' season will continue.

"You live and you learn," Dozier said. "There's a bigger tournament coming up."

In the meantime, Rose said, it would be ridiculous to let Saturday's disappointment derail what could still be a dream season.

"We're the only team in the nation with one loss," he said. "There ain't nothing wrong with that."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ok, Time to Move On - Mission One - C-USA Championship

Cal says forget about it. We have business to attend to. Next Up - Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Monday, February 25, 2008

Losing Stinks, But Losing to UT Plain Sucks

Losing Stinks, But Losing to UT Plain Sucks

The place to be, Celebrities flock to FedEx Forum for UT-Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Priscilla Presley was there. So were tennis stars Lindsay Davenport and James Blake. Catching a glimpse of Peyton Manning in his luxury suite was a little tougher.

But the lure of the country's top two teams with No. 1 Memphis hosting No. 2 Tennessee playing each other Saturday night in Memphis was too much to pass up if you could wrangle yourself a ticket.

It didn't even matter that even Manning, the former Tennessee quarterback, needed help from Memphis officials to land a ticket to watch his Vols play the Tigers.

Presley, who helped bathe the late Elvis Presley's Graceland with blue lights a night before in honor of the Tigers' perfect start, had a front row seat. Appropriately enough, the halftime show featured a series of songs by her late husband.

Davenport and Blake are in town for a tennis tournament, and they took to the court during the first media timeout of the first half to help advertise that event. They each hit tennis balls up into the crowd.

The game was such a lure that even Justin Timberlake and girlfriend Jessica Biel were rumored to be in attendance for the sold-out night but hadn't been seen by halftime.

But the crowd gave a standing ovation to a pair of former Tigers late in the first half. Former NBA star Penny Hardaway was sitting next to Keith Lee, the school's all-time leading scorer, who was with the Tigers during their last Final Four appearance.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Fox Sports Jeff Goodman - Memphis loss shows how wide open title race is

Memphis loss shows how wide open title race is
by Jeff Goodman
Jeff Goodman is a senior college basketball writer for He can be reached at or check out his blog, Good 'N Plenty.

MEMPHIS - The top two teams in the nation went at it on Saturday night.

The result wasn't just that Memphis' bid for an undefeated season is history, or that the Tennessee Vols will move into the No. 1 spot when the next polls are released this week.

It also confirmed that the national championship race is wide open.

Tennessee is deep, athletic and talented. The Vols play hard and have proven they can get out on the road and win in hostile environments. They've now proven it at Xavier, in Seattle against Gonzaga and in the most hostile environment that anyone will face this season — in Memphis.

However, it's not as if it's Tennessee and everyone else.

The Vols have a pair of losses — an embarrassing early-season setback in New Jersey at the hands of Texas and a road loss in Lexington to what was a struggling Kentucky club.

North Carolina also has two setbacks — and one of them came without its starting point guard, Ty Lawson. The Tar Heels may not be as deep as a year ago, but Roy Williams still has more than enough firepower — when Lawson is healthy — to play with anyone in the country.

UCLA has had a trio of slip-ups, with the most recent one coming at Washington — the ninth-place team in the Pac-10. The Bruins have battled their share of injuries as well — their own starting floor leader, Darren Collison, missed the first six games, Mike Roll has been out for nearly the entire season and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute hasn't been 100 percent in months.

Kansas lost at Oklahoma State on Saturday night, but the Jayhawks may have as much talent among their first seven players as anyone in the nation — and what was once regarded as a weakness in the middle, has become a strength with the emergence of Darnell Jackson.

Duke had a brutal two-game stretch recently, but the Blue Devils are certainly capable of making a legitimate Final Four run. They defend, can shoot and are obviously well-coached.

Don't discount Memphis from the equation, either.

Sure, the Tigers can't shoot free throws and are erratic from long distance as well. They play in a mid-major conference and they still don't have a true road win against an NCAA tournament-caliber club. In fact, Memphis' most impressive victory in a hostile environment came last week at UAB.

Big deal.

Even after a disappointing performance Saturday, John Calipari's club still has the toughness, experience and talent to advance to San Antonio.

However, Calipari needs to get his players to understand that when the game is on the line, the ball must be in the hands of either Chris Douglas-Roberts or freshman point guard Derrick Rose.

Rose didn't even touch the ball on the most critical possession — when junior leader Antonio Anderson jacked up an ill-advised shot with 10 seconds remaining that might have put a dent in the backboard.

The loss hurt the Tigers. All you had to do to get a true gauge of how much was look into their faces in the locker room afterwards. Douglas-Roberts wouldn't even show his face. Antonio Anderson, the team spokesman of sorts and leader, declined to speak. The only players who faced the music were Robert Dozier, Doneal Mack and Rose.

Calipari was a gentleman after the game, praising Tennessee's efforts and also taking a shot at his own team's lack of effort. However, prior to the contest he repeatedly referred to J.P. Prince, the Memphis native, as P.J.

But the season isn't over. OK, the Tigers lost to their in-state rivals and it sent a dagger into the hearts of everyone in Memphis.

Cal's group will get back on track. That's where the cupcake schedule in Conference USA comes in handy. They'll stomp on a few inferior teams, run the table in the conference tournament and enter the NCAA tourney with the same swagger that had gotten them to 26-0.

But for now, the Memphis Tigers are just like everyone else.

UT fans wade deep into Tiger territory for daylong festivities

UT fans wade deep into Tiger territory for daylong festivities
By Phil Stukenborg
Sunday, February 24, 2008

The trash-talking in Section 104 began shortly before 9 a.m. when FedExForum officials first allowed fans to enter the building.

ESPN's "College GameDay" crew -- Rece Davis, Digger Phelps, Jay Bilas and Hubert Davis -- was setting up near mid-court for the live show. In Section 104, Matt Emison, Brent Parrish and Meghan Pinkley were bracing themselves for more than Phelps' histrionics. They were enduring a wave of mostly lighthearted verbal abuse.

As the fans, mostly University of Memphis students, settled into their seats, Emison, Parrish and Pinkley -- Union University students and University of Tennessee fans -- stood out in their bright orange amid a sea of Tiger blue.

"We're hearing it all today,'' said Emison, 19. ''We've been getting booed the whole time.''

Such was an inherent risk for the trio, who were in Memphis to cheer the No. 2 Volunteers against the top-ranked Tigers and take in the early-morning, pregame atmosphere.

Had the Tiger fans around them known of how they obtained their tickets -- they bought student-section tickets for $150 and $250 off eBay -- the UofM fans may have turned on their own.

Still, the threesome didn't mind the stares and occasional obscenities hurled in their direction.

"It was definitely worth it," Emison said.

While there was no shortage of volume among the crowd estimated at 2,100 by UofM officials, it was evident there had been an abundance of sleep deprivation.

Several in the crowd slept through the deafening roar that ensued when the ESPN crew asked the students to make some noise.

Ashley Warren, a former Tigers cheerleader who graduated in August, said she left her home in Cordova at 5:30 a.m. UofM students Matt Helsel, a junior nursing major from Memphis, and Cal Overman, a freshman from Lexington, Tenn., stayed up through the night, as did freshman Taylor Fortney, a jazz performance major.

"I've been up since my 8 a.m. class on Friday," Fortney said.

Fortney, who sat on the row in front of Emison, Parrish and Pinkley, admired the courage of the trio.

"I guess if I had tickets to watch Memphis play in Knoxville, I'd wear my school colors, too,'' Fortney said. ''You've got to be courageous to be a fan.''

As with all the "GameDay" stops throughout the country this season, this one featured the ubiquitous hand-drawn signs, with their references to ESPN: mEmphis keepS toP raNk; tigErs cruSh Pearl's voluNteers.

And it featured the clever (We're gonna kick the #2 outta you) to the adoringly absurd (Joey Dorsey for Mayor).

ESPN officials said the crowd represented the largest gathering for a "GameDay" appearance this season, but they cautioned that next week's stop in Lawrence, Kan., likely would break the mark. Still, it created the ideal backdrop for the ESPN onsite studio.

As UofM associate athletic director Bob Winn watched the live show and the livelier crowd, his Blackberry buzzed with an e-mail from sports information director Jennifer Rodrigues, who said the wild and crazy atmosphere looked "awesome" on television.

The crowd, which packed into the lower bowl and one club-level section behind the ESPN set, wasn't limited to students.

Mike Dreve, 59, of Germantown, a Tiger Scholarship Fund member, said he woke up at about 6 a.m. and convinced his wife, Mary, a 1974 Tennessee graduate, to come, too. She was adorned in Tiger blue.

"I had to come,'' he said. ''How many times are you going to be No. 1 in the country and playing No. 2 in the country.

"This is the biggest event we've ever had in Memphis sports.''

-- Phil Stukenborg: 529-2543

Knoxville News Sentinel - Vols show they can handle anything

Vols show they can handle anything
Knoxville News Sentinel
John Adams

As a crowd of cameras pressed closer to coach Bruce Pearl’s face in the FedEx Forum corridor, he warned the media: “Don’t get too close. It’s not pretty.”

He was kidding, of course.

In fact, Tennessee basketball has never looked better.

The Vols didn’t just beat No. 1-ranked Memphis on Saturday night. They proved they could beat anybody.

Consider what UT overcame to defeat the previously unbeaten Tigers 66-62:

n A loud, hostile arena, where the home team had won 47 consecutive games.

n UT’s leading scorer, Chris Lofton, only got one shot in the first half, and he missed that.

n JaJuan Smith, UT’s second-leading scorer, only played 11 minutes in the second half because of leg cramps.

n Memphis hit 3-pointers on its first three possessions and had eight 3s in the first half.

“They were going to blow us out of here,” was Pearl’s assessment of Memphis’ 3-point attack to open the game.

That’s why the counter 3s delivered by Smith were as crucial as any baskets the Vols made down the stretch.

Three times, in the midst of Memphis’ initial charge, Smith made long shots over outstretched arms and well beyond the 3-point arc. Those clutch shots kept the Vols within striking distance.

“If JaJuan doesn’t hit those big shots, they blow us out of here,” Pearl emphasized.

Not only had Memphis been uncharacteristically accurate from 3-point range, its tenacious half-court defense had reduced UT’s offense to only the most difficult shots.

Pearl assessed the damage at halftime and rallied the troops.

“Gosh, they make eight 3s — they (should be) up 15,” Pearl told his team. “And they’re only up one.

“I told (the team), they can’t beat us with 3s. They just can’t.”

He was right. And once the Tigers cooled on the perimeter, their offense was transformed into the two-man gang of Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose, a couple of future NBA guards who challenged the Vols possession after possession down the stretch.

But just as the Vols withstood Memphis’ early 3-point assault, they weathered Douglas-Roberts and Rose as well. The talented twosome just didn’t have enough help.

The most stunning statistic in UT’s victory was the 50-34 rebounding advantage. That reflected how superior UT was inside. Wayne Chism, J.P Prince and Tyler Smith clearly got the better of Memphis post players Robert Dozier, Joey Dorsey and Shawn Taggart.

Here’s another head-turning stat: JaJuan Smith had 10 rebounds — four more than anybody on Memphis’ team — in 27 minutes.

“We found a way to win,” Pearl concluded.

Even if UT hadn’t won the game, it wouldn’t have lost much. Both teams looked of Final Four caliber in the nationally televised game that was hyped as one of the biggest sporting events in the city’s history.

Pearl admittedly was too immersed in the game to fully appreciate the atmosphere. But he got a flash of it.

“I did look over at (ESPN basketball analyst Dick) Vitale and think, ‘I hope he’s bringing this back to America the way I’m feeling it.’

“He would know better than me what it was like to be at other arenas. I can’t believe it could have been any more electric.

“This is it. This is as good as it gets.”

For now.

On Monday, it will only get better. The Vols surely will be ranked No. 1 in both top-25 polls. Don’t think that didn’t come up in Pearl’s pregame speech.

“I told our team, ‘I don’t know if we’re the best team in college basketball,’ ” he said. “ ‘But we’re 40 minutes away from being No. 1.’ ”

He was right again.

Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or

© 2008, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.

Fox Sports Jeff Goodman - Tennessee proved toughness in win over Memphis

Tennessee proved toughness in win over Memphis

by Jeff Goodman
Jeff Goodman is a senior college basketball writer for He can be reached at or check out his blog, Good 'N Plenty.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Memphis leader Antonio Anderson refused to speak after the loss. Chris Douglas-Roberts sat in his locker with his jersey draped over his head, desperately trying to hide from the disappointment. He wouldn't even give the Tigers' No. 1 fan, William "Worldwide Wes" Wesley, the time of day. Joey Dorsey had his head down with his hands folded, and no one even dared to approach him.

The night couldn't have gone any worse for the Tigers and coach John Calipari, as their unbeaten season went down the drain against, off all teams, the Tennessee Vols.

It was No. 1 vs. No. 2, and just the fifth time in history that a pair of in-state schools were meeting ranked 1-2. It was also Calipari vs. Bruce Pearl in a battle of two of the best promoters in the country. These guys just don't like each other.

Memphis came into the game as the last team standing — the final team in the entire country without a blemish on its record. The Tigers were also at home, where they had won 47 straight. They were supposed to win this game.

The Vols came in at No. 2 — the highest ranking in school history.

It may not have been Cameron Indoor Stadium, but the atmosphere was off the charts. Fans swarmed Beale Street in downtown Memphis hours before the game. Peyton Manning was there. So was Priscilla Presley. Justin Timberlake was expected to attend.

"I can't imagine anything more electric," Pearl said. "This was as good as it gets."

The Memphis players attempted their usual intimidation tactics in the hallway prior to the game by yelling and screaming at the top of their lungs at the Vols, with a security guard standing between the two clubs. Pearl's team maintained its composure, then displayed its toughness.

"They got up near us," said Tennessee's Tyler Smith, who finished with 16 points in the 66-62 victory. "They were talking crazy to us."

"We don't fear anyone," Vols shooting guard Chris Lofton said. "We weren't worried."

These types of games rarely live up to the hype, but this one did. The two teams combined to make the first seven shots in a crisp, well-played and intense first half.

Memphis was unconscious early on from long range, making 7 of 13 trifectas to begin the game. However, the Vols were feeling good about themselves when they went into halftime trailing by just one point.

After the break, Memphis native J.P. Prince — or as Calipari had recently taken to calling him, P.J. — took control. Prince, who grew up as a diehard Memphis fan and actually wore his Memphis shorts to sleep Friday night, scored six consecutive points in a key spurt early in the second half and finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.

"I bet he won't say my name wrong now," Prince said with a wide grin.

Memphis is still 26-1 and has the inside track on a No. 1 seed, but it'll be difficult to rebound from this one. It's not as if the Tigers can regain a measure of respect by going out and pounding a ranked team. They play in a conference with no other Top 25 teams.

Tigers forward Robert Dozier was one of the few players who would talk to the media after the disheartening loss.

"They out-toughed us tonight," he said.

Calipari said his team didn't play with the same level of intensity it has shown throughout most of the season.

"This isn't about being cool," Calipari said. "It's about looking at the guy next to him and saying, 'I'm going to dominate him.'"

"I felt empty," Memphis freshman point guard Derrick Rose said.

Rose carried the Tigers, especially down the stretch. He made a couple of sensational baseline jumpers — one of which gave Memphis a 59-58 lead with 3:32 remaining.

Tyler Smith's basket gave the Vols a 62-61 advantage with 28 seconds left, and on the game's most important possession, Rose never even touched the ball. Anderson misfired badly with 10 seconds left, and the irony isn't just that Prince won the game, but that he did it from the charity stripe by sinking a pair of free throws.

Memphis is the worst foul-shooting team in the country, and the Tigers made just 8-of-17 from the line Saturday night. Their weakness finally caught up with them. Andre Allen missed a pair and Douglas-Roberts missed a one-and-one in the final five minutes.

"I knew this day would come," said Prince, who sat out last season after transferring from Arizona. "I couldn't have written it any better."

In fact, Prince and his teammates wrote it so well that it left the team that never stops talking speechless.

Look Who's No. 1

Look who's No. 1!
By Randy Moore

Irony No. 1: The undersized Vols won the backboards 50-34 against a Tiger team that carried a rebound margin of plus 7.8.

Irony No. 2: The high-scoring Vols prevailed despite coming up 18 points short of their season's average.

Irony No. 3: The Vols, not known as a great road team, beat a Memphis program that had won 47 consecutive home games.

Irony No. 4: J.P. Prince, hitting just 46.7 percent from the foul line coming in, calmly sank both ends of a 1 and 1 to give the Vols a 64-61 lead with 8.8 seconds left.

Irony No. 5: Chris Lofton, 2 of 11 from the field in one of his worst games ever, sealed the win by nailing two free throws with 2.9 seconds remaining.

Irony No. 6: Prince, a Memphis native who slipped away from the Tigers, doomed his hometown university by producing 13 points and 8 rebounds – all in the second half.

“The first half I wasn't playing like myself,” Prince said on the post-game show. “I was letting the game come to me. The second half I knew I had to (assert) myself in the game and win. I refuse to come home and lose.”

As the son of a former Tiger assistant coach and a one-time ball boy for the Memphis basketball program, Prince conceded that the win was extra special for him.

“Coach (Bruce) Pearl told us to go out there and rebound like your life depends on it,” Prince noted. “In my case, it did depend on it. I'm from Memphis, and this means everything to me. They (Memphis players) just go to school here but I grew up here and live here, so this meant more to me than it did to them.”

Tyler Smith, who hit two late baskets as Tennessee turned a 61-58 deficit into a 62-61 lead, finished with 16 points and 6 rebounds to pace the Vols, who improve to 25-2. Wayne Chism chipped in 13 points and 7 rebounds. JaJuan Smith added 9 points and a team-high 10 rebounds. Lofton scored just 7 points and was 0 for 4 from beyond the arc.

Freshman Derrick Rose had 23 points and Chris Douglas-Roberts 14 for the Tigers, who saw a 45-game regular-season winning streak snapped.

Ultimately, poise was the difference for the Vols.

They didn't panic when Memphis raced to a quick 17-11 lead.

They didn't panic when the Tigers drained 7 of their first 11 shots from 3-point range. (Memphis would make just 1 of 16 thereafter.)

They didn't panic when the Tigers used a 10-2 spurt to grab a 61-58 lead with 2:28 left.

After a drive by Douglas-Roberts gave Memphis its 61-58 lead, Tyler Smith scored on a nifty inside move with 2:11 left, then on a spinning 10-footer as the Vols surged ahead 62-61 with 26.5 seconds to go.

When Memphis' Antonio Anderson badly missed on a forced 12-footer, Prince rebounded and was fouled with 0:08.8 to go. The front end of his 1 and 1 ricocheted off the rim four times before dropping. The second shot swished, giving the Vols a three-point lead.

Tennessee purposely fouled Rose with 4.5 seconds left. Rose hit the first free throw, then – as strategy dictates – purposely missed the second. Lofton got the long rebound, however, and was fouled. Both free throws dropped, thereby dropping Memphis (26-1) from the ranks of the unbeaten and lifting Tennessee to No. 1.

Prince believes Tennessee's work ethic was a big key in the victory.

“We wake up at 6 in the morning every day, and I know nobody works harder than us,” he said. “That's what paid off in the end.

Sporting News: Memphis' lesson: Extra effort earned Tennessee the win

Memphis' lesson: Extra effort earned Tennessee the win
Posted: February 24, 2008

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- John Calipari held his final timeout until 2.9 seconds remained. There wasn't a lot of strategizing to do then. Tennessee's star guard, Chris Lofton, was about to shoot two free throws, and he was about to make them both and put the game out of reach for the Memphis Tigers. Their first loss of the season was all but official, and the coach of the not-for-long No. 1 team wanted to impart a final lecture before the buzzer sounded.

That's how it looked, anyway. The reality was more comedy than drama.

"I shouldn't have called the timeout," Calipari said. "Because if he missed the free throw, that was my last timeout. As soon as I called it I went, 'What am I doing?' "

No, the teaching came afterward, when the final score was cemented at 66-62 and Memphis had become the last team to suffer its first loss of the 2007-08 season. The Tigers will not match Saint Joseph's unbeaten regular season from 2004. They will not enter the NCAA Tournament undefeated, as UNLV did in 1991. They will not reach the ultimate level of perfection that Indiana achieved in 1976. Now, the Tigers are just another team that has shown some level of vulnerability.

"We're fine. I really wanted to win the game, but we're 26-1," Calipari said. "My thing to my team -- let's learn. We needed this. Let's find out who's going to make plays. Players make plays right now. And we learned about getting outscrapped."

Curiously, the Tigers did not lose this game at the free-throw line, although they did miss six attempts in the second half. They did not lose the game by bricking 3-pointers, although the fact that they attempted nearly half of their shots from long distance and hit less than 30 percent was a serious issue. They lost by being "outscrapped."

It seemed as though Calipari used that word at least once for every loose rebound lost to the Volunteers. Tennessee, which typically plays opponents about even on the glass, blasted one of the nation's best rebounding teams by 16 boards. The fact that the leading rebounder in the game was 6-2 guard JaJuan Smith says everything about how that difference came about. Smith was running down all those long rebounds from missed Memphis threes.

"I just think we wanted it," said Volunteers forward J.P. Prince, who grew up in Memphis, and whose father, John, once worked as a Tigers assistant coach. "People have been saying we're soft, we don't bang, we don't want contact. We took that personally."

Given the way the game began, it was odd that a slugger's statistic eventually was the difference. From the moment Calipari called a 30-second timeout just 35 seconds into the game until the moment the Vols' Duke Crews was fouled with 12:51 remaining in the first half, the teams went coast-to-coast making baskets, turnovers and highlights, scoring at a pace that translated to a 119-92 final.

Eventually, the Tigers allowed the resistance provided by the Tennessee defense -- and the false confidence from having hit six of their first 10 shots -- to restrict them to chucking jumpers. For too long, long enough for the Vols to chop at a seven-point deficit, Calipari's Dribble Drive Motion offense had no dribbling, no driving, no motion and no offense. The Vols played a sagging man-to-man defense that kept the lane clogged and discouraged attacks, but there were plenty of possessions on which Memphis barely even looked at the lane before jacking a shot.

"The first half, we shot too many threes," Calipari said. "The second half, we only shot seven, but we didn't make any. It was just one three -- just make one of those and the game changes, and we just weren't able to today."

The Tigers' most consistent offensive maneuver in the second half consisted of point guard Derrick Rose abusing whatever matchup Tennessee attempted against him. A freshman playing perhaps his only college season before entering the NBA draft, Rose found a comfortable spot on the left baseline, about eight feet from the goal, and kept driving to that position and nailing pull-up jumpers. He finished with 23 points and five assists, and Calipari wanted him to have the ball on the Tigers' penultimate possession, with his team down a point.

Tennessee wisely doubled Rose to keep the ball out of his hands, and shooting guard Antonio Anderson tried a drive down the lane that ended with a curious, wide-left shot/pass/turnover hybrid that slammed off the backboard. What exactly Anderson was attempting there, only he knows, because he refused to talk to reporters following the game.

With the locker room filled with local and national media, Anderson and All-America candidate Chris Douglas-Roberts left younger teammates such as Rose and reserve guard Doneal Mack to answer questions. Douglas-Roberts sat back in his locker with his uniform jersey over his head.

"It felt empty," Rose said.

He'd never lost a college basketball game before. If the Tigers learn from what they saw against Tennessee -- that being talented doesn't exempt players from delivering effort -- losing need not be something Rose experiences again.

Mike DeCourcy is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at

Vols top Memphis in battle for No. 1

Chattanooga Times Free Press
Wes Rucker

MEMPHIS — J.P. Prince found one of the few ways possible to justify a week’s worth of unparalleled hype for men’s basketball in the state of Tennessee.

And that’s J.P., not P.J.

Days after Memphis coach John Calipari called hometown native and former Tigers ballboy J.P. Prince “P.J.,” the Tennessee sophomore transfer drilled two clutch free throws with 8.8 seconds left to help lift the second-ranked Volunteers to a 66-62 victory over the top-ranked home team.

Prince graduated from Memphis White Station High School. Before that, he was a ballboy when his father was a Tigers assistant coach.

It’s safe to assume Calipari knew the name of a high school All-American he’d known for nearly a decade — and heavily recruited — and that his “P.J.” comment was a joke.

That joke “wasn’t a good idea,” Prince said.

“Coach Cal calling me ‘P.J.,’ I took that personally,” Prince continued. “When I heard about that, I called everybody and said, ‘Now I’m ready to go.’ I hope now he can say my name right.”

Prince, a 6-foot-7 southpaw who transferred to UT after spending his freshman year at Arizona, entered Saturday’s game a 46.7 percent free-throw shooter.

“I don’t care about those numbers,” Prince said. “When the game is on the line, I want the ball in my hands. Period. I knew both of those were going in.”

It all but ensures the Vols will receive the program’s first-ever No. 1 rankings when the major polls are released Monday.

Asked if he “could believe” how far he has taken the Vols in less than three full seasons as coach, UT’s Bruce Pearl said, “Yes, I can. I believe in my guys.”

Rose scored 23 points, and national player of the year candidate Chris Douglas-Roberts added 14 for the Tigers (26-1).

Tyler Smith led the Vols (25-2) with 16 points, while Prince and fellow West Tennessean Wayne Chism added 13 each.

Memphis overcame a six-point deficit with a late 10-4 run that Douglas-Roberts capped with a layup to give the Tigers a 61-58 lead with less than three minutes left. Tyler Smith responded with two consecutive inside buckets, the second a tough turn-around to give the Vols a 62-61 lead with 26.5 seconds left.

“I just had to fight and get those through the basket,” he said. “We’d been missing short, and I wasn’t going to miss any more.”

Prince then rebounded an Antonio Anderson miss before heading to the free-throw line with 8.8 seconds left.

Prince started the second-half rally, too, scoring six consecutive points to unlock a 39-all tie.

A Lofton steal set up Prince’s second slam to make it 45-39, and Calipari quickly called timeout with 14:44 left.

Memphis then climbed back within 50-47, but big Tigers forward Joey Dorsey picked up two fouls in two possessions, and a Tyler Smith free throw and Prince layup make it 53-47.

The first half started much differently, as both teams opened hot from the perimeter. UT was 3-of-4 from 3-point range in the first seven minutes, and Memphis was 6-of-10. Despite a clear size advantage in the post, the Tigers shot 15 of their first 18 field-goal attempts from long range. They made eight of them to take a 29-24 lead.

Multiple significant contributors on each side were forced to the bench with two fouls in the first half. Memphis forward Robert Dozier picked up two fouls in the first four minutes, and Dorsey got his with 3:37 left. Tennessee’s starting backcourt of Lofton, JaJuan Smith and Ramar Smith were also whistled twice in the first 17 minutes, as was Prince.

Pearl carefully substituted offense for defense the rest of the half, and the Vols improved on both ends. Wayne Chism’s inside bucket in the final minute capped UT’s half-ending 8-2 run, narrowing the Tigers’ lead to 35-34 at the break.

“If you had told me they’d make eight 3s in the first half, I’d tell you they were up 15 points,” Pearl said. “They were up one. I’ll take that.”

Added Ramar Smith: “There was no way they were going to keep making those.”

Rose led all scorers with eight first-half points, and Douglas-Roberts added eight. Tyler Smith and JaJuan Smith each had nine points for the Vols, and Chism had seven.

The hype surrounding this game probably hadn’t been matched in either program’s history. Prominent alumni from both universities and Memphis-raised celebrities corralled some of the toughest tickets in state history. Notable attendees included but weren’t limited to NFL quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning, singers Justin Timberlake and Isaac Hayes, professional tennis stars Lindsay Davenport and James Blake and actresses Cybill Shepherd and Priscilla Presley.

Despite a push from Memphis boosters and students to “keep the orange out, Tennessee’s bold colors were clearly visible throughout the arena. There was more blue, for certain, but many sections looked orange-and-blue enough for a Florida home game.

Two young men wearing orange tiger suits in Memphis’s student section couldn’t escape the wrath.

“Tigers aren’t orange!” one non-zoology student yelled at the duo, who promptly put blue shirts over their costumes.

The brave Memphis students wearing orange in that section were engulfed in boos and thumbs-down gestures.

“Memphis is my city,” Prince said. “This is just their school. I wasn’t going to come to my city and walk away with a loss. We’ve got the bragging rights for another year.”

Man gives up seat for scholarship

Man gives up seat for scholarship
Saturday, February 23, 2008

With tickets to tonight's sold-out Tigers-Vols game at FedExForum fetching thousands, Michael Terry decided to give up his ticket too.

But instead of cashing in, the retired Memphis businessman and season-ticket holder hatched a plot to help future University of Memphis students.

"I wanted to see if there was a way we could try and convert the value that was built up in the ticket to some good," he said.

Terry agreed to give his friend, Memphis attorney Richard Glassman, his lower-level ticket at midcourt on the condition that Glassman make a donation to a U of M scholarship fund.

In turn, Glassman's family contributed $5,000 to the Anna Caroline Menkel Scholarship Fund, which honors a St. Agnes Academy (Memphis) student who died in a 2005 car accident.

Glassman, past president of the U of M Alumni Association, is giving the ticket to his son-in-law, who's flying in from Richmond, Va., to watch the game.

Glassman said there's a great need for scholarship funds at the U of M.

"We have so many kids that leave Memphis. Some of our brightest leave Memphis. And if they knew a little bit more about the University of Memphis, we might get some of them to stay, especially with good scholarships," he said.

Terry, whose wife is going to the game with the couple's other season ticket, plans to watch the game at a nearby bar, then meet friends to "enjoy the victory."

"I'll miss two hours of one of the best basketball games, perhaps ever ..." Terry said. "But in the long run, everybody will be better off."

- Michael Erskine: 529-5857

Friday, February 22, 2008

My Interview on NBC Sports for the Memphis vs UT Game

I was asked to participate in an interview for NBC Sports this week along with a Tennessee Vol blogger named Joel.


More Vol Fan Pictures Sent In From Readers

Thursday, February 21, 2008

My Picture Collection of Tennessee Fans

Blog From a Vol Fan - An Open Letter to John Calipari

From the

Blog "O" Bruce

(Let me just say, I find this pretty funny, but off base. Memphis clearly would love to be in the Big East or even the SEC, but in the meantime, we'll just win lots of games, get high rankings, and perhaps even win some national titles, ed.)

Dear John,

This coming Saturday your mighty Tigers will be facing the Tennessee Volunteers in one of the most anticipated regular season college basketball games in recent memory. With all eyes looking towards this matchup, I just wanted to share a few of my thoughts with you.

Let me first say that it is truly a pleasure to watch such a master coach at work. To be undefeated right now is a magnificent feat. It is hard to comprehend how you were able to guide your way through such a ridiculously hard schedule and remain unscathed. Your conference, Conference USA, stands as a man among boys compared to everyone else. You have been quoted as saying "I don't care about the SEC." I don't blame you. Why worry about such lesser programs like Florida and Kentucky when you have got bigger fish to fry? Just looking at a list of schools in the Conference USA is a virtual who's who of athletic dominance:

Eastern Carolina
Central Florida
Southern Miss
Karns High School

Anybody want to sign up to play these guys? I sure wouldn't.

It is unbelievable that you are able to compete with these types of teams year in and year out. In a league loaded with big time coaches, sure fire NBA lottery picks, and all around total bad-assness, you have managed to win all your games so far. How do you do it John? TELL ME YOUR SECRET!! I think it can only be summed up like this- you are a genius.

I don't mean to keep patting you on the back, but damn John, I'm going to have to do it again. A couple of years ago when lesser coaches such as Rick Pitino got scared and ran away with their teams to another league you did not bat an eye. It must have been tempting to leave, to not have to deal with the UTEPs and Tulanes of the world anymore, but you knew that this type of competition would only make you stronger. You simply would not back down from this challenge. As usual you were right again Johnny. You inspire me.

You created quite a stir when you claimed that Memphis was getting ready to move from "being Tennessee's team to America's team." I love it. While the liberal media tries to report claims that nobody outside of Shelby County actually cares one bit about your team, you see right through that one. Bruce Pearl and the Volunteers may "technically" be Tennessee's team with their enormous fanbase and high octane offense, but you aren't into technicalities. You just call them like you see them. Some people use their heads, but you my friend stick to the heart and the heart speaks truth. And then to top it off by claming that you are "America's team"? BRILLIANT. People like whoever they are told to like, you and I know that, and you have told the state of Tennessee and our great country that YOU are our team (it's Conference U-S-A for a reason). Thank you for being the leader that we need during these tumultuous times. I guarantee that I would be better off if you would tell me everything that I need to think. PLEASE JOHN JUST TELL ME AND I WILL DO IT.

Speaking of Bruce Pearl, what's that guy's problem? Why is he always so energetic and excited? Why does he sweat so much? Why does he try to be so likeable and funny? Get over yourself buddy. He thought he was pretty clever with his quote about your schedule but obviously he is the one who looks foolish here:

"We play Florida, not Central Florida [as Memphis does]. We play Ole Miss, not Southern Miss. "

Everyone knows that Florida is no good this year. So they won back to back championships. What have you done for me lately? Bruce loses this one. I don't understand what his deal is. Why does he get so mad when you don't want to play them anymore? I wouldn't want to play them either. They did beat you by 20 points last year. Why would you want to schedule another loss? The purpose of the game is to win, not lose. I guess Bruce doesn't get it. Anyways, don't let Bruce get to you. I think he's just a flash in the pan. You, John, are the coach for me.

You have already let it be known that "playing Tennessee is not beneficial to your national schedule". What does he not understand about this? Maybe you should consider sending Coach Pearl a letter telling him to leave you alone. Something like this: MEMO TO BRUCE- I DON'T HAVE TIME TO PLAY YOU. I AM GREASING THE HELL OUT OF MY HAIR AND WATCHING FILM ON EASTERN CAROLINA. See if he has some smart response to that one.

You also wisely stated that "I'm [playing Tennessee] because I'm being asked to do it by the powers that be on this campus, and I'm trying to be a team player." YES. Thank God somebody is a team player. How can you ask your players to play as a team if you yourself are not a team player? ANSWER- YOU CAN'T. This sends a clear message about your leadership skills right here. If you are recruiting my son and come into my living room with that whole "team player" speech I would react the following ways: a) tearing up just a bit, and b) giving my son an athletic butt slap and the instructions "this is your coach". You think Bruce Pearl knows anything about teamwork? Maybe so, maybe not. We don't know for sure because he has not called himself one. You are a renaissance man.

I hate to keep comparing you with Coach Pearl, but I must keep doing it to show your strengths. So Bruce paints up for a game, big deal. Oh, wait now he ripped his shirt off in the locker room. Whatever. Everyone just thinks he is so damn fun. Well guess what Johnny, you are fun too.

Need more proof? So be it.

Coach Calipari during an intense game of charades. If anything is a close second on the fun scale to line dancing, it is definitely charades. Not sure exactly what you are acting out here (water skiiing?) but it is awesome.

I could go on and on with you Johnny. You are everything that I strive to be.

This is not a new love. I have been a Calipari loyalist for close to fifteen years now. I religiously watched UMASS games and then followed your short but sweet run in the NBA. Others may say you "failed" in your attempt to coach at a pro level, but they are dead wrong. You just had the passion to get back to your roots, making boys into men at the college level. Remember when you had that whole controversy for calling that New Jersey Nets reporter "a Mexican idiot?" People are so uptight. All the latino people I know thought it was hilarious. Some "experts" thought that you would just fade into obscurity after these public problems but you proved them all wrong. You could have taken a nice job coaching some lowly school where you didn't have to play anyone that was any good. But no John, you wouldn't do it. You would not go down like that. You looked into the mirror and saw a man who needed the challenge and gamesmanship of big time college hoops. Not just any type of college basketball would do. You realized that there was only one thing that could quench this thirst- CONFERENCE USA BABY.

So overall Coach, I just want you to know that I appreciate everything about you. I love your attitude. I love the way you act like you are God's gift to coaching (you are). Your tough schedule, your cool hair, your overall dominance in life. The way you have all of those great quotes. It's all just incredible. I am a better person for just watching you coach. You have taught me more about myself than all of my teachers and family members combined. Thanks again for all that you do, Johnny. You are my hero.


The Hog

P.S. I actually think that you are a huge idiot. You repulse me in ways that nobody else can. If I had my choice between either living in the same city as you or cutting off all of my limbs and replacing them with candy bars I would definitely choose the latter.

P.S.S. There are at least five women's teams that could compete in your conference.

P.S.S.S. Come to Knoxville so I can key your car


N.O. Times Picayune - Memphis lives up to the hype, and ranking

Memphis lives up to the hype, and ranking
Thursday, February 21, 2008

The No. 1 college basketball team in the country gave its coach his 400th career victory, and gave itself its 26th victory of the season, but no one was celebrating what took place Wednesday night before a sellout crowd in Fogelman Arena.

"I was scared to death before this game," Coach John Calipari said after the Memphis Tigers' 97-71 destruction of Tulane.

The winning coach was scared because he felt his unbeaten ballclub would be looking ahead to Saturday's showdown with No. 2 Tennessee, a rare regular-season meeting of Nos. 1-2.

Calipari was not worried about the Vols, that is, he was not worried about his troops not being mentally ready to take on what he felt was the most talented team around.

Obviously, that's a topic Tulane would be happy to debate.

On Wednesday, it was a simple matter of a blue wave overwhelming the Green Wave.

The Tigers did it with full-court pressure, with a porcupine defense, with a relentless transition game that wore down an overmatched enemy.

"You know, I thought Tulane played great," said Chris Douglas-Roberts, who finished with 29 points on 13-for-17 shooting. "But we had more depth."

That's right, more depth, more talent, more quickness, as in three likely future first-round NBA draft picks.

Given the circumstances, Coach Dave Dickerson's Greenies played as well as one could expect against a ball-hounding bunch that had a dozen steals, that kept taking it to the basket given the slightest sliver of daylight.

David Gomez made the most of his 34 minutes, battling for most of his 23 points in a clogged middle. Kevin Sims played a minute more and finished with 14, nailing three of six 3-pointers.

The most significant stat of the evening was not that the Tigers shot 48 percent from the field.

It was that they scored 54 of their 97 points in the paint, on layups, tip-ins, stuffs, bank shots at point-blank range.

The 54 was more than half of the Wave's in-close 26.

So what impressed Dickerson about surrendering the most points his team has given up this season?

"It's their confidence," he said. "They never seem to get rattled, they just go about business."

So far, at 26-0, Calipari likes what he has seen so far from a group, he says, that is "friends first, teammates second. They have each other's backs. They're settling into their roles."

Which is running and shooting, rebounding and defending, for a full 40 minutes, at a breathless pace.

Going into this one, Dickerson felt any chance his team had to make a game of it was how it did in two areas: Rebounding and protecting the basketball.

At halftime, he could not have hoped for more on the boards, a virtual 23-22 standoff in favor of the Tigers.

The Tigers owned a 7-4 edge in steals, which was not surprising.

So why were the visitors in front, 46-27, after 20 minutes?

Mainly because they outscored the Greenies 26-14 in the paint, out-shot them 50 percent to 34 percent, all a result of quickness in getting the ball inside, forcing the Wave into some hurried shots, the result of a relentless, in-your-face man-to-man defense, a trademark of this Memphis club.

How did depth pay off?

Early in the first half, the Tigers led by eight points. Five minutes later, they led by 17. At halftime, they led by 19.

Midway through the second half, it was 30.

The Greenies never made a serious run against a bunch that got from 14 to 28 minutes of service from nine players.

If Memphis has an Achilles' heel, it's probably in the area of shooting 3-pointers.

"Sometimes we'll hit 40 percent," Calipari said. "Other times we'll go 1-for-18."

He was quick to point out that shooting the 3-pointer, and making it, was one of Tennessee's biggest asset.

Which should make Saturday's 1-2 clash a challenge for Memphis defending the perimeter.

And what does Douglas-Roberts say about that?

"We love challenges," he said.

So far they've faced 26 and come out smiling.

Sporting News - Calipari and Pearl are different everywhere but in the standings

Calipari and Pearl are different everywhere but in the standings
Posted: February 21, 2008

Two species, one result.

Don't look now, but suddenly John Calipari is coaching his eighth season at Memphis. This is the same Calipari who coming into the job from the NBA had the look of a careerist rogue on the make for the next paycheck, the next glamour job.

Calipari is not entirely to blame for this early and unfair suspicion: Any coach with gelled hair and a fondness for Armani suits is suspected of this. It's called The Pitino Syndrome, a form of profiling that, unfairly or fairly, targets coaches who don NBA-type duds on the college sideline.

The polar opposite of the Pitino Syndrome Guy is Loud Coat Guy -- the prototypical college basketball coach who will, dignity be damned, wear a sport coat the precise shade of the school's colors on the sideline. Loud Coat Guy is a lifer, a program builder, a guy who shows up for all the school functions and plays the classic role of head coach in for the long haul.

Loud Coat Guy meets Pitino Syndrome Guy on Saturday night. It's kind of a big deal, in case you didn't know: StubHub has tickets for only $10,000 right now. Go pick up a few and begin to educate your children on the wonders of student loans when they ask where their college fund went.

Loud Coat Guy extraordinaire Bruce Pearl will wear -- on special occasions, of course -- the Cheetos orange coat visible from space. He also painted himself orange last year and sat shirtless in the stands for a Tennessee women's basketball game; and he dared you to just try and say something about the pink shirt he wore to back up the all-pink jersey night the women's team held to promote breast cancer awareness. Pearl is the modern Loud Coat Guy, a man who goes to every effort to show he bleeds orange and white.

Lauding Pearl's rah-rah intensity does not discount Calipari's gel-haired birth of the smooth persona at Memphis, nor should it. Two coaches more perfectly-suited for their jobs could not be found in the same state, but they are vastly different jobs both by environment and history.

Here's all the contrast you need: Attend a game in Knoxville, and your ears will ring with choruses of "Rocky Top." Two years ago in Memphis, the dance team incorporated moves from the movie Hustle and Flow -- the Terence Howard vehicle about a pimp who struggles to become a rapper -- into the halftime dance routine.

Pearl faced the challenge familiar to all SEC schools, save Vanderbilt and Kentucky: Getting a football-mad fanbeast to eat different feed in the "offseason" and show up for basketball games. Pearl had some advantages, though, such as a built-in fanbase that supported women's basketball players like they would rock stars, as well as established brand complete with theme song and facilities.

Calipari confronted an entirely different problem: Building a brand. The University of Memphis has had that name since 1994, changing from Memphis State University. The basketball team has some history, including Final Fours in 1973 and 1985, but had fallen into malaise and scandal under departing coach Tic Price. ("Departing" because he was forced to resign. Read: Fired for allegedly having an affair with a student)

Calipari retooled Memphis from the wheels up, recruiting nationally and wooing a community down to the FedEx Forum. The audition for the one-man show "Pimp My Program" continues: Calipari instituted an entirely new and successful offense in 2006, the AASAA -- Attack Attack Skip Attack Attack -- which in case you don't quite get from the name, is an extremely aggressive scheme Calipari calls "the Princeton offense on steroids."

And eight years after Calipari breezed into town, the Pitino Syndrome Guy looks suspiciously comfortable in Memphis. Practically anchored, in fact.

At the other end of the parallelogram-shaped state, Pearl has built the Vols from largely local talent and used his abundant personality to make the basketball program more visible. At a recent press conference, Pearl wore a Rocky Top Rowdies T-shirt with a picture of himself on it. A joke yes, but another skillful way of grabbing the spotlight in gridiron country.

Memphis and Tennessee are extraordinarily different programs, sure. But somewhere between the country-fried hip-hop and bluegrass sing-a-long anthems, you'll find ground zero this week in college basketball, not in Kansas or Kentucky or North Carolina, but in Tennessee. And despite the two different species of coach presiding over the two programs, the results posted by Loud Coat Guy and Pitino Syndrome Guy look remarkably similar: Rousing, unqualified successes.

Spencer Hall, a.k.a. Orson Swindle, writes and edits the college football blog Every Day Should Be Saturday and is a frequent contributor to Sporting News.

Tigers win No. 400 for Calipari

Tigers win No. 400 for Calipari
Undefeated, No. 1 Tigers await Vols
Associated Press
Originally published 12:00 a.m., February 21, 2008

NEW ORLEANS - It didn't take last-minute heroics Wednesday night, just full-time concentration.

Chris Douglas-Roberts scored 29 points to lead No. 1 Memphis to a 97-71 victory over Tulane on Wednesday night, giving coach John Calipari his 400th victory and a chance for a major sigh of relief.

"I was scared to death," Calipari said. "I had a pit in my stomach all day and I'm not worried about Saturday's game.

Memphis' win, coupled with second-ranked Tennessee's 89-70 victory against Auburn, sets up a showdown Saturday between the top two ranked teams in the country. It will be the first 1-2 meeting since No. 2 Ohio State beat No. 1 Wisconsin 49-48 on Feb. 25, 2007.

"That game has been played up to a level I can't even tell you," Calipari said.

That game, and the hype surrounding it is what sparked Calipari's concern. He was worried his players would be thinking Tennessee not Tulane. He didn't need to worry.

After remaining undefeated with a one-point victory over UAB, Memphis (26-0, 12-0 Conference USA), had no trouble against Tulane (15-10, 5-6).

Memphis was ahead 46-27 at halftime, and never allowed the Green Wave to get closer than 17 after that.

"We just got beaten by the best team in the country," Tulane coach Dave Dickerson said. "We have a long way to go to catch up to them."

The Tigers, who haven't lost a league game since March 2, 2006, ran up their impressive streaks -45 consecutive regular-season wins, 35 consecutive C-USA victories and 17 road wins in a row.

"We're not thinking of the streaks at all," Douglas-Roberts said. "Our motto is it's a one-game season."

But after beating Tulane, Douglas-Roberts was ready to look ahead to the Vols.

"We've got a good one ahead of us," he said. "We're evenly matched, it's going to be a good one."

Derrick Rose scored 17 for Memphis and had five assists, Robert Dozier and Doneal Mach each had 14 points.

David Gomez led the Green Wave with 23 points.

N.O. Times-Picayune - Memphis routs Wave again

Memphis routs Wave again
by Nakia Hogan, Times-Picayune
Wednesday February 20, 2008, 9:59 PM

No. 1-ranked Memphis dominated from start to finish on its way to routing Tulane 97-71.

The victory was the 14th straight for the Tigers over Tulane, with the wins coming by an average margin of 22.2 points. The win was also the 45th straight regular season victory.
Tulane, losers of four straight games, continues to struggle mightily against teams that employ up-tempo styles.

"We just got beat by the best team in the country," Tulane coach Dave Dickerson said. "It's a difficult loss, but if you put things into context they are ranked No. 1 in the country, they haven't lost a game in our conference in almost a year and a half. And we have a long ways to go to catch up to that."

Memphis guard chris Douglas-Roberts scored a game-high 29 points, routinely beating the Green Wave along the baseline. Douglas-Roberts, C-USA preseason player of the year, had 20 of his points in the first half.

He had plenty of help, though, as 10 different Tigers scored. Freshman point guard Derrick Rose scored 17 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished five assists. And Robert Dozier and Doneal Mack added 14 apiece.

David Gomez led Tulane (15-10, 5-6) with 23 points. Kevin Sims added 14, Robinson Louisme 12 and Johnny Mayhane 11.

Chicago Sports Review - Peaking At The Right Time

Chicago Sports Review - Peaking At The Right Time
BY Eli Kaberon

The calendar says that February is the shortest month of the year, as it ends two or three days before each of the other 11 months. But in college basketball, February is a long and winding road beating up teams on their march to March. Conference play is in full swing, injuries and suspensions are common and the unexpected upset is always right around the corner.

February is also the month where the elite teams separate themselves from the rest of the pack and transform into serious title contenders before tournament time. In fact, the last six national champions were a combined 33-11 during February in the seasons they ended up cutting down the nets, and seven of those losses came from the Florida squads of the past two years. Big wins are even bigger because they can provide momentum while a tough loss hurts more than usual for the opposite reason. Coaches and players have to be on their A-game from opening tap to the final buzzer, because one bad game in the year's second month can leave a team on the bubble during the third.

So which schools in February 2008 are stepping up their games in preparation of the greatest sporting event of the year-March Madness? Here are ten teams that are peaking right now, hoping to cement their place in the field of 65 and get themselves ready for a hopeful six-game win streak to end the season (teams listed in alphabetical order).

BYU---Outside of UCLA and Kansas, the Cougars of Brigham Young University might be the best team west of the Mississippi River. While there might be some argument of that in cities like Palo Alto and Austin, BYU has a very strong case. The leaders of the Mountain West Conference are 20-5 with wins over Louisville and UNLV, including a current eight game win-streak. BYU has three players averaging 13 or more points, led by center Trent Plaisted, who puts up 16 points and almost nine rebounds a game. An eight seed in last year's tournament, BYU fell to Xavier by two points in the opening round. Expect the Cougars to be seeded higher and travel deeper into March in 2008.

Connecticut---It's hard to say a school that has won two National Titles since 1999 is playing under the radar, but that's exactly what the Huskies have done this year. UConn has won ten consecutive games, is a half game out of first place in the loaded Big East conference and is doing this while dealing with the suspensions to two of their best players. Yet nobody seems to be talking about them. Guards Jerome Dyson and Doug Wiggins both sat out multiple games for a violation of team rules, but the Huskies just continue to win. Point guard A.J. Price has played like an All-American in 2008, averaging 15 points, six assists and four rebounds a game while leading the team in minutes played. Hasheem Thabeet, the team's 7'3" center, has also become a force, posting over ten points, seven rebounds and four blocks per contest.

Kansas---No surprise here, considering the Rock Chalk Jayhawks have been to 36 NCAA tournaments, fourth most in the history of the game. Coach Bill Self's team is 24-2 and has as much talent as any other squad in the land. Led by big men Darrell Arthur and Darnell Jackson as well as guards Brandon Rush and Mario Chalmers, these Jayhawks have outstanding depth. Those four-as well as the four other KU players who average double-digit minutes a game-perfectly run Self's high-low offense, giving opponents so many different offensive looks that its almost impossible to prepare for. Kansas has a recent history of falling in March, but if any team can break that streak, it is this one.

Louisville---In the debut pre-season poll of the season, the Cardinals were ranked sixth in the country. Six weeks later and the 'Ville was nowhere to be found in the rankings. That's what happens when a team loses three games before mid-December and apparently loses their center, David Padgett, for the season after breaking his kneecap in mid-November (he has since returned). But somehow coach Rick Pitino got his team to turn it around. The Cards have now won nine of their last ten games, with the only defeat being a two-point loss at Connecticut. They are also sitting in first place in the Big East, since they have the same record as Georgetown but they beat the Hoyas on Feb. 9 (they meet again, in Washington D.C. on March 8). If a team can go from being great to poor back to being great all in one season, it is Louisville.

Memphis---Considering they are the only team in the land to not lose a game all season, it would be stating the obvious to mention that the Tigers are playing well at the moment. With the backcourt of junior shooting guard Chris Douglas-Roberts and freshman point Derrick Rose averaging over 30 points combined per game, it is almost impossible for opponents to contain Memphis' dribble-drive attack. And on defense, the Tigers play a ferocious man-to-man, giving their opponents almost no clear looks at the basket. The website, which computes various college basketball statistics, reports that Memphis has the number one defensive efficiency in the country with the score of 80.6. That means that UM gives up roughly 81 points for every 100 defensive possessions. (For comparison, the national average is 101.8 by Nichols State) Taking out the Tigers will be no easy task for any opponent come March.

Purdue---In 2007, when the Boilermakers had first-team All Big Ten forward Carl Landry, they still finished just a game over .500 in conference and advanced only to round two of the NCAA's. So this year, after Landry graduated, many guessed that Purdue would return to the Big Ten basement. But behind freshman guards E'Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummel, the Boilers have risen to the top of the conference, holding a half-game lead over Indiana and Wisconsin. Hummel has been especially spectacular lately, scoring 24 points and pulling down 11 boards in the teams Feb. 12 upset of Michigan State after dropping 21 points three days earlier in another win, this time at Wisconsin. Purdue has the looks of a squad who goes unnoticed until they suddenly appear in the Elite Eight.

South Alabama---The Jaguars of South Alabama are in a tight race with Western Kentucky for first place in the Sun Belt Conference, with both schools entering their February 21 contest at 21-5. South Alabama has a run and gun offense, putting up over 78 points a game, the best in the conference. They are led by guard Demetric Bennett, a player who comes up big when it matters most. In the Jaguars' biggest win of the season-a Dec. 15 upset of Mississippi State-Bennett dropped 39 points, going 14 of 17 from the field and five of seven from the free-throw line. In two other games against big-conference teams, three-point losses to both Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, the guard scored an average of 27 points. Even if they don't win the Sun Belt, South Alabama still might be able to make it to the big dance with an at-large bid.

Tennessee---Wait a second, what in the name of Peerless Price is going on here? I thought Tennessee was a football school. Well, it was until coach Bruce Pearl moved to Knoxville. He brought a full-court press defense and a run-and-gun offense that has been almost impossible for SEC competition to defend. This years Vols squad is ranked second in the country with a record of 23-2, including wins over Xavier, Gonzaga and Ohio State. Their offense is one of the nation's best, scoring close to 81 points a game, led by All-American shooting guard Chris Lofton. This Saturday they have a matchup with Memphis, which will put the top two teams in the country on the same court for the first time all season. If they win that, you could see Tennessee as the number one overall team heading into March.

Texas---Just like nobody would have ever guessed that the Giants would win the Super Bowl after the retirement of Tiki Barber, there weren't many folks out there who predicted that the Longhorns would do better after Kevin Durant left for the NBA. Yet UT is ranked in the top ten, has won more than 20 games and posts the best trio of victories in the country, with wins over Tennessee (ranked #2 in the land), Kansas (#4) and UCLA (#6). Point guard D.J. Augustin is one of the best floor leaders in the country, leading Texas in scoring and assists as well as being second in steals. The 'Horns may not have the star power they possessed a year ago, but they might just have a better all around team.

Xavier---Last season, the Musketeers were oh-so close to pulling the first shocking upset of the NCAA Tournament. They had number one seed Ohio State on the ropes in the second round, and only a 35-foot three-pointer by Buckeye Ron Lewis pushed the game into overtime, with OSU eventually pulling out a 78-71 win. This year, expect Xavier to be playing deeper into March. Currently ranked tenth in the country, the X-Men have defeated Indiana and Kansas State in the non-conference and are 10-1 in the Atlantic Ten Conference. With incredible balance-six Musketeers average ten or more points a game but none scores more than 12.2-it is very difficult to contain their offense. And with suburb quickness, there are very few teams that match up with them on D.

Eli Kaberon is a 2005 graduate of Evanston Township High School and currently is attending Columbia College in the loop, majoring in print journalism. A life-long fan of the Cubs, Bears and Bulls, Eli also works as a seat vendor at Wrigley Field and has sold hot dogs to everyone ranging from Bears tight end Greg Olsen to Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. His blog, the Hot Dog Guy, can be seen at