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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Photo Journal of Tigers Run to the Final Four

Tigers Roar!

FINAL FOUR ........................

It is going to be a fun week at work.

Next, the rematch. Memphis owes UCLA for 1973 and 2006.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Tigers Prove Critics Wrong Yet Again ..............

You know, I have been so annoyed by the majority of media stories about the Tigers in this tournament that I've had no motivation to write in my blog. I started this blog to help spread the word about Memphis basketball, but the Tigers play is far and away the better gospel of the Tigers.

As I watched the first half of the Michigan State game last night, I was thinking could Memphis really be playing this good. That was far and away the best I have seen Memphis play in five years. The UCLA game in the Pre-Season NIT in November 2005 was close, but it was more a one man show (Shawn Williams). Memphis beat a heavily-favored and ranked Marquette team on the road about five years ago that wasn't supposed to happen. It was one of those games where the Tigers hit everything they threw up and Marquette was stunned.

Probably the most memorable game similar to last night was Memphis winning at Louisville in the 1988-1989 season, when the Tigers jumped out to a 24-0 lead and then held on to win by four.

But last night's first half was special.

One of my closest friends who lives in New Orleans sent me a text message at half time. he wrote, "Pierre Niles...........this is getting silly!" He was right. Pierre Niles has no business getting in the game against a Top 10 team, much less scoring on a pretty tough move.

I was watching the game with several friends including three University of Memphis graduates. It was a lot of fun. It was one high five after another.

Ok, so on to the business at hand. Can the Tigers get past their stumbling block of the past two years - the regional final?

Can Memphis complete the sweep with wins over an SEC team, a Big 10 team and a Big 12 team?

Will the critics give Memphis any love if they do win?

Does 26 of 35 from the free throw line show Memphis can hit free throws? Or does the Michigan State game not count since the game wasn't close and the free throws weren't under pressure?

Texas is damn good and playing in Houston is no easy feat for Memphis.

However, the Tigers should feel good about the fact that when they tip the ball on Sunday afternoon, they can remember they just played their best basketball on the same floor against a really good team just 48 hours before.

I got a tear in my eye the last time Memphis made it to the Final Four (1985). I was a young man of seventeen. Today, I'm a bit more mature - 40 next month, but have no doubt, I'll probably still well up with a tear of joy if we go to San Antonio.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Ok Memphis, Time to Wake Up and Play Like a #1 Seed

Just in case, Cal doesn't get the message through to the Tigers, I feel it is my job to make an attempt.

Memphis - WAKE UP. This is the NCAA Tournament, where mistakes mean you go home and the season is over. UCLA woke up mid way through the second half when they realized they were trailing by 10 points to Texas A&M. The Bruins changed the game with their defense and then got four great offensive possessions from their go-to guys - Kevin Love and Darren Collison.

Memphis are you up for it? Mississippi State won't back down tomorrow and they are big and athletic. Gordon probably won't have back to back poor offensive games, so you better be ready to take on a big guard. MSU's weakness is their bench - they don't have one.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Possible 2nd Rounds Matchups for the Tigers - Preview of Mississippi State and Oregon

Mississippi State


by Joel Welser,

Last NCAA Appearance: 2005, Second Round Loss

Coach: Rick Stansbury

Probable Starters:

Barry Stewart, Sophomore, Guard,

Ben Hansbrough, Sophomore, Guard,

Jamont Gordon, Junior, Guard,

Jarvis Varnado, Sophomore, Forward,

Charles Rhodes, Senior, Forward,

Key Roleplayers:

Phil Turner, Freshman, Guard

Brian Johnson, Junior, Forward

Why They Can Surprise:

Mississippi State only allows their opponents to shoot 36.7 percent from the floor. That is second in the nation and an amazing number. The solid perimeter defense looks even better thanks to Jarvis Varnado. Varnado leads the nation in blocks with 4.9 per game. There is no scoring around the basket when Varnado is in the paint. Last year he was a decent shot blocker, but this year he has learned to block without fouling and that will keep him on the floor.

Charles Rhodes is no slouch in the shot blocking department either. But Rhodes brings an offensive game to the Bulldogs frontcourt. Rhodes averages 16.2 points per game. Most of Varnado’s baskets are on easy put backs, but Rhodes is a true post scorer. They both are also solid on the glass and it is a rare occasion when the opposition grabs an offensive rebound.

Why They Can Disappoint:

With all that scoring in the paint, Mississippi State will get plenty of open looks from outside. However, the squad is not a great shooting team by any means. While the three-point shooting has improved as the season has moved along, it is pretty much up to Ben Hansbrough to hit the long balls. He will knock down about two per game, but if his shot is not falling, there are not a lot of other options that consistently hit the three-point shot. The same can be said for free-throw shooting. Hansbrough hits over 80 percent of his attempts, but nobody else who sees major minutes shoots over 70 percent from the charity stripe.

Who To Watch:

Jamont Gordon does everything well and the 6-4 guard leads the team in points, assists and steals and even grabs over six rebounds per contest. He can handle the ball to help out the young backcourt and hit the glass to help the frontcourt. Most importantly, he averages 17.1 points per game and rarely fails to reach double digits. Gordon will hit the outside shot, but is not very consistent from beyond the arc. When the outside shot is falling and he continues to use his size to get to the basket, Gordon will easily eclipse the 20 point mark.

Oregon Ducks

Pac-10 (18-13, 9-9)

By Joel Welser,

Seed: #9

South Region

RPI: 58

Big Wins: 11/29 at Kansas State (80-77), 1/5 at Arizona (84-74), 1/13 Stanford (71-66)

Bad Losses: 12/15 at Nebraska (79-88), 12/22 vs Oakland (62-68), 1/17 at Washington (70-78)

Last NCAA Appearance: 2007, Elite Eight loss to Florida

Coach: Ernie Kent (6-5 in 5 NCAA appearances)

Probable Starters:

Tajuan Porter, Sophomore, Guard, 13.8 ppg, 2.4 apg

Bryce Taylor, Senior, Guard, 13.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg

Malik Hairston, Senior, Guard, 16.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg

Joevan Catron, Sophomoire, Forward, 9.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg

Marty Leunen, Senior, Forward, 15.2 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 2.8 apg

Key Roleplayers:

Kamyron Brown, Freshman, Guard, 4.4 ppg, 3.2 apg

LeKendric Longmire, Freshman, Guard, 3.8 ppg, 1.5 rpg

Chuchill Odia, Junior, Guard, 1.8 ppg, 1.4 rpg

Why They Can Surprise:

Oregon certainly does not lack in perimeter weapons. Malik Hairston is dangerous from anywhere on the floor and can approach the 30 point plateau on any given day. However, Hairston also disappears at times and has about a half dozen games in which he failed to score double-digits. Even when Hairston fails to score, it does not mean the Ducks are in trouble. Hairston will do more than score and there are plenty of other options who would be more than happy to take some of Hairston’s points.

The diminutive Tajuan Porter is not shooting anywhere close to what he was last year from behind the arc, but the sophomore is still a very dangerous outside shooter. At 5-6, Porter can sneak into the paint and score some points, but he will spend most of his time jacking up three’s, for better or for worse. Bryce Taylor is a lot like Hairston, but slightly less effective. He can hit the three-ball, grab some boards, get to the basket and put up tons of points in a hurry.

Why They Can Disappoint:

While the team has five players who can take over a game, the Ducks lack a true floor leader like they had last year with Aaron Brooks. In Brooks’ absence an already average defense has gotten worse and Oregon will not win any battle of intangibles. On paper, the Ducks still rarely commit turnovers and share the ball very well, but Brooks’ absence is felt in a multitude of other ways. When Brooks was around, Oregon was a great rebounding team despite playing four guards much of the time. Now they have a bigger, more traditional, lineup, but the rebounding numbers are down. It does not have to make sense, but this is a team that pulled together for a magnificent year last season and fell apart to reach mediocrity this season much of this season.

Who To Watch:

And that mediocrity has happened despite Maarty Leunen. The 6-9 senior has had a magnificent year, averaging 15.2 points and 9.2 rebounds. He hits nearly two three-pointers per game and knocks them down at almost 51 percent. Not everyday does a 6-9 forward who has over nine rebounds per game, hit over 50 percent from beyond the arc. Leunen even passes very well from inside and out. Oregon has the ability and talent to beat anybody on any given day. Yet, they can pretty much lose to anybody just as easily, especially away from the friendly confines of McArthur Court.

By the Numbers:

Scoring Offense: 76.8 (39th in nation, 2nd in conference)

Scoring Defense: 72.4 (254, 9)

Field-Goal Percentage: 48.5 (13, 1)

Field-Goal Defense: 44.3 (208, 6)

Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 8.7 (26, 1)

Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 40.1 (11, 1)

Free-Throw Percentage: 68.9 (167, 7)

Rebound Margin: 1.9 (115, 5)

Assists Per Game: 14.9 (76, 4)

Turnovers Per Game: 12.6 (43, 4)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ok, March Madness here we go……………

Ok, March Madness here we go……………

Man, the NCAA Selection Committee didn’t do Memphis any favors this year. I guess they too got tired of hearing that Memphis only played one team from the power conferences (Texas A&M) in their six victories over the past two seasons. Well, the committee pretty much guaranteed Memphis they will have to drive through all the power conferences this year.

Look at the likely matchups -

the Mississippi State Bulldogs from the SEC or the Oregon Ducks of the Pac 10 in the 2nd round,

Either the Big East’s Pitt Panthers or the Big 10’s Michigan State Spartans in the Sweet 16, and then

Either the Big 12’s Texas Longhorns or the Pac 10’s Stanford Cardinal.

Hello, that this a tough road to San Antonio.

And, I haven’t even brought up the fact that Memphis might have to face Texas in Houston in the Elite 8, but let’s not get to far ahead of ourselves.

First things first - Texas Arlington.

I’ll do a preview of Texas Arlington, Mississippi State and Oregon tomorrow.

By the way, I think Memphis has at least saved the best for last. During their last four games (UAB to end the season and the C-USA tournament) they have probably played their best basketball of the season.

If the Tigers can get solid offensive production out of Antonio Anderson (their 4th option offensively), they will be a real problem for anyone in the country. Anderson’s 19 points in the C-USA final against Tulsa was a real surprise and he did it going 3 for 4 from the 3 point line. When Antonion goes straight up with his feet tight together, he is fairly accurate.

More on Tuesday.

My Preview of Texas-Arlington

Texas-Arlington (21-11, 16th seed) out of the Southland Conference (19th ranked conference out of 31) won their conference tourney as a #7 seed to advance to their first ever NCAA tournament. UTA is ranked #147 in the RPI, #186 in the Pomeroy, and #165 in the Sagarin.

UTA is 5-5 in their last 10 games, but has won 4 of their last five including 3 in a row.

UTA is ranked #197 in Offensive Efficiency and #185 in Defensive Efficiency. They shoot the ball fairly well ranking 67th in Offensive Effective FG%.

Defensively their greatest weakness is giving up a high percentage from the 3 point line (41.5% by opponents).

Their best player is Senior Jermaine Griffin, at 6-9 240 pounds.

In the non-conference schedule, UTA won at UALR (#171 RPI) and won at Witchita State (#199 RPI). In a respectable loss, UTA dropped a 3 point decision at Oklahoma State (#77 RPI).

Their best win of the season came at Stephen F. Austin (#64 RPI) on March 1st, two weeks before their improbable run to win the Southland Conference tournament in Katy, Texas. SFA finished the season at 25-4 (13-3) spliting their two games with UTA. UTA’s worst loss came on January 10th when they fell at Central Arkansas (#280 RPI) in overtime.

On Wednesday, I'll preview the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

Monday, March 17, 2008

I'm Back In th Saddle Again - Go Tigers!!

Ok, March Madness here we go...............

Man, the NCAA Selection Committee didn't do Memphis any favors this year. I guess they too got tired of hearing that Memphis only played one team from the power conferences (Texas A&M) in their six victories over the past two seasons. Well, the committee pretty much guaranteed Memphis they will have to drive through all the power conferences this year.

Look at the likely matchups -

the Mississippi State Bulldogs from the SEC or the Oregon Ducks of the Pac 10 in the 2nd round,

Either the Big East's Pitt Panthers or the Big 10's Michigan State Spartans in the Sweet 16, and then

Either the Big 12's Texas Longhorns or the Pac 10's Stanford Cardinal.

Hello, that this a tough road to San Antonio.

And, I haven't even brought up the fact that Memphis might have to face Texas in Houston in the Elite 8, but let's not get to far ahead of ourselves.

First things first - Texas Arlington.

I'll do a preview of Texas Arlington, Mississippi State and Oregon tomorrow.

By the way, I think Memphis has at least saved the best for last. During their last four games (UAB to end the season and the C-USA tournament) they have probably played their best basketball of the season.

If the Tigers can get solid offensive production out of Antonio Anderson (their 4th option offensively), they will be a real problem for anyone in the country. Anderson's 19 points in the C-USA final against Tulsa was a real surprise and he did it going 3 for 4 from the 3 point line. When Antonion goes straight up with his feet tight together, he is fairly accurate.

More on Tuesday.

Friday, March 07, 2008

ESPN - Here's to the league overachievers ... and the underachievers too

Here's to the league overachievers ... and the underachievers too
By Pat Forde
Updated: March 4, 2008

Conference Call

Time to hand out some Minutes hardware to high-achieving players and coaches, not to mention underachieving teams and individuals, in America's top 10 leagues:


Player of the Year: Tyler Hansbrough (2), North Carolina. His stats (23.4 ppg, 10.4 rpg) and the Tar Heels' (27-2) record speak for themselves. But if you really want to get an appreciation for the guy, listen to how other coaches speak about Psycho T: "I think he's the best player in the country. … His sheer toughness and competitive spirit comes out every time he laces them up," said Miami's Frank Haith. "He's gradually built his game but never lost sight of being part of a team," said Georgia Tech's Paul Hewitt.

Coach of the Year: Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams have done their customary excellent work. And you have to applaud the job done by Haith at Miami, pushing a team picked to finish last in the ACC into the upper half of the league and into NCAA Tournament contention. But the choice here is Dino Gaudio (3) of Wake Forest. He didn't get the job until July, after the sudden death of beloved coach Skip Prosser, and his previous D-I head-coaching experience were defeat-intensive tenures at Army and Loyola (Md.). Gaudio took a grieving team picked to finish 11th and has guided it to a 16-11 overall mark, 6-8 in the league, good for seventh place at present. Until a recent three-game losing streak, Wake was in the at-large conversation. Talk about doing your best work amid trying circumstances.

Unsung Hero of the Year: Quentin Thomas, North Carolina. If you told most Heels fans five weeks ago that Thomas would be the point guard of record through February, they probably wouldn't have predicted a 6-1 record in that month. But that's what they got, thanks to very solid play by Carolina's third-team point.

Bust of the Year: North Carolina State. A team expected to chase Duke and Carolina for the ACC title is now on a seven-game losing streak and struggling to stay out of the ACC basement. The home loss to the Blue Devils Saturday was capped by coach Sidney Lowe's curious decision not to foul while trailing by a point in the final minute; he let Duke run the shot clock to nothing and the game clock to about five seconds. Even with the rebound, State had no chance to get off a decent shot and blew a 13-point second-half lead.

Minutes Moment of the Year: Even better than the K-Roy snipefest over who played the injury card and who didn't was Virginia Tech's Dorenzo Hudson hurling on the hardwood during the Hokies' game at Maryland. That's leaving it all on the court.

Atlantic 10

Player of the Year: Xavier's cast of thousands cancels each other out, which leaves a three-man race between Massachusetts forward Gary Forbes, Rhode Island forward Will Daniels and Dayton guard Brian Roberts. Give the narrow nod to Forbes, who stepped forward out of a supporting role to star on a surprise team. He leads the A-10 in scoring, ranks fourth in rebounding and is in the top 15 in assists, field-goal percentage and assist-to-turnover ratio.

Coach of the Year: Sean Miller (4), Xavier. Miller's Musketeers have trampled the league to the point that he's the only logical candidate. What remains to be seen is whether he's a candidate for the vacant job at Indiana.

Unsung Hero of the Year: Stanley Burrell, Xavier. Instead of worrying about his own stats, Burrell dialed back his offense and focused on lockdown defense his senior season. He's done great work on hotshot shooters from Eric Gordon to Chris Lofton to Sean Singletary, and the results can be seen in X's 25-4 record.

Bust of the Year: Fordham was picked to finish fourth but instead has lapsed back into habitual mediocrity, sitting tied for 12th in the league at 5-9 and 11-15 overall.

Minutes Moment of the Year: Make that moments, plural. The choice has to be the schizophrenic play of Saint Louis (5), which upset Saint Joseph's on the road last Thursday, then came home to collapse and lose by 20 points to 20-loss St. Bonaventure two days later.

Big 12

Player of the Year: Michael Beasley (6), Kansas State. Every bit the slam-dunk choice that Hansbrough is in the ACC. Has the Wildcats in position to earn their first NCAA bid since 1996.

Coach of the Year: Scott Drew, Baylor. Brought the Bears back from oblivion, racking up just the fourth 20-win season in 102 years of basketball at the school. Barring a three-game losing streak between now and Selection Sunday, they'll be one of the great success stories in the NCAA Tournament.

Unsung Hero of the Year: Mario Chalmers (7), Kansas. Another guy who majors in unselfishness. The junior guard only shoots when necessary, averaging 1.6 points per shot. More important to the Jayhawks are his passing (a team-high 4.7 assists) and defense (2.4 steals per game and incessant pressure on the ball). (Edges out Texas glue guy Connor Atchley, who has the intriguing combination of 36 3-pointers made and 58 blocked shots this season.)

Bust of the Year: Missouri. Bad behavior off the court, bad play on it. Mike Anderson did the right thing dismissing leading scorer Stefhon Hannah, but it's helped land a preseason upper division Big 12 team in 10th place.

Minutes Moment of the Year: Baylor and Texas A&M play five overtimes in College Station, and the only people who saw it were in the gym. It wasn't carried on TV.

Big East

Player of the Year: Luke Harangody, Notre Dame. Has molded himself into a 20-10 guy on one of the more surprising teams in the country. Went for 40 and 12 at Louisville last week, making the first three 3-pointers of his college career.

Coach of the Year: Could be Mike Brey for his work with the Fighting Irish. Could be Rick Pitino for bringing his Louisville team on like a freight train. Could be Bob Huggins for his immediate impact at West Virginia. Could be Mick Cronin's ahead-of-schedule work at Cincinnati. Instead it's Jim Calhoun (8), Connecticut. He's gotten three points and 30 minutes of play from former leading scorer Jerome Dyson in the last 11 games. UConn's record in that time has been 10-1.

Unsung Hero of the Year: David Padgett, Louisville. The numbers don't dazzle (11.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists), but the results do. Louisville is 15-3 and on a nine-game winning streak with Padgett back. The Cards were 7-3 when he was out with a broken kneecap. There are more outstanding players in the country, but nobody more valuable to his team's performance.

Bust of the Year: Providence (9). Experienced Friars were supposed to have a great shot at their first winning Big East record in four years. Instead they're 5-11 and still scrambling to make the 12-team league tourney, and coach Tim Welsh is under fire.

Minutes Moment of the Year: The wardrobe malfunction in the Ville. Rick Pitino wore an all-white suit during Louisville's White Out night against Georgetown -- for a half. When he started sweating through it and his blue underwear was showing, he changed to a dark suit for the second half.

Big Ten

Player of the Year: D.J. White, Indiana. Eric Gordon averages more points, but White is the more important player to the Hoosiers. He's racked up 18 double-doubles and is he unquestioned locker-room leader at IU. The senior has career highs in scoring average (17 ppg), rebounding (10.4 rpg) and field-goal percentage (60.7).

Coach of the Year: Matt Painter, Purdue. Excellent recruiting has positioned the Boilermakers for big success in the coming years. Excellent coaching has taken the Boilers to the top of the league early. They're 14-2 and a pair of road victories away from at least sharing their first league title in 12 years.

Unsung Hero of the Year: Purdue guard Chris Kramer (10), who might be the league's Defensive Player of the Year and embodies the relentless competitive spirit of the Boilers. He's averaged 3.2 steals per game over Purdue's last nine.

Bust of the Year: Ohio State. The Buckeyes were picked to finish third in the preseason, but a four-game losing streak has them at 8-8 in league play and on the wrong side of the bubble. To make matters worse, none of those eight victories has come against the four teams at the top of the league: Wisconsin, Purdue, Michigan State and Indiana. Ohio State's combined record against those four: 0-5, with two chances left.

Minutes Moment of the Year: Kelvin Sampson (11), phone home.

Conference USA

Player of the Year: Chris Douglas-Roberts (12), Memphis. Could find ways to score with both arms tied behind his back -- but that might require forcing shots, and CDR doesn't go there. Strongest competition for this award is from his teammate Derrick Rose.

Coach of the Year: John Calipari, Memphis. What, you were expecting Matt Doherty? Cal has awakened the echoes of 1985 in a city that has a long-standing love affair with its college hoops team.

Unsung Hero of the Year: Robert Vaden (13), UAB. Lost amid the Memphis massacre of C-USA, the Indiana transfer is having a tremendous scoring season. He's averaging 22 points this season, 27.4 ppg over the Blazers' last five games. Vaden shoots a ton of 3-pointers (297 of them, more than 10 per game), but he makes a ton of them, too (127, an excellent 42.8 percent).

Bust of the Year: Rice. The Owls are 3-24 overall, 0-14 in the league. Nobody expected greatness from Rice. But if you're winless in C-USA, you're not good.

Minutes Moment of the Year: On Feb. 16, Memphis backup center Pierre Niles slapped a UAB fan after the Tigers won by a point in Birmingham. On Feb. 19, a C-USA spokesperson said the league was "still gathering information" on the incident. Fourteen days later, the league remains Marcel Marceau on the matter. Meanwhile, word is C-USA officials were shocked to recently learn that Marquette, Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida have left the league for the Big East.

Missouri Valley

Player of the Year: Josh Young, Drake. He's the leading scorer on a balanced team that dominated the league. The sweet-shooting sophomore has hit 45.3 percent of his 3s this season and was at his best scoring 25 points against Butler in a high-profile BracketBusters game.

Coach of the Year: Keno Davis (14), Drake. Any questions?

Unsung Hero of the Year: Illinois State sophomore guard Osiris Eldridge has elevated his game and brought the Redbirds up with him, all the way to second place in the Valley. Eldridge is averaging 16.3 points and an impressive 5.6 rebounds per game for a guy who goes 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds.

Bust of the Year: Wichita State (15). Former Winthrop coach Gregg Marshall has landed in a disaster area. The normally competitive Shockers' next loss with be their 20th, and they are next-to-last in the league. Two years ago, they were in the NCAA Sweet 16.

Minutes Moment of the Year: ESPN GameDay arrives in Carbondale, Ill., for showdown between league rivals and perennial powers Creighton and Southern Illinois. Bluejays and Salukis bore America senseless with 48-44 display of crawl ball.

Mountain West

Player of the Year: J.R. Giddens (16), New Mexico. Former problem child at Kansas is playing superb all-around basketball as a senior in Albuquerque. Giddens ranks among the league leaders in points (sixth at 15.6 ppg), rebounds (first at 8.4 rpg), assists (10th at 3.0 apg), steals (tied for sixth at 1.5 spg) and blocks (second at 1.3 bpg). Last six games he's averaging 24.3 points and 8.5 boards.

Coach of the Year: Lon Kruger (17), UNLV. Kruger lost a bunch of talent from last year's Sweet 16 team. But the Rebels have run back into NCAA Tournament and league title contention at 22-6 overall and 11-3 in MWC play, just a game behind heavy preseason favorite BYU with two to play.

Unsung Hero of the Year: Lee Cummard (18), BYU. Skinnier than a Victoria's Secret model, but the 6-7, 185-pounder packs a wallop in every area of the game. He scores (15.9 ppg), rebounds (6.5 rpg), dishes (3.4 apg) and shoots dynamite percentages (57.2 from the field, 84 from the line and 45.3 from 3). Vital to the Cougars' hopes to make noise in March.

Bust of the Year: Utah. Utes were expected to be in the upper division and perhaps in the title hunt, but a four-game losing streak has dropped them to 6-8 in MWC play and 15-12 overall. Simply put, when Utah gives up 67 or more points, it cannot keep up. The Utes are 1-8 when opponents meet or exceed that number, 14-4 when they don't.

Minutes Moment of the Year: Colorado State gagging at home to Division II Panhandle State on Jan. 8, part of the Rams' current 15-game losing streak. Last D-I win for the 6-22 Rams came on Dec. 5. Panhandle State is now 10-17 and lost to Incarnate Word by 42 last time out.


Player of the Year: Kevin Love, UCLA. Why do the Bruins have a chance to win it all this year, as opposed to hitting a brick wall in the Final Four? Because they finally have a low-post hoss who can score, rebound, defend, pass and force other teams to play UCLA honestly. Those who thought Love was an overrated Great White Hope have been proven double-double wrong.

Coach of the Year: Trent Johnson, Stanford (19). Arizona State has been a surprise few people saw coming in Herb Sendek's second season, but Johnson has the Cardinal contending for the league crown into the last week. He can be terribly serious and thoroughly old school, but Johnson has rebuilt Stanford to the stature it enjoyed under former coach Mike Montgomery.

Unsung Hero of the Year: Ryan Anderson, California. Easy to get lost in a league full of stars, but Anderson deserves props for averaging a league-leading 21.5 points per game and 9.9 boards.

Bust of the Year: Washington (20). The Huskies' big seasons in 2004-05 and 2005-06 are starting to seem like a very long time ago. They're 7-10 in league play this year and may not finish with an overall record above .500.

Minutes Moment of the Year: The near-brawl between Oregon State and Washington -- two flaming disappointments -- the day before they played in Corvallis. The excessive testosterone reportedly included a voice-mail invitation from an Oregon State player to a Husky to step outside the team hotel room for a rumble in the parking lot.

Player of the Year: Tyler Smith (21), Tennessee. And not just because he made the shot to beat Memphis. In league play, Smith is the Volunteers' second-leading scorer, leading rebounder and leading assist man. If the NCAA hadn't granted him immediately eligibility as a transfer to be near his dying father, Tennessee would not be in the race for a No. 1 seed.

Coach of the Year: Billy Gillispie, Kentucky. He wasn't among the 200 best coaches in November and December, when his team wasn't among the 200 best teams in the country. But the Wildcats have persevered through a torrent of injuries to reach 10-4 in SEC play, grinding out one victory after another. They might be two wins away from an unlikely push into the Dance.

Unsung Hero of the Year: Jarvis Varnado, Mississippi State. Stringbean shot blocker has keyed the Bulldogs' defense, which in turn has keyed their rise to the top of the SEC West. Varnado is averaging nearly 5 blocks per game and has six games with seven or more swats.

Bust of the Year: Alabama. You knew it would be bad when point guard Ronald Steele went out for the year with recurring knee issues. But nobody expected 4-10 in league play or 15-14 overall -- especially with 17 home games played so far. Small wonder the few Bama fans not zoned in on spring football are stewing over coach Mark Gottfried.

Minutes Moment of the Year: Gardner-Webb (22) houses Kentucky in Rupp Arena 84-68. And it wasn't even that close. Ashley Judd (23) hasn't been the same since. Which means The Minutes hasn't been the same since, either.

Little Dance

The first indelible moments of March start this week. Elimination games begin Tuesday, as the low-major and mid-major conference tournaments distribute the first bids to the Big Dance. (Ivy League notwithstanding. Congrats, Cornell (24)).

The Minutes has always enjoyed the all-or-nothing urgency of the single-bid conference tourneys and the joy of earning that invitation to play with the biggest programs in the country. For low-profile schools and their low-profile players, stepping out of the shadows and into the NCAA Tournament klieg lights is the biggest thrill.

Hoops junkies not just fixated on the glam leagues -- and perhaps scouting for an NCAA sleeper team for the office pool -- don't want to miss these games. Neither do office slackers, who can rejoice at the arrival of weekday afternoon basketball to monitor when they're supposed to be working. (Jacksonville-Mercer, 3:15 ET tip Wednesday in the Atlantic Sun (25) quarterfinals. Thank me later, brothers and sisters.)

For junkies and slackers alike, The Minutes offers five intriguing smaller-scale conference tourneys to eyeball as they begin play this week:

Patriot League (26). Quarterfinals: Wednesday at campus sites. Semifinals: March 9 at campus sites. Championship: March 14 at site of highest seeded team.

Why watch: Has any league been more unpredictable than this one? Preseason favorite and defending champion Holy Cross finished last. Predicted runner-up Bucknell is seeded seventh. The top two teams, American and Navy, were picked to finish fifth and seventh, respectively.

American has home-court advantage for as long as it can hold it in pursuit of its first-ever NCAA Tournament bid. But Navy swept the Eagles in the regular season.

NCAA Sleeper Meter: Low. Patriot League teams have been tough outs in the past -- Bucknell has beaten Kansas and Arkansas in recent years, and Holy Cross has come agonizingly close to major shockers. But it doesn't seem likely this year.

Sun Belt (27). First round: Wednesday at campus sites. Quarterfinals, semis and final: March 9-11 in Mobile, Ala.

Why watch: This could be the best championship game of any off-Broadway league. South Alabama (25-5 overall, 16-2 in conference play, RPI of 29) looks like an at-large NCAA team, but a loss short of the title game could make it dicey. The likely finals opponent would be Western Kentucky (24-6, 16-2, RPI of 49), seeking an auto bid of its own if it doesn't win this thing.

The Jaguars are playing at home and swept the season series from the Hilltoppers -- but only by a total of nine points.

NCAA Sleeper Meter: High. If South Alabama and/or Western Kentucky are in, either could win a game. At least.

West Coast Conference (28). March 7-10 in San Diego. Third and fourth seeds get a one-round bye into the quarterfinals; first and second seeds get a two-round bye into the semifinals.

Why watch: This is a league with two teams in or near the Top 25 (kingpin Gonzaga and challenger Saint Mary's), but there's an intriguing third option as well: host San Diego, coached by former Zags assistant Bill Grier. The Toreros have gone 11-3 in the WCC after a 7-10 start to the season -- which included an upset of Kentucky in Lexington.

NCAA Sleeper Meter: Not applicable. Hard to sleep on either Gonzaga or St. Mary's, both of which would seem to be at-large locks and very dangerous tournament opponents.

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (29). March 7-10 in Albany, N.Y. Top two seeds get a one-round bye.

The top four are bunched within 42 spots of each other in the RPI. This might be the most competitive league in the country -- and you never know when the wife of Siena's coach might pop off about the officiating again.

NCAA Sleeper Meter: Moderate. The league's top three teams -- Siena, Rider and Niagara -- all have beaten a team from a BCS conference this season.

Ohio Valley Conference (30). Quarterfinals: Tuesday at campus sites. Semifinals and final: Friday and Saturday in Nashville.

Why watch: With the bottom three teams in the league eliminated, all of the eight remaining contestants are .500 or better in conference play. Seven of them rank between 187 and 282 in RPI, with the lone exception being regular-season champion Austin Peay at No. 90. But here's the kicker with Peay: The last two times it has won the OVC regular-season title, it has been upset in the league tournament.

NCAA Sleeper Meter: Low. Poor conference RPI means a poor seed. Only Austin Peay could potentially avoid a No. 16 seed.

Gut Check

Six bubble teams face immensely important assignments over the weekend and came away with vastly different results. The Minutes report card:

Kentucky (31). Grade: guts plus. When the news came out Friday that stud freshman Patrick Patterson was done for the season with a stress fracture, the Wildcats' season appeared to be over. The selection committee would have little interest in a double-digit-loss team without its best player, and a nationally televised execution at Tennessee loomed. Except the Cats nearly won, pushing the Volunteers to the final horn. Now the committee will have to watch Kentucky closely in its final two games (at South Carolina, home against Florida) and in the SEC tournament to appraise it anew. Understand this: No team that finished 10-6 or better in SEC play has ever missed the tourney unless it declared itself ineligible for rules violations. Kentucky is 10-4.

Maryland (32). Grade: intestinally challenged. The Terrapins yacked up a 20-point lead at home on Senior Night and lost to Clemson in the final seconds. Not sure a bubble team could have a worse loss. And the problem is, outside of the shocker over North Carolina in Chapel Hill, the Terps have zero signature wins. Haven't beat another team with an RPI better than 70.

Clemson (33). Grade: guts aplenty. The Tigers were on the other end of that stunner in College Park, pulling off a miracle rally to reach 21 wins this season, assure themselves a winning ACC record and move into the top 20 in the RPI. Put it all together, and the team that always seems to find a way out of the Big Dance should now be in.

Syracuse (34). Grade: decent guts, no brains. The Orange have battled decently all season after losing Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins to injury -- but a big part of the reason they're 7-9 in the Big East is questionable decision-making and execution in the clutch. Exhibit A being Saturday, when they yacked up an 11-point lead at home in the final four minutes against Pittsburgh, capped by a mind-blowing turnover under their own basket with less than 15 seconds remaining. Jim Boeheim can lobby all he wants for the NCAAs to expand to 128, 256 or something in the thousands, but his team is absolutely bubblicious for the third year in a row.

Arizona (35). Grade: gutty scheduling, gutter ball performance. The Wildcats have played the No. 1 schedule in the country, which means that even at 17-12 they've got a good shot of getting in the tourney -- if they sweep their series in Oregon this week. But they blew their margin for error by being swept in Tucson last week by UCLA and USC and have lost six of their last eight.

Texas A&M (36). Grade: intestinally challenged to the extreme. Ahead 10-9 at Oklahoma Saturday, the Aggies staged a work stoppage. They went the next 16 minutes, 12 seconds without a point, believed to be the longest scoring drought of the shot-clock era. By the time it was over, the Sooners led 33-10 and A&M was hurtling toward its fourth loss in the last five games. (Of course, the lone win was a 44-point napalming of Texas Tech, which has become Team Schizo under Pat Knight. The Red Raiders followed that by shocking Texas, then turned around and were atomized by 58 at Kansas.)

The Minutes said earlier this season that the officiating was shaky nationwide. The latest evidence: the Washington State-Stanford (37) game. The zebras' first seven blasts of the whistle were to call fouls on the Cougars, including two borderline calls that shelved Wazzu's best player, Kyle Weaver, for 15 minutes. Shifting quickly into makeup mode, the next nine calls all went against the Cardinal, including a technical foul on an apoplectic Trent Johnson.

Let's hope the refs are getting these kinds of debacles out of their systems in time for postseason play.

Et Tu, Crimson?

From the nothing-is-sacred files, New York Times sportswriter Pete Thamel wrote a story Sunday detailing potential rule breaking (and almost definite rule bending) at … Harvard (38). So if you want to know who is playing it absolutely clean in college hoops, the answer might be nobody.

Buzzer Beater

The Minutes spent a couple days in Palo Alto last week and was treated to a deluxe time by several Stanford students. They showed off some of the classic college hangouts in the area, most notably the Dutch Goose (39), which had Sierra Nevada on tap and freakishly good deviled eggs; and the Oasis (40), where we stayed local with pitchers of Anchor Steam. Bring your Sharpie to autograph the walls at the Goose and your pocket knife to carve the tables at the O.

Pat Forde is a senior writer for He can be reached at

Fox Sports - Plenty left to prove for potential No. 1 seeds

Plenty left to prove for potential No. 1 seeds
by Randy Hill
Veteran columnist Randy Hill is a frequent contributor to

One of the most potentially fertile NCAA Tournament fields in recent years may need to experience a little premature madness before the top seeds can be planted.

Just determining a quartet of No. 1's could be quite a party.

The pre-conference installment of the current season was dominated by a bullying big three (North Carolina, Memphis and Kansas), with UCLA attempting to make it a foursome by rallying after a home loss to Texas. With less than two weeks remaining before we barge into Snubbing Sunday, the aforementioned schools have returned to prime top-seed-pouncing position.

But as any college hoop analyst worth his earpiece will remind you, there's a lot of basketball left to be played before any serious reaping can be considered. With that in mind, let's take a look at what the leading top-seed contenders must endure before provoking anguish from the schools that wind up with No. 1 seeds.

With the alphabet as our guide, we'll begin with Coach K's team:

Duke (26-3): The Blue Devils remained in the conversation for a top seed by overcoming North Carolina State in Raleigh and Virginia in Charlottesville, setting up a Saturday showdown with No. 1 UNC.

During the Wolfpack's uprising, it was revealed that Duke point guard Greg Paulus could not stay in front of N.C. State freshman Javier Gonzalez. The Blue Devils also were savaged in the paint and didn't seize control of the game until their spread the shooters, drive-and-kick offense began yielding three-pointers.

Paulus dug in defensively this week in a relatively easy win over Virginia and its jet-quick guard Sean Singletary. The Blue Devils — who prevailed by 21 points when the two teams met in Durham — handled the Cavaliers again as Paulus made Singletary miss 10 times and cough up five turnovers.

If Singletary has a quickness equal, it's North Carolina's Ty Lawson, who will be the challenge for Paulus when Duke entertains the Tar Heels on Saturday. Lawson returned last weekend after a high ankle sprain caused him to miss six games, including an 11-point loss to the Blue Devils at Chapel Hill.

In that game, Duke had six players score in double digits, while Tar Heels point guard temp Quentin Thomas committed six of his team's 20 turnovers.

A win over Carolina this week and another in the ACC Tournament would be a pretty swell way to clinch a No. 1 seed. Two showdowns with the Heels in as many weeks also may be a fine way to barely survive with a 2.

Kansas (27-3): When KU brings the pain as it did in last Saturday's revenge date with Kansas State, the Jayhawks are something to behold.
But absorbing three league losses with their level of talent and experience suggests that Bill Self's team still has focus issues on the road.

After crushing Jekyll-and-hide Texas Tech by 58 Monday, KU travels to College Station Saturday for its only regular-season meeting with rollercoaster Texas A&M.

The Jayhawks, who rank second nationally in both offensive and defensive efficiency, have it all. They also could have a shot at Texas in the Big 12 tournament, a potential conquest that would lock down a No. 1 seed.

Memphis (29-1): The dribble-drive-motion Tigers seem to be a team that simply can't wait to hear the opening notes of The Big Dance.
Their most recent trial by fire occurred in last Saturday's less-than-inspiring victory over Southern Mississippi.

The Tigers toyed with SMU in Dallas Wednesday, winning 72-55 in a game highlighted by ferocious jams from frontcourt enforcers Robert Dozier and Joey Dorsey. The regular season ends with Round 2 against the UAB Blazers, who were defeated, 79-78, by Memphis in Birmingham.

The Tigers, whose only loss this season was issued by Tennessee at the FedEx Forum, are hoping for a better performance from freshman point guard Derrick Rose. In the first match with UAB, the precocious Rose missed 11 of 13 field-goal attempts.

The Tigers, still ranked No. 1 in the land for defensive efficiency, allowed the Blazers to make half of their shots.

Unfortunately, two more wins (if they meet in the league tournament) over UAB may not impress the selection committee; but entering the field with only one loss should.

North Carolina (28-2): To warm up for Saturday's trip to Duke, the Heels welcomed back Ty Lawson in a 90-77 home win over Florida State. Lawson scored 10 points but will need time to shift back into high gear.
A win over Duke and a league-tournament crown might have been needed if the Heels hadn't bounced back from a 34-point first half by Tyrese Rice and an 18-point deficit at Boston College.

While Lawson's ankle gets stronger and Tyler Hansbrough continues to work people over inside in title-team-requirement fashion, glue guy Danny Green and sniper Wayne Ellington provide the stuff No. 1 seeds are made of.

Tennessee (27-3): The Vols celebrated the school's first-ever No. 1 men's ranking with a loss at Vanderbilt and a near-loss against wounded Kentucky.
Before Coach Bruce Pearl can paint the country (or himself) orange, Tennessee had to dodge another bullet in a trip to Florida. The Vols smoked the two-time defending national champion Gators by 22 in Knoxville but had to sweat out a potential game-tying shot at the buzzer to complete a 16-point comeback. The regular season will end at home against South Carolina, which fell to Tennessee by 24 points on its home court earlier this season.

It will be interesting to see if Pearl's blitzkrieg style can be established over six games in a tournament. As he did with Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Pearl will attempt to dictate tempo through the use of full-court, pressure defense.

Interestingly, the Vols are ranked just 28th in the nation among teams that promote a speedy pace. This has led to Tennessee registering as a surprising 25th in defensive efficiency.

Bruce may have to consider turning the vice a bit tighter.

UCLA (26-3): The Bruins are still clinging to top-seed hopes, thanks to Kevin Love's performance in a two-point victory over Arizona in Tucson.
The pre-Pac-10 tournament trials include Thursday's battle with the Lopez twins and Stanford and Saturday's tussle with inside-heavy Cal.

Love scored a (relatively) pedestrian 15 points in the Bruins' win at Palo Alto and had 19 when they knocked off the Bears in Berkeley.

With Love, Darren Collison and Josh Shipp checking in as UCLA constants, the X-factor seems to be sophomore combo guard Russell Westbrook. Westbrook, whose slashing capabilities and eye-popping athleticism have given the Bruins an added dimension, seems like a barometer for UCLA success.

In UCLA's three losses, Westbrook has shot a combined 10 of 27 from the field.

The bright side is that stellar defense from this kid is a given.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Pitt basketball Q&A with Ray Fittipaldo

Pitt basketball Q&A with Ray Fittipaldo
Monday, March 03, 2008
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Q: When Pitt was searching for Ben Howland's replacement, I favored John Calipari because of his ability to recruit NBA-type players. In light of his accomplishments at Memphis - in a less-prestigious conference and smaller media market - and Pitt's continued inabilty to land All-American type players, I would like to hear your hindsight appraisal of Pitt's decision that seemed to be based in part on the players support of Dixon. The most vocal, Chris Taft, quickly left Pitt.

Rock Dillaman, Pittsburgh

FITTIPALDO: Dixon is on the verge of leading Pitt to a seventh consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, the fifth in a row since he has become head coach. That is impressive even if he has failed to bring in blue-chip recruits. I suppose one could argue that Calipari would have taken Pitt deeper into the NCAA tournament because of his ability to recruit future NBA players, but there was no guarantee of that. Calipari would have left Memphis in a minute to come home to Pittsburgh, but Pitt chancellor Mark Nordenberg would not bring him in for an interview. It's worked out well for both parties. Pitt has maintained its standing as one of the top teams in the Big East under Dixon and Memphis could be in the hunt for a national championship next month.

First published on March 3, 2008 at 2:04 pm

Freshman Rose proving he can carry Tigers if they need him in big games

Freshman Rose proving he can carry Tigers if they need him in big games
By Dan Wolken
Monday, March 3, 2008

The game seemed to be slipping away, the shot clock neared the danger zone and the University of Memphis needed a basket in the worst way. Facing a 2-3 zone defense that seemed impenetrable, the ball swung to freshman Derrick Rose, who decided the situation called for something special.

Perhaps it was calculated. Perhaps it was just the instinct of a special basketball talent. But with 14:39 remaining at Southern Miss on Saturday, Rose got the ball and took off, dribbled twice into the zone with his left hand and let four defenders collapse on him. Instead of kicking out, Rose switched the ball to his right hand and let a shot go high off the glass.

When it fell through, it not only began a barrage of 22 second-half points for Rose, but it also sparked the No. 2 Tigers to a 76-67 comeback victory in Hattiesburg, improving their record to 28-1 overall and 14-0 in Conference USA.

"We knew we had to step it up," junior guard Chris Douglas-Roberts said. "And the players on our team who were supposed to make plays did."

And now, it's more apparent than ever who is supposed to make plays for the Tigers entering the final week of the regular season.

With more down-to-the-wire games likely in store for Memphis as the NCAA Tournament nears, Rose has proven himself worthy of carrying the Tigers if necessary.

After struggling at UAB on Feb. 16 -- he went 2-for-13 from the field in Memphis' last-minute comeback -- Rose has seen his game mature in the past two weeks to a level that should encourage coach John Calipari, who already had one proven game-finisher in Douglas-Roberts.

"He has such a will to win," Calipari said. "He does whatever it takes."

Even in a 66-62 loss to Tennessee, it was Rose giving the Tigers a chance with 23 points, making one difficult shot after another in the second half.

Which makes Rose's failing to take the final shot against Tennessee even more bewildering. With 26.7 seconds remaining and the Tigers down by a point, Calipari chose not to call time out and set up, primarily because he only had one timeout left. With Tennessee's ability to defend inbounds plays, Calipari did not want his team to risk a five-second call and blow an opportunity to win.

So he let it play out. But when Douglas-Roberts couldn't get anything going toward the rim -- he was hobbled a bit by an ankle injury -- Antonio Anderson ended up with the ball and tried to create an opportunity. Though Calipari was fine with Anderson's taking the shot, even though he lost control of the ball going up, Rose was never really involved in the play.

That probably won't happen again should the Tigers encounter a similar situation down the road.

Though the final minutes Saturday at Southern Miss weren't necessarily as pressure-packed, the baskets Rose made to rescue Memphis were every bit as significant. In a second half where every possession mattered, and Southern Miss made one shot after another to keep momentum, Rose's personal highlight reel included:

An alley-oop to senior Joey Dorsey with 13:56 remaining, bringing Memphis to within 45-41.

A pull-up jumper from 17 feet with 13:18 to go, closing the gap to two points.

A long transition feed to Andre Allen, creating a layup that tied the game with 10:56 left.

Another drive with his left hand that he finished for a layup at the 10:00 mark, right after Craig Craft ignited the crowd with a 3-pointer.

A 3-pointer from the top to tie the game with 8:36 left.

A three-point play with 6:00 left, finishing a layup off Anderson's shot-pass despite a bump from Sai'Quon Stone.

Another 3-pointer against the zone with 5:00 remaining, this time from the wing, establishing an eight-point lead.

"It was a big game," Rose said. "Everybody had to step up. Playing in this environment was huge. For us to come out here and win was real important."

Reach Dan Wolken at 529-2365.

Tigers stay No. 2 in AP poll, No. 3 in coaches' poll

Tigers stay No. 2 in AP poll, No. 3 in coaches' poll
Monday, March 3, 2008

The University of Memphis men’s basketball team remained at No. 2 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll released this afternoon.

Tiger fans had hopes of returning to No. 1 after top-ranked Tennessee lost Feb. 26 at Vanderbilt, but media voters chose instead to jump North Carolina (27-2) from No. 3 to the top.

The Tar Heels received 38 first-place votes and 1,745 points to the Tigers’ 21 and 1,706.

No. 3 UCLA (26-3) got 12 first-place votes, with the other going to now-No. 4 Tennessee (26-3).

North Carolina rallied from 18 points down to beat Boston College, 90-80, on Saturday in its only game last week. The Tigers (28-1) bounced back from a Feb. 23 loss to Tennessee with Conference USA wins over Tulsa and Southern Miss.

The U of M remained at No. 3 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches Top 25 released today.

North Carolina climbed one spot to No. 1, while Tennessee dropped from No. 1 to No. 4 after losing early last week at Vanderbilt.

The Tigers received six of the 31 first-place votes, with North Carolina getting 19 and No. 2 UCLA receiving six. The Bruins edged Memphis for the No. 2 spot, 718 points to 717.

Arizona Republic - Legends of March

Legends of March
Mar. 2, 2008 04:58 PM

So we were running down Lone Mountain Road at about 2:30 Saturday morning while representing team Sol Purpose in the Ragnar Relay Del Sol when we started thinking about something - because, really, what else is there to do while running down Lone Mountain Road at 2:30 in the morning?

Anyway, besides trying to figure out what made us think it was a good idea to take part in a relay run from Wickenburg to Mesa, we wondered: How long it has been since there was an NCAA Tournament without either Lute Olson or Bob Knight coaching in it?

Well, it's been a really, really long time. Even longer, as it turns out, than our relay team took to get to Mesa.

The last NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament without either Olson or Knight coaching in it was 1977.

And if March Madness were set up then as it is today, the streak would be even longer.

The tournament was only 32 teams back then, and Olson's Iowa team was 20-7 and finished 12-6 in the Big Ten. That would get him in now.

Knight's Indiana club had gone undefeated and won the NCAA title in 1976, but missed the 1977 tournament with a 16-11 record. Knight and Olson butted heads for nine years in the Big Ten before Olson left for Arizona.

Now, there are only a handful of coaches remaining whom one automatically associates with a program, as you did with Olson for the past 24 years at Arizona and Knight for 29 years at Indiana before he was bounced and ended up at Texas Tech.

Perhaps Olson will return, as planned, next season. Maybe Knight, who resigned from Tech during the season, will coach at another school.

But the days of the college basketball-coaching icon may be coming to an end.

So with March Madness upon us, The Heat Index ranks our Top 12 Active* College Coaching Icons in men's hoops:

1. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke. Just got his 800th victory, has 10 Final Four appearances and three national titles. But can you believe the guy is 61? And he played for Knight, who is 67, at Army. Weird. Anyway, "Coach K" is Duke basketball. Always will be, just like John Wooden will always be UCLA basketball.

*2.Lute Olson, Arizona. Hey, until he says, "I'm officially done" at Arizona, he has to remain an icon.

3. Jim Calhoun, Connecticut. He's in his 22nd season at UConn, where he has won two NCAA titles. Soon to be 66, he probably isn't going anywhere.

4. Tom Izzo, Michigan State. He's only been the coach at one school, and he has 301 career victories, four trips to the Final Four and an NCAA title in 13 years there.

5. Roy Williams, North Carolina. In his 20th season, 15 of which were at Kansas, Williams has five Final Four appearances, one national title and the fourth-highest winning percentage of all time.

6. Rick Pitino, Louisville. Pitino clearly is among the elite coaches in college basketball having taken Providence, Kentucky and Louisville to the Final Four. However, unless he stays put at Louisville for a while, we probably never will associate him with just one program.

7. Billy Donovan, Florida. Can you believe he's been there 12 years? After a dalliance with the Orlando Magic, he decided to remain at Florida, where he's won two championships and been in the title game three times.

8. Jim Boeheim, Syracuse. He's never coached anywhere but Syracuse. He is in his 32nd season and has more than 700 victories and a national title.

9. Gary Williams, Maryland. He has a national title and more than 600 career victories. Now in his 19th season teaching the virtues of the bounce pass to the Terps.

10. Tubby Smith, Minnesota. He is most closely associated with Kentucky - for better or worse - but he has more than 400 career victories, won a national title and took Tulsa, Georgia and Kentucky at least as far as the Sweet 16. Now in his first season at Minnesota.

11. Ben Howland, UCLA. Howland, who was a success at Northern Arizona and Pittsburgh, is on the verge of his third consecutive 30-win season and may be headed to a third consecutive Final Four.

12. John Calipari, Memphis. Calipari got to the Final Four at Massachusetts, but hasn't taken Memphis there yet. Like Howland, Calipari appears headed toward a third consecutive 30-win season.

Reach The Heat Index at or 602-444-8271.

The great state debate begins now

The great state debate begins now
The Wichita Eagle

The idea was hatched at, of all places, Koch Arena.

Back in December, already in the midst of a mediocre (at best) season, Wichita State was somehow putting the wood to LSU (thanks, John Brady), and it was mesmerizing watching Matt Braeuer duck, dart and dive his way around the court, the smallest guy on the floor but arguably the most effective.

By that point, we'd seen plenty of Kansas and enough of Kansas State, enough to know that the Wildcats looked vulnerable in the backcourt while the Jayhawks, even with an emerging Darnell Jackson, seemed a little soft up front.

And the Shockers needed help everywhere.

But then the daydreams began. We envisioned Braeuer in purple and white, feeding the ball to Michael Beasley and Bill Walker. Taking it a step further, we pictured Beasley and Walker flanked in the paint by Darrell Arthur, with the ball being pushed ahead and distributed by Mario Chalmers and Russell Robinson.

Talk about an all-state team.

How would it stack up against the rest of the country, we wondered.

So we brainstormed. What about a tournament, not unlike the NCAA Tournament, but not nearly as large? There aren't 65 states, after all. But without a Division I school in every state, or only one Division I school in each state, we were already starting with 39 eligible states and the District of Columbia.

A field of 32 made sense.

Slashing seven more states was a difficult but necessary procedure. But first, we compiled our teams -- a starting five plus a reserve and even a coach. Then our "committee" huddled in an office and pored over the data, with each member arguing his case for and against a specific state.

For instance, there wasn't much initial support for Nebraska. But after arguing the basic lack of quality big men roaming collegiate courts, Aleks Maric could be a difference-maker -- especially surrounded by a couple of Creighton gunners.

So Nebraska made it in the field -- as an 8 seed.

Oh, was it mentioned how we divided the field once we pared down to 32 states? Four regions -- East, South, Midwest and West -- with No. 1 seeds in each. Our 1s are North Carolina, Tennessee, Kansas and California -- and you could argue that each, if you add "Los Angeles" to California, might be No. 1 seeds in the actual NCAA Tournament.

How are we going to declare a winner? We're not -- that's where you, the reader, come in. We've taken the liberty of downsizing the field to the Sweet 16, but it's out of our hands from here. Starting today, there will a poll at featuring one game a day. In two weeks, on the actual Selection Sunday, we'll be crowning our champion -- with your input, of course.

Everyone has their favorites, which is obviously very different than who we suspect will actually win.

Take the boss, for instance. He wants to take a closer look at Tennessee's lineup -- with a potential starting five of Memphis' Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Joey Dorsey, Tennessee's Chris Lofton and Vandy's Shan Foster, don't bother -- but he thinks that should be the team to beat.

But who will you, the reader, choose?

Given where we reside and the allegiance of local fans, who else could it be but Kansas?

And to think -- the man responsible, Braeuer, didn't even make the Sunflower State squad.

Kansas State beat writer Jeffrey Martin is peeved that his native Vermont wasn't given a special exemption into the Final Four. Reach him at 316-269-6763 or

Rose, Douglas-Roberts lead No. 2 Memphis to C-USA crown

Rose, Douglas-Roberts lead No. 2 Memphis to C-USA crown

Hattiesburg, MS (Sports Network) - Freshman guard Derrick Rose poured in 23 points as the No. 2 Memphis Tigers topped Southern Miss, 76-67, to clinch the Conference USA season title outright for a third straight year.

The regular season crown is Memphis' third-straight and fourth in the last five seasons. It shared the 2003-04 C-USA regular season title, but claimed the league's outright championships in 2005-06 and 2006-07.

Chris Douglas-Roberts added 22 points for the Tigers (28-1, 14-0 C-USA), who have won 37 straight conference games and are likely to move back into the top spot in the college rankings after No. 1 Tennessee was upset by Vanderbilt on Tuesday.

Jeremy Wise had a game-high 26 points for Southern Miss (15-13, 7-7), which faced its highest-ranked team ever. Craig Craft also chipped in 14 points, while Sai'Quon Stone ended with 11 and six rebounds for the Golden Eagles, losers of two straight following a three-game win streak.

Trailing by three at intermission, Southern Miss pulled in front early in the second half. The Golden Eagles used a 12-3 run to gain control, and led 43-37 on a R.L. Horton free throw at 15:07.

Memphis finally showed some life when it rattled off 11 of the next 16 points, making it 48-all on an Andre Allen layup near the midpoint.

Southern Miss looked to stop the momentum with a Craft trey, but the Tigers later moved in front, 55-54, on a pair of Douglas-Roberts free throws with 7:45 remaining.

The Memphis lead later grew to 64-56, and the Golden Eagles couldn't get closer than three the rest of the way.

Balanced scoring kept Southern Miss in the hunt throughout the first half, as home squad opened with a 5-1 lead. The Tigers then put together a 9-1 run, and on an Antonio Anderson dunk held a 10-6 lead at 15:33.

A refocused Southern Miss team then held steady the rest of the way, as the lead went back and forth.

Memphis closed the half with a Shawn Taggart layup and led 34-31 at the break.

Game Notes

The Tigers lead the all-time series, 55-23, and have won 12 of the last 14 meetings, including the last nine. They posted an easy 83-47 romp in Memphis back in January...Memphis has won two straight following its lone setback of the season to Tennessee...The Tigers opened their final road swing and also travel to Dallas on March 5 to face SMU in the regular-season road finale.

03/01 18:36:15 ET

Cal: Loss will get Tigers' attention

Cal: Loss will get Tigers' attention
Coach says pre-game hype may have 'paralyzed' some
By Dan Wolken
Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The University of Memphis took a team picture before Monday's practice, but when the photographer encouraged players to smile, nobody's expression changed.

"I'm not over it," junior guard Chris Douglas-Roberts said. "It's obvious I'm not over it at all, but somehow I have to put it in the back and move forward."

The "it," of course, is last Saturday's 66-62 loss to the Tennessee Volunteers, who snatched the Tigers' No. 1 national ranking and ruined their undefeated season.

Though the fallout wasn't particularly damaging -- Memphis, after all, was still ranked No. 2 in Monday's Associated Press poll and No. 3 in the ESPN/USA Today poll -- the atmosphere at the Finch Center was unlike anything the Tigers have experienced in quite a while.

After losing a regular season game for the first time since Dec. 20, 2006, the Tigers were noticeably quiet but certainly businesslike in their approach. Afterward, Calipari said he was pleased with their effort under the circumstances and hopeful they would be in a more positive frame of mind heading into Wednesday's Conference USA game at FedExForum against always-pesky Tulsa.

"This is a hard game coming up," Calipari said. "I'm surprised I got what I got out of these guys (Monday) because you could tell, they're still (hurting). Hopefully this practice got them by some of that feeling. We haven't lost in so long, we don't even know how to react to losing. What are you supposed to do?"

Though the Tigers didn't want to learn how it felt to lose this season, especially to an in-state rival on such a public stage, Tennessee may have ultimately done them a favor. At least, that's what several colleagues told Calipari, including former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian, whose 1991 team lost in the national semifinals after entering the NCAA Tournament undefeated.

Only through the prism of a loss could the Tigers truly grasp what happens when they don't scrap for rebounds, when they don't run their offense and when they don't make intelligent decisions down the stretch.

In other words, if the Tigers had pulled another Houdini escape -- and really, they were one Robert Dozier putback away from a likely victory -- it would have been difficult for Calipari to convince his team that they did not play at a championship level.

"If Robert makes that shot and the fadeaway that (Tyler Smith) shoots doesn't go in and we win the game, I couldn't have talked to these guys," Calipari said. "The issues we're having with rebounding, the issues with intensity of play and scrappiness, the issues with execution, they wouldn't have listened to me. No way."

Where Calipari expects his players to use the loss as a learning experience was how they reacted to the pressure and hype of a game that was unlike anything they had been through before. The buildup, he said, was even more extreme than a Sweet 16 or Elite Eight game, where the national focus isn't quite as intense on one game as it was for a week leading up to the No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup against Tennessee.

Calipari said the hype may have "paralyzed" some players, and he saw the trouble right from the start. Just 10 seconds into the game, in fact, Smith got a step on Dozier and drew a foul. When his second free throw clanked off the back of the rim, the 6-9 Dozier failed to box out 6-foot-2 guard JuJuan Smith. Then, after Dozier blocked a follow-up shot, three Memphis players missed on securing the loose rebound. Eventually, the ball was kicked out to the corner, where Smith buried a 3-pointer and forced Calipari to use a quick timeout.

Still, the Vols got the majority of loose balls after that and had 19 offensive rebounds, indicating they were the more desperate team. Meanwhile, on offense, Memphis never got into second, third and fourth drives within its offense. Taking 20 shots from 3-point range in the first half was not part of the gameplan, but the Tigers had no motion away from the ball, and it became a one-pass-and-shoot offense.

"We know we got out-scrapped a little bit," junior guard Antonio Anderson said. "We got out-worked a little bit, out-hustled to balls, and coach told us it was going to come down to who scraps more, and they did it.

"It's tough. You win almost 50 (home) games in a row, and you don't know what losing feels like. That's just how it is. We're definitely not used to it, and it hurt us a little bit."

Reach Dan Wolken at 529-2365.

C-USA title not one Tigers want

C-USA title not one Tigers want
NCAA championship remains ultimate goal
By Jim Masilak
Friday, February 29, 2008

Winning conference titles doesn't mean what it used to at the University of Memphis.

When the Tigers beat Tulsa on Wednesday night at FedExForum, the fact that they also bagged at least part of another Conference USA regular-season championship elicited barely a mention.

"This is my first time really hearing about it," freshman point guard Derrick Rose said before practice Thursday at the Finch Center.

Is that because winning league titles has suddenly become old hat for the the No. 2-ranked Tigers (27-1 overall, 13-0 in C-USA), who can secure a third straight outright C-USA title by beating Southern Miss (15-12, 7-6) in Hattiesburg on Saturday? Or is it because they have their sights set on bigger and better things?

"That's probably the main reason," Rose said.

For a team with consecutive Elite Eight appearances on its résumé, reaching the Final Four is widely considered to be a minimum acceptable requirement for a team with Memphis' resources.

And that's just fine with the Tigers.

If you're not trying to win a national championship, junior guard Antonio Anderson said, "I don't know what you're playing for."

That Memphis will finish on top of a depleted C-USA is essentially taken for granted at the moment, even with the improvements at UAB and Houston. And that, in turn, is an indication of how both the Tigers' fortunes and their surroundings have changed in recent years.

Between 1986 and 2004, Memphis finished alone atop its conference standings on just one occasion. The Tigers' 1995 Great Midwest Conference title under Larry Finch was their last outright regular-season championship until John Calipari finally broke through in 2006. His initial C-USA success, however, came only after Cincinnati, Louisville and Marquette left for the supposedly greener fields of the Big East.

Calipari, of course, isn't about to apologize for beating up on C-USA these past three seasons. The Tigers' recent league success has served as a launching pad to a pair of deep NCAA Tournament runs, with a No. 1 seed in 2006 and a No. 2 seed a year ago.

Calipari says he has long held the view that "winning the (conference) tournaments, winning the conference -- that's all part of your path to getting the highest seed you can get" in the NCAA tournament.

While Calipari was greeted by a fan base starved for success when he arrived here in 2000, he says he never focused simply on winning league titles, which is perhaps one reason why the Tigers' latest success was greeted in such ho-hum fashion.

"The less you think about those things, the more you win them. I'm promising you, we've never thought about it," Calipari said. "When I was at UMass, they had never won a conference title in 97 years. We never talked about it and we won a bunch of them."

Anderson doesn't think the Tigers have either discounted the importance of their conference success or neglected to enjoy their various titles.

Their 42-1 record in regular-season C-USA games the past three seasons is a testament to their consistency, focus and overall supremacy.

"We got that the last two years and we'd love to have it again," he said of an outright league title, "but we still have to go out and play Saturday afternoon."

For players like Anderson, a league championship is simply one of the markers on the way to the NCAA Tournament, a goal to be reached before moving on to the next one.

"You take things as they come," Anderson said. "Conference championships come before national championships."

-- Jim Masilak: 529-2311

The future at Memphis

The future at Memphis

Derrick Rose seems to be perfect for the Memphis offensive attack of beating the guy in front of him and creating scoring opportunities for himself and others. With Tyreke Evans still in the recruiting mix, this seems to be his style of play to a "T." Who is better suited in the Memphis offensive scheme, and do you think Derrick and Tyreke could play together if Derrick stays one more year?

-- Mark from Dayton

Will Derrick Rose be around for another season?
Both players are well-suited for the offense because they thrive at taking their man off the dribble, can make tough shots on the move and have the ability to find the open man off the dribble. As the point guard, however, I give the edge to Rose because of his quickness and speed and ability to do more with fewer dribbles. Evans tends to do a lot of dribbling while sizing up his man. He then relies too much on the fade-away, long-range jumper for my taste – especially for a point guard. If he were to go to Memphis and run the point there, he will have to streamline his game. He'll need to make quicker bursts to the basket and make quicker passes.

Although his game is suited for Memphis – and is suited for any system as an elite prospect - Evans comes to mind when I watch D.J. Augustin play for Texas. There is a system where the point guard can dribble out a whole possession if need be. Texas' attack is based primarily on utilizing the high ball screen and having the point guard either take the shot or make the assist pass. This is the manner in which Evans has always played with his high school and travel teams.

And yes, Rose and Evans could easily play together. They guard different positions and are talented enough and smart enough to coexist. But I'm not sure how Rose is going to turn down being a top five-pick in the NBA draft.