Search This Blog

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Great Commentary - Understanding Memphis

A Compelling On Tiger Basketball


(Note From George Lapides: It's my understanding that Mr. Ayyagari is a l998 graduate of MUS and that he also went to Harvard and then to the University of Pennsylvania and that he doesn't live in Memphis anymore. But the following essay he wrote about U of Memphis basketball is quite remarkable).

You may notice that Memphis Tigers fans take their basketball a little too seriously. But if you understood the relationship between the city and that team, you wouldn't be surprised. Many people dismissed Coach Calipari's underdog talk as a motivational gimmick this year, and to some extent it was. But Cal is above all things perceptive, and he knew how to seize the heart of a city with his words.

There are only two blues that matter in Memphis: the kind you play on a guitar, and Tiger blue. If you're born and raised in Memphis, and you have no other allegiances, you root for Tiger basketball; that's just the way it is. Imagine if most Carolina grads stayed in and around Chapel Hill, or most Kansas grads settled near Lawrence. Memphis is a small college town of a half million people, most of whom are from around there, most of whom will stay nearby. A great portion of the city is run by people who graduated from Memphis. A lot of us leave after high school and never return. But most carry the spirit of a city that has for many decades searched in vain for healing, and validation.

Memphis is in a lot of ways a crucible for this nation's deepest scars. We just observed the 40th anniversary of Dr. King's assassination. We still have cotton exchanges on Front Street. We have a riverfront park named after the founder of the KKK. We have square mile upon square mile of devastated ghetto, both north and south of a downtown that has been "redeveloped" or "gentrified," depending on who you ask. We are about as perfect an example of the patterns of white flight as you could hope for. We have a public school system in serious crisis. We're always near the top of the nation in the murder rate. We are a city derided in the region for being too black and too violent. We are in a region derided by the country for being too racist, too dumb, and too poor.

The racial divisions alone have plagued everything about our city's politics, and psyche. It is a city where black and white work side by side, in the same offices, in the same jobs, and yet live in different worlds when they leave. And over everything hang the ghosts of 1968 riots, of bitterness over the corrupt administration of the current black mayor, the first one ever elected in Memphis.

So if it seems that we turn almost obsessively to something that brings the city together, I don't think we should be blamed. Memphis is a basketball town in the football-mad South, always will be. Everyone can talk Tiger hoops, because everyone's been talking Tiger hoops for so long. The 1973 championship game run came only 5 years after King's assassination. The team featured local black high school legends, and the city rallied to them. Same with 1985 Final Four run by a team from a city driven as much as any other by crack and its violence. Tigers have always been Memphis kids, from the ghetto, from the suburbs, from white Memphis and black Memphis. Sure the campus is as divided in some ways as the city, but it is at least a concentrate of the community united by the Tigers.

We don't recruit locally anymore, but that spirit that the Tigers are Memphis kids still remains strong. So in 2008 we have a team with a hulking 24-year-old senior from the worst of West Baltimore; a junior All-American from the Detroit playgrounds; a freshman prodigy from Chicago's South Side. And each time these black kids from the roughest neighborhoods come back from a road trip, or sets out on one, they get hugs from little old blue-haired white women decked out in Tiger blue; these same women grew up in segregation and probably supported it. Maybe their parents hurled epithets at the Little Rock Nine. Maybe they cowered in fear at the rioting in '68. Maybe today they clutch their purses a little when they see a black teen. But in those send-offs and greetings, they find in those kids only people whose success they pray for. At least in those moments when the Tigers are playing, the richest white suburbanite in Germantown and Cordova can have the same passion, directed to the same place, as the teenager from Orange Mound. What's more, they can see that same passion in each other.

So when we hear the slights directed at the Tiger team--too many tattoos, too undisciplined--we hear echoes of the slights against the city--too small compared to the big cities, too "urban" for rural whites, too much crime, too much racism. And in defending the Tigers against fans and the media, maybe we're striving to defend where we're from too.

Memphis needed that title last night, because we needed something untainted, simple, proud. Our jewel of a Civil Rights Museum arose from the blood of Dr. King. A basketball title is one thing that would lift the hearts of Memphians of all colors. And if basketball can make black Memphis and white Memphis, rich Memphis and poor Memphis, stand next to each other and cheer for a week or two, talk a little hoops at work, and after, then that's worth more than another banner at UCLA, another great year at Carolina, another title at Kansas. I don't pretend that individual fans root for Memphis out of some great need for reconciliation, racial or otherwise. The motives are as varied as the people who have them. What is important is that there is something simple for all of them to get behind and agree on.

Carolina, Kansas, and UCLA are to college basketball what New York, Chicago, and LA are to U.S. cities. They are a cut above, entrenched, and never in danger of being replaced or surpassed. Another skyscraper in New York doesn't mean much; the same one would transform the Memphis skyline. Similarly, a Tiger title would have done some real good in a city that yearned for it. We all know those programs and those cities will keep on getting their accolades, their chances, their titles, and probably soon, probably next year for at least one of them. They have their storied past: Dean Smith, Michael Jordan, James Naismith, Phog Allen, John Wooden, Bill Walton, Lew Alcindor. They have their 17 odd titles between them. It could happen again for Memphis next year, but it's just as likely it may take another 25 years to get to a Final Four. These are rare chances. We needed this, because we don't know when we'll be back. We don't know when we'll be able to get together again like this.

So if it seems like Tiger fans care a little too much, it's because, well, we do.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Fox's Jeff Goodman - Early entries: Ins, outs, mistakes and surprises

Early entries: Ins, outs, mistakes and surprises
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.
Updated: April 28, 2008, 9:12 AM EST

The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the June 26 NBA Draft came and went today.

We'll give you the rundown of who has declared, who has signed with an agent and who hasn't -- and who are making the right and wrong decisions.

Since a new rule that allows NBA teams to pay for workouts and travel was instituted this year, there has been a dramatic rise in the amount of underclassmen who have declared. By our count, it's at 53 so far this year while there were 32 a year ago.

The official list will be released by the NBA later this week.

In for good — right move

Jerryd Bayless, 6-3, 190, G, Fr., Arizona — He's a consensus Top 10 pick, and one of the reasons he didn't return to school was because he wanted to play the point — and the Wildcats have freshman-to-be Brandon Jennings coming in. Bayless is a big-time scorer and can get to the basket and also make shots from deep.

Michael Beasley, 6-9, 230, F, Fr., Kansas State — The skilled freshman would have won every National Player of the Year honor if not for Tyler Hansbrough. Beasley will either be picked first or second in the NBA Draft and had little left to prove at the collegiate level.

Chris Douglas-Roberts, 6-6, 200, SG, Jr., Memphis — His stock will never be higher than it is right now. His perimeter shot has improved dramatically, and his unorthodox game is difficult for defenders to contain. Will likely go in the middle or late first round.

Eric Gordon, 6-4, 215, SG, Fr., Indiana — E.J. is a lock for the lottery and will likely be taken in the top half-dozen picks because of his scoring ability. He may have struggled down the stretch, but he's still arguably the top scoring guard in the draft.

Brook Lopez, 7-0, 260, PF/C, Soph., Stanford — He's a clear-cut lottery pick and may go in the top five, so it's difficult to question the decision. He can score inside and out and has plenty of that word that NBA types love: potential.

Kevin Love, 6-9, 260, C, Fr., UCLA — The skilled big man had a terrific season with the Bruins, and while his stock could rise with another year in college, he'll still be a lottery pick. He scores in the post, is effective on the glass and is also a terrific passer.

O.J. Mayo, 6-4, 195, G, Fr., USC — This one was determined well before he ever arrived on the USC campus. His game may translate better to the pros and his stock certainly rose the second half of his freshman campaign when he started to play a more team-oriented game.

Anthony Randolph, 6-11, 220, PF, Fr., LSU — NBA folks know all about this long and lanky freshman — and his upside. He'll likely go in the lottery because of his potential. Runs the court extremely well, rebounds and blocks shots.

Derrick Rose, 6-3, 190, PG, Fr., Memphis — In all likelihood, the freshman floor leader will be taken No. 1 or No. 2. He has an incredible blend of quickness and athleticism, but still needs to improve his passing ability from a consistency standpoint.

Brandon Rush, 6-6, 210, SF, Jr., Kansas — The Jayhawks' athletic wing wasn't even supposed to be in college. He wound up staying for three years. After a national title, his stock should be secure as a mid-to-late first-round pick. He's athletic and has drastically improved his perimeter shot since arriving at Kansas.

In for good — mistake

Keith Brumbaugh, 6-9, 208, F, Soph., Hillsborough Community College — Extremely talented forward from Florida who has bounced around. The question isn't his on-court abilities, it's the off-court issues. Brumbaugh could benefit from proving himself — even one year playing in college.

Derrick Caracter, 6-8, 285, PF, Soph., Louisville — The mistake isn't so much that Caracter would improve on the court in the next two years, but that he would get his degree. He's as maligned for his work ethic as anyone in the draft.

Donte Greene, 6-10, 225, PF, Fr., Syracuse — He's extremely talented and will likely go in the top half of the first round, but could use another year to get stronger and improve his ability to put the ball on the floor.

Davon Jefferson, 6-8, 220, SF, Fr., USC — I knew not to believe Jefferson that he was coming back. The explosive athlete is signing with an agent, but is extremely raw and should have returned to school.

Robin Lopez, 7-0, 250, C, Soph., Stanford — There were plenty of times when he played better when his brother, Brook, was on the sidelines. He would certainly get a chance to get more touches on the offensive end. Robin is a presence on the defensive end with his rebounding and shot-blocking ability.

JaVale McGee, 7-0, 240, C, Soph., Nevada — He's extremely talented, but could use another year in the college ranks. He could go anywhere from the late lottery to the end of the first round depending on his workouts.

Just testing — stay in

D.J. Augustin, 6-0, 180, PG, Soph., Texas — Besides Derrick Rose, Augustin is likely the No. 2 pure point guard in the draft. He'll have the exact same questions regarding his game a year from now (mainly, his athleticism), and he'll be taken anywhere from the late lottery to the latter portion of the first round. He's already said it's highly unlikely he'll return to college.

C.J. Giles, 6-10, 235, PF/C, Jr., Oregon State — Was run out of Kansas and then kicked out of Oregon State, but the Seattle native has plenty of athleticism and ability. However, too many questions surrounding work ethic and character will hinder his chances of being drafted in the first round — maybe at all. He's got nowhere left to go, anyway.

Jamont Gordon, 6-4, 230, G, Jr., Mississippi State — There's a slim chance he returns to school, but the strong and versatile Bulldogs guard is fairly dead-set on the fact he's not going back to Starkville. He is what he is — and could be a late first-rounder.

Lester Hudson, 6-3, 190, G, Jr., Tennessee-Martin — He's turning 24 in August and is coming off a terrific season in which he proved he can score in a variety of ways. If he can get a guarantee in the first round, the athletic Memphis native should remain in the draft.

J.J. Hickson, 6-10, 240, C, Fr., N.C. State — The deal going into college was a one-and-done anyway. He's talented, but he didn't exactly help the chemistry of Sidney Lowe's club.

Ty Lawson, 5-11, 195, PG, Soph., North Carolina — This was a difficult decision for me, but I'm not sure Lawson will improve the one area that needs work — his perimeter shot. Lawson, who has tremendous speed and quickness, will battle with D.J. Augustin for the second "true" point guard on the board if he stays in the draft.

Russell Westbrook, 6-3, 190, G, Soph., UCLA — The athletic guard's stock won't get much higher than it is right now.

Just testing — needs to return
A.J. Abrams, 5-11, 155, SG, Jr., Texas — Since D.J. Augustin is virtually a certainly to stay in the draft, Abrams might be able to play some point guard next season because there's no market in the NBA for a 5-foot-11 shooting guard — even if he is a terrific long-range shooter.

Josh Akognon, 5-11, 185, PG, Jr., Cal State Fullerton — See A.J. Abrams.

Joe Alexander, 6-9, 210, SF, Jr., West Virginia — This was a difficult one because Alexander's stock is high, but he could really help himself with another year in college, and also the fact that next year's draft will be much weaker. He's probably a mid-first rounder right now.

Antonio Anderson, 6-5, 210, SG, Jr., Memphis — The strong and athletic wing is just testing the waters to go through the process, and he'll be back in school next year with an expanded offensive role now that CDR and Derrick Rose are gone.

Ryan Anderson, 6-10, 220, F, Soph., California — Was a standout in the Pac-10, but his team didn't even go to the NCAA tournament. Now Anderson, who can score in a variety of ways, could get the chance to be coached by ex-NBA head man Mike Montgomery.

Darrell Arthur, 6-9, 225, F, Soph., Kansas — Showed flashes of dominance this past season, but he'd have a chance to be the go-to guy and establish more consistency. He'd likely be a mid first-rounder if he goes this year, but could become a high lottery pick with a strong junior campaign.

Chase Budinger, 6-7, 210, SF, Soph., Arizona — His stock will never be lower than it is right now. Lute Olson's up-tempo offense next season will help raise the athletic forward's stock back where it was as a freshman — in the lottery.

DeMarre Carroll, 6-8, 225, F, Jr., Missouri — He's got an NBA body, but he's not ready and needs to work on his perimeter game. By all accounts, he'll be back at Mizzou next year.

Josh Carter, 6-7, 195, SG, Jr., Texas A&M — Quality perimeter shooter, but Carter needs to expand his game and is purely testing the waters.

Mario Chalmers, 6-1, 190, G, Jr., Kansas — Sure, he hit the biggest shot of the year, but Chalmers will have an expanded offensive role next season and could get a chance to see some extensive time with the ball in his hands. Probably a second-round pick who could work himself into a late first-rounder.

Lee Cummard, 6-7, 185, SF, Jr., BYU — Versatile and long, but still a year away from getting into the equation as a first-round guy. Just testing the waters, though, and should be back in college next season.

Robert Dozier, 6-9, 215, F, Jr., Memphis — He's got a high skill level and has improved his intensity, but his numbers have been modest. That could improve next season with the loss of CDR, Derrick Rose and Joey Dorsey. He's just taking advantage of the process. In all likelihood, a second-rounder at this point in time.

Wayne Ellington, 6-4, 200, SG, Soph., North Carolina — The smooth shooting guard can really shoot the ball from the perimeter, but he'll need to improve his ability to put the ball on the floor. Right now he's likely a fringe first-rounder.

Danny Green, 6-5, 210, SG, Jr., North Carolina — It's just downright embarrassing when Danny Green declares and Tyler Hansbrough doesn't even go through the process. Green is a good, solid college player, but doesn't have the athleticism to be in the equation right now as a first-rounder.

Richard Hendrix, 6-9, 255, PF, Jr., Alabama — Hendrix is what he is and his draft status probably won't change much — except for the fact that next season's crop of players won't compare to this year's. Hendrix is a low-post guy who isn't overly athletic.

Shawn James, 6-9, 225, PF, Jr., Duquesne — Big-time athlete and shot-blocker, but needs to return to school for another season.

DeAndre Jordan, 7-0, 250, C, Fr., Texas A&M — All about potential. His numbers were just OK and he needs another year of physical and emotional maturity. But he's long and athletic and would probably be a mid first-rounder if he stays in. However, he won't do anything until his second contract.

Kosta Koufos, 7-0, 260, PF, Fr., Ohio State — The skilled big man had a solid campaign, but he'd be best served to spend another season in college and get stronger. He's likely a mid-to-late first-round pick this year who could make his way into the lottery if he returned.

Leo Lyons, 6-9, 240, F, Jr., Missouri — He's long, athletic and versatile — but not quite ready to make the jump. Not unless he is content being a second-round pick.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, 6-8, 230, F, Jr., UCLA — He's versatile and can defend, but his stock has actually fallen over the last two years. The Cameroon native would be better served with one more season in college — especially with the departure of Kevin Love.

Jerel McNeal, 6-3, 200, SG, Jr., Marquette — Great defensive-minded guard who could have a place in the NBA because of his effectiveness on that end of the floor. But needs to return, and almost certainly will come back for his senior campaign.

Jeremy Pargo, 6-2, 205, PG, Jr., Gonzaga — Extremely underated floor leader who is strong, athletic and can score. However, he could use one more season in college because of the plethora of guards in this draft. He's certainly not a guy who's any guarantee in the first round right now.

Trent Plaisted, 6-11, 245, C, Jr., BYU — Played well early in the season, but will need to improve his athleticism. He's got good size, but he's not a lock to go in the first round by any means.

John Riek, 7-2, 250, C, Winchendon School, Sudan — The native of Sudan struggled through a knee injury at Winchendon this past season. He's eligible for the draft because he graduated from high school back in Egypt, but could use another year to get healthy.

Josh Shipp, 6-5, 215, SG, Jr., UCLA &151; A second-round pick who wants to give the process a try. It'd be surprising if he wasn't back at UCLA for his final go-around.

Marreese Speights, 6-10, 245, C, Soph., Florida — Had a solid year and is able to score in the low post, but still needs another season of playing full-time to learn to play hard each and every possession.

Ronald Steele, 6-1, 191, G, Sr., Alabama — After missing the entire season to recover from knee injuries, it's a no-brainer for the Crimson Tide floor leader to return. He's fallen off the NBA's radar after being considered an elite point guard two years ago.

Robert Vaden, 6-5, 225, SG, Jr., UAB — He can really shoot the ball from the perimeter, but is a likely second-rounder who needs to expand his game and his explosiveness with another year of college ball.

Lorrenzo Wade, 6-6, 225, SF, Jr., San Diego State — Had a solid season at San Diego State and has considerable talent, but the Las Vegas native needs to return for his senior year.

Bill Walker, 6-6, 230, F, Fr., Kansas State — He's a big-time athlete who struggled early this season due to a thumb injury. While his perimeter shot has certainly improved, he could still use one more season in college to show NBA folks he's completely healthy.

Earl Clark, 6-9, 200, SF, Soph., Louisville — Clark was initially going to test the waters, but he changed his mind — and it's a smart move. With an improved jump shot and added strength, the long and versatile sophomore could crack the lottery next year.

Darren Collison, 6-0, 160, PG, Jr., UCLA — Intriguing decision. Obviously finished the season with a dud in the Final Four and battled injuries throughout the early part of the season. However, it'll be interesting to see how his role develops next year with an influx of talented freshmen guards at UCLA.

Stephen Curry, 6-2, 185, G, Soph., Davidson — His stock is extremely high, but he will be well served from another year in school to gain strength and experience running the team.

Taj Gibson, 6-9, 225, C, Soph., USC — Long and athletic, the New York native didn't put together the kind of year he'd hoped. He'll come back and get more touches in the post.

Blake Griffin, 6-10, 245, PF, Fr., Oklahoma — This was a somewhat surprising because most NBA executives have said that the Sooners freshman power forward would be a Top 10 pick. However, Griffin will have a chance to go in the top couple of picks a year from now.

Tyler Hansbrough, 6-9, 250, PF, Jr., North Carolina — It's incredible that the relentless big man didn't even test the NBA waters, but he's a different kid. He's also the National Player of the Year and while many question his NBA potential, he'd still have been a lock for the first round.

James Harden, 6-4, 215, SG, Fr., Arizona State — If Harden makes a significant jump between his freshman and sophomore campaign, there's no reason to think he can't be a Top 5 pick next year. He's a big-time scorer who can put points on the board in a variety of ways.

Eric Maynor, 6-2, 175, PG, Jr., VCU — With all the point guards that are expected to be in this year's draft, the VCU floor leader made the right move in returning for his senior campaign. He would have been a second-round pick in the estimation of most NBA execs.

Scottie Reynolds, 6-2, 190, G, Soph., Villanova — Had a solid season, but wasn't in the first-round mix and still needs to show he can consistently run a team.

K.C. Rivers, 6-6, 200, SG, Jr., Clemson — Great shooter, but needs to develop a more well-rounded game and another year with the Tigers will help.

Tyrese Rice, 6-0, 185, PG, Jr., Boston College — The scoring point guard wants to go out as a winner — and also wants to prove he can run a team. He has a chance to get into the first round with a strong senior campaign.

Tyler Smith, 6-7, 220, SF, Soph., Tennessee — The athletic Vols forward made a smart decision and needs another season to work on his perimeter shot.

Hasheem Thabeet, 7-3, 260, C, Soph., UConn &151; The defensive presence would have been a first-round pick for certain due to his size and shot-blocking ability, but he'll have an opportunity to be a lottery selection with a strong junior campaign.

Terrence Williams, 6-6, 210, SG, Jr., Louisville — Smart move for T-Will, who realized that next year's draft is far weaker because of a lackluster freshman class coming in.

Sam Young, 6-6, 215, F, Jr., Pittsburgh — Put up impressive numbers, but he's undersized and still wasn't a definite first-round pick. However, the Panthers could go far next season — which could help solidify his stock.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

News and Notes From Dan Wolken

News and Notes on a Rainy Sunday
Posted by Dan Wolken

John Calipari’s new contract, as we wrote about yesterday, is a significant development in every way. Though it’s never wise to get into absolute predictions with regard to coaching tenures, the sheer numbers involved in this deal — essentially, he’ll make $3.35 million per year — will make it very difficult for Calipari to leave Memphis any time soon. Simply put, he’s now priced himself out of all but a few jobs. It would take one of those mega-blockbuster contracts — probably from an NBA team — to pull him away.

Even at that, let’s just say an NBA team next week offered Calipari a contract worth $5 million per year. How much of the total contract would be guaranteed if he got fired after three years? He’s got $16.75 million guaranteed if he stays at Memphis for five years, and really, it’s even more than that because the deal will pretty much roll over every year. Plus, he lives in a state with no income tax, and from what I understand, the annuity part of his deal is also an advantageous tax situation.

And, of course, the other part of that hypothetical situation is that an NBA owner would have to be willing to spend that kind of money on Calipari, which is probably less likely given the track record of college coaches in the NBA.

The significance of this deal cannot be overstated. When you’re paying your college basketball coach this amount of money — and only Billy Donovan, Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams are in the same pay grade — it’s an amazing commitment by the school and especially the boosters. I had heard rumblings before the NCAA Tournament that R.C. Johnson was meeting with boosters to look at ways to sweeten Calipari’s deal, and obviously they came up big in a major way.

And I don’t think anybody could make a serious case that it’s not money well spent. There is no coach in the country who means more to his program than Calipari. At the same time, Memphis has been very good to Calipari, and not just financially. He’s been able to establish a brand here; for potential recruits and fans on a national scale, “Memphis basketball” has certain connotations that are beneficial to him both as a coach and a personality. Calipari is also in a situation where he can win big if he’s able to recruit — and all indications, at this point, are that recruiting is not being hurt at all by being in Conference USA. If Calipari stays at Memphis for 10 more years, he walks into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Other notes:

– They re-finished the floor at the Finch Center, and it looks amazing. The new floor also includes the new college 3-point line, which will be an interesting development to keep an eye on.

– After talking briefly with Wesley Witherspoon and his mother yesterday at the Finch Center, I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t commit to Memphis this week. Shocked.

– Departure date for China is set for May 26 with a return for June 2 or 3rd. The problem is, how many players will Calipari be able to take? Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Joey Dorsey are no-gos. The incoming recruits can’t go. Memphis may actually end up bringing along a few players from other C-USA teams to fill out the roster for the three exhibition games against the Chinese national team.

– Nothing official yet, but Andy Allison and Shyrone Chatman are pretty much set to go to UMass with Derek Kellogg. Memphis is basically operating right now with a three-man staff in John Calipari, John Robic and Rod Strickland. With Calipari and Strickland hosting Witherspoon’s on-campus visit, the Tigers only had one representative out on the road this weekend. Robic went to Akron to see the King James AAU Tournament.

– There has been a lot of chatter on Internet message boards about the status of Hashim Bailey, who was injured fairly early in the season and did not play at all after that. Just informed speculation here, but I don’t expect Bailey to be on the roster next year. There was a reference on Zagsblog this week to Bailey possibly transferring to Marist or UMass. I’d say the odds of something like that are pretty good, though I’m not sure Bailey is good enough to play for UMass.

– Nothing is really happening yet on the Tigers’ schedule for next season, but Calipari would LOVE to put together a Kansas-Memphis rematch of the national championship game as the big opener to the college basketball season. Put it on ESPN and give the sport a made-for-TV event to start the season. How about Saturday, Nov. 8 in St. Louis as a lead-in to Alabama at LSU, which certainly will be the College GameNight broadcast? I could also see a potential Memphis-Louisville game in New York, as it seems Rick Pitino would actually be agreeable to that. I highly doubt Memphis will be in any sort of holiday tournament next season, but a Louisville or Kansas game would be a great addition to an already very difficult non-conference schedule.

– Memphis won’t have anybody coming into FedExForum next season as good as Tennessee or Georgetown, but Ohio State and Syracuse could/should both be top 25 teams. And don’t forget about Cincinnati. The Bearcats’ returning roster stacks up very well, and I wouldn’t be shocked at all if they’re a top-25 team heading into Memphis next season.

Wesley Witherspoon Visits Memphis, Will Make College Choice May 1st

Tigers make their case to Witherspoon
Standout forward would bring multiple skills to reloading U of M
By Dan Wolken
Saturday, April 26, 2008

When Wesley Witherspoon hears the University of Memphis' recruiting pitch this weekend, it won't be an entirely new experience.

In fact, the versatile 6-8 wing from Lilburn, Ga., already got the full-court press just a few days ago -- from none other than future Memphis guard Tyreke Evans during last Saturday's Jordan Brand Classic all-star game in New York.

"I felt like he was an assistant coach up there," Witherspoon said. "Every time I saw him, we talked about the Tigers."

If landing Evans was Step 1 in the Tigers' roster makeover this spring, Witherspoon would be a significant Step 2.

In Evans, Memphis secured the high-scoring guard it will need to get back in national championship contention next season. In Witherspoon, the Tigers would add a multi-skilled player who can defend four positions and even play point guard. Witherspoon compared his style to that of Detroit Pistons small forward Tayshaun Prince and said he could easily envision himself playing alongside Evans.

"I can score, but that's not what I do," Witherspoon said. "I think that would be a good combo, a nice 1-2 punch. I know he'll get the ball in the basket, and I know I would be able to get it to him."

Though Witherspoon talked hypothetically about playing for the Tigers, he said he is still undecided among Memphis, Texas and Virginia. Witherspoon has scheduled Thursday to announce his college choice, which will cause plenty of ripples in college basketball given that he was ranked No. 34 nationally by in its most recent evaluation of this recruiting class.

Witherspoon is one of just four undecided players ranked in the top 50; Memphis is recruiting two of the other three in forward Devin Ebanks (No. 11) and forward Rashanti Harris (No. 41), though Harris will likely go to prep school next year.

Witherspoon would be the third top-50 player in this Memphis recruiting class, joining Evans (No. 6) and forward Angel Garcia (No. 47). The Tigers have also signed forward Matt Simpkins (No. 80).

Though he can't talk specifically about recruits who have not signed, coach John Calipari has been touting his class as potentially the nation's best. The understanding in that prediction, however, is that Witherspoon would be a part of it.

That's why Tiger basketball recruiting has been perhaps the biggest local sports topic in recent days -- a fact that Witherspoon apparently hadn't considered, as he was taken aback Friday afternoon when reporters were waiting at the airport to interview him.

"This has never happened before, seeing all these cameras," Witherspoon said. "You see this kind of stuff on TV and laugh about it at home. It's crazy. I would have put on my suit if I had known."

Memphis fans, however, won't care much about Witherspoon's attire as long as he can play. To that end, Witherspoon seems to be a good fit in the Tigers' dribble-drive motion offense.

Because Witherspoon was just 6-4 at the beginning of his sophomore year, he was never pigeonholed as a post player. Instead, he was able to work on his ballhandling, giving him the ability to play various positions in the backcourt.

With the Tigers losing Chris Douglas-Roberts and possibly Antonio Anderson, who put his name in the NBA draft this week to test the waters, Witherspoon would be a potential replacement.

He has the length and athleticism to produce the perimeter mismatches that were a trademark of Memphis' run to the NCAA championship game.

Witherspoon said he wasn't too concerned about which of Memphis' underclassmen would be back next year. Anderson and junior forward Robert Dozier -- who is also from Lilburn, Ga. -- will likely return to Memphis if they are not first-round draft picks.

"Playing time isn't really a factor for me because I know if I do what I have to do, I'll play wherever I go," Witherspoon said. "Really, it's where I fit in the best. Me and my mom will sit down and talk about it when I get home."

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

Meet Wesley Witherspoon

Size: 6-8, 185

Position: Forward

Hometown: Lilburn, Ga.

Class of 2008 rankings: -- No. 5 small forward, No. 34 overall; -- No. 12 small forward, No. 56 overall

Considering: Memphis, Colorado, Texas, Virginia

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Calipari signs on through 2012-13

Calipari signs on through 2012-13

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Memphis coach John Calipari signed a contract extension through the 2012-13 season that includes an annual raise of $500,000 and a $5 million bonus if he stays through the end of the contract.

Calipari's new contract will pay him $2.35 million per year.

Calipari took the Tigers to the national championship game this year, the program's first Final Four since 1985 and first NCAA final since 1973. Memphis lost 75-68 in overtime to Kansas.

Calipari said the offer was made a month ago, but recruiting and other duties kept him too busy to sign the deal. He said other schools used that against him by implying he was still looking at other jobs.

"What this contract has done is wiped out 99 percent of that stuff, and I told them that I appreciate that. It's not only the base salary, but it's also the longevity bonus which wipes out the others. There are no other places. This is the place," Calipari said Saturday at a news conference.

The Tigers had an NCAA Division I record 38 wins this season and captured their third straight Conference USA regular season and tournament titles. Calipari won his second Naismith National Coach of the Year award, joining Mike Krzyzewski of Duke as the only coaches to win more than once.

His Tigers are 104-10 over the past three seasons, tied for most victories in a three-year stretch in NCAA Division I history.

Calipari will have to virtually start from scratch next season. All five of the starters from this year's team are testing themselves in the NBA draft, and Calipari is confident freshman point guard Derrick Rose, junior All-American Chris Douglas-Roberts and senior Joey Dorsey should hear their names called.

"One of them may be the top pick the draft, another may be in the top 15 and the other may be taken in the 20s. If you look at our staff, they all got jobs. So from all of this we all have benefited," Calipari said.

Athletic director R.C. Johnson said he was excited to get the deal signed, and acknowledged there were some nervous moments the last few weeks.

"You always worry about everyone in your department. Obviously, John is a much higher profile coach or else you all wouldn't be here today," Johnson said. "We had a great year in Tiger athletics, and we have a great staff so you always worry about trying to get everyone back. When you have success, people tend to move on and get offers."

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

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Comments From Draft Express on Tyreke Evans, Devin Ebanks and Wesley Witherspoon at the Jordan Brand Classic

Jordan Brand Classic Scrimmage (Day Two)
by: Jonathan Givony - President, Joseph Treutlein - Assistant Director of Scouting

Wesley Witherspoon did much of the same, playing strong defense, taking the ball coast to coast nicely on another occasion, looking smart and athletic and probably much better than the recruiting services are giving him credit for. He is ranked as the 56th best prospect in his class by both Scout and Rivals, and #72 by ESPN, but has a bigger upside than a lot of guys slotted ahead of him. The main thing he needs to work on from what we could tell is his jump-shot—he shoots the ball on the way down and generally has questionable mechanics. He was getting the full-court press from Worldwide Wes (probably recruiting for Memphis) at the end of the game, and also mentioned to us yesterday that recent Memphis signee Tyreke Evans has also had some words of advice for him.

On the Red/White Team, Tyreke Evans was the story once again, as he continues to show just how talented and versatile a player he is, and how his game is absolutely tailor made for the Memphis system. He ran the point for his team once again when he was on the floor, driving and dishing, setting up teammates, and showing his ability to penetrate to the basket, change directions, and move the ball from one hand to another while in mid air, making him an exceptional finish at the rim. He also hit one pull-up three-pointer, with his strange but effective mechanics, though he didn’t hit on his other attempts from deep.

Devin Ebanks played a much more controlled game here today, not relying too much on his developing ball-handling and generally taking high efficiency shots, helping his team in multiple ways, slashing to the basket, finishing with both hands, getting out in transition, and hitting two very nice three-pointers, both pull-ups, with one coming on a stepback. His shot looks a lot smoother when he has the operating room and isn’t pulling up off a fancy, unnecessary crossover, and it was nice to see him make that adjustment here today. He wasn’t as noticeable over the course of the game, not being his team’s center of attention, but he still had at least 14 points, near tops in the game, while not forcing the issue at all, possibly not even missing a shot by our charting. Wherever he decides to go, he should have an immediate impact, and in a very good way if he plays the way he did here.

Memphis Life in the Headlines; Head Coach Training Ground, The Draft and More

Man, I am amazed at what I have seen on the internet the past two weeks. Everyday Memphis seems to land in the news. Talk about exposure.

Rose Declares for the NBA Draft
Calipari Comes to Terms With the University on a Contract Extension
Tyreke Evans to Announce Between Memphis and Villanova
Marist Hires Memphis Assistant Coach Chuck Martin
Tyreke Evans Announces Intention to Attend Memphis, Won't Sign LOI Yet
Chris Douglas-Roberts Declares for NBA Draft
UMass Hires Former Player and Tiger Assistant Derek Kellogg
Juniors Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier to Test NBA Waters Without Hiring Agents

So, what now?

Can Memphis land Top 50 recruits Devin Ebanks and Wesley Witherspoon?
What Assistant Coaches Will Memphis Hire?
Will Cal Bring Back Former Tiger Players? Root, Chapman?
Will Anderson and Dozier Learn They Are Not 1st Round Material (Yet)?


Four Former Cal Assistants From Memphis Will Now Be D1 Coaches

Steve Roccaforte - Lamar
Tony Barbee - UTEP
Chuck Martin - Marist
Derek Kellogg - UMass

The Draft

For anyone out there who thinks its a disaster to see Anderson and Dozier declare for the draft doesn't understand simple economics and the ways of the world. Both guys will get to travel to NBA workouts on the NBA's dime, learn the process, experience what it takes and then learn from the horse's mouth that they need to return for their senior seasons and perhaps be first rounders this time next year.

In other words, unless they are stupid (i.e. Darius Washington, Jr.) they will be back next year.

Monday, April 14, 2008

From - Interview With Tyreke Evans From Saturday Night

From - Interview With Tyreke Evans From Saturday Night

Last but not least, I spoke with Tyreke Evans who seemd bored and hungry but was very nice. Despite a relative no-show performance on Saturday, I stand by my statement that Evans as the top player in the class. He commented that nobody on Team USA gave him any problems in practice, that he was told to be the team's leader by Coach Douglas Mitchell, and that he patterns his game after Gilbert Arenas and Brandon Roy (!). He said he has seen the Blazers play a few times and that Roy, Aldridge and Jack impress him with their energy.

When the topic of next year came up, Evans for some unknown reason decided not to release his commitment choice as a exclusive, but did say his list was down to "Villanova, Memphis and..................[long pause as he tried to remember who the third school was]...... Texas." He said, with a smile, that nothing that happened during the tournament changed his mind. He also said he was looking for a guard-heavy offense that would get up and down the court but would feature some pro-style half-court sets so that he can continue his development. His commitment is coming April 16. Sounds like Memphis to me, but you never know.

NY Daily News' Dick Weiss - Says Tyreke Will Announce Memphis on Wednesday, but No LOI to Protect Against Cal Going to NBA

April 14, 2008
Jarvis may be on rebound

Rex Walters is apparently leaving Florida Atlantic for the San Francisco coaching job. If that happens, we hope this will open the door for former St. John’s coach Mike Jarvis, who lives in Boca, to get back in the business.

Names we hear: Karl Hobbs of GW and Kevin Willard of Iona are both in the mix for Providence; Tim O’Shea of Ohio U. is an intriguing candidate at Brown. We personally hope Willard — who is a rising star in this business - stays at his current address for more than a year. Hope he remembers Iona gave him his shot and he has recruited very well for the future. His time will come.

Forward Taylor King, a 6-8 freshman who has received his release from Duke, is expected to resurface at Villanova.

Tyreke Evans of American Christian will announce his decision on Wednesday. We’re expecting him to commit to Memphis, but not sign a letter of intent just to make sure John Calipari doesn’t wander off to the NBA. The 6-6 Evans is a McDonald’s All-American and 11 points and 8 rebounds for the U.S. team in 20-point win over the Internationals at the Nike Summit in Portland. He could easily become the next Chris Douglas-Roberts in Calipari’s highly effective dribble drive offense.

We had no idea Danny Hurley of St. Benedict’s was involved in the Marist job before he withdrew. Pitt assistant Tom Herrion and Memphis assistant Chuckie Martin are viable candidates for that MAAC job.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Q & A with John Calipari: 'We're going to get back'

Q & A with John Calipari: 'We're going to get back'
Past is past and Calipari makes strides to build on future
By Dan Wolken
Sunday, April 13, 2008

Less than 48 hours after the University of Memphis lost in the national championship game, coach John Calipari wasn't in hiding.

In fact, he was Downtown, sitting outside a coffee shop, interacting with well-wishers and professing his plan to move forward from the Tigers' 75-68 overtime loss to Kansas in the NCAA Tournament final.

Though Memphis fans will likely be replaying the ending for years to come, as the Tigers lost a nine-point lead with 2:12 to go, Calipari said he was at peace with the outcome. He was also eager to address the criticism levied against him for not using timeouts at certain moments down the stretch and for freshman Derrick Rose's failure to foul before Mario Chalmers got off a tying 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left.

Despite the ending, Calipari has plenty to be happy about these days.

School officials are working on restructuring his contract, which will make him one of the highest-paid coaches in college basketball. Calipari's recruiting appeal is as strong as ever, with Memphis awaiting word in the next few weeks from a pair of top-20 players in Tyreke Evans and Devin Ebanks. And Calipari believes vehemently that he can get Memphis back to the Final Four in short order.

He sat down with The Commercial Appeal last week to discuss all of that and more:

CA: How difficult has it been to think about how close you came?

JC: I said to the staff, I was down when we got back, mainly because I was tired. But I wasn't doing this for me. When I said up on that podium it's not life or death for me, it isn't. It hurt like heck, and I wanted to know, is there anything I could have done different? Is there something I could have changed? Is there something I could have done that would have given us that one point we needed? You end up saying, you want to do this for the team, for the city, for them. It was more than for me, so I didn't ... like, this isn't the end of the world. I'm like, we're going to get back.

CA: But it's got to be tough the way it played out.

JC: I'm telling you, perfect storm. When you look at it in those terms, everything that had to go wrong for us to lose like we did. Joey (Dorsey) had to foul (Chalmers) instead of that guy try to shoot a ball and miss it. Then (Chalmers) had to make two free throws. Darrell Arthur had to make an unbelievable turnaround jumper on the baseline. Timeout. Antonio (Anderson) had to throw it away. Now they tell me the guy's foot was out of bounds and they have it on tape. Had to be a no-call. (Sherron Collins) had to steal it and make the three. Had to have our best two free-throw shooters at the line and miss.

There's one timeout that I thought about calling. After Chris Douglas-Roberts missed his first (with 16 seconds left), I looked and said, "Should I call a timeout to settle this kid down?" But what happened after that? Robert Dozier threw it out and (Rose) still made 1-of-2, so it made no difference. It milked off six seconds. The difference it may have been? I may not have been fouling versus fouling, but even the last play, we were not going to foul until halfcourt because there were too many seconds. We're not a good enough free-throw shooting team and we were rattled a little bit at that point to make it another possession game. You have to wait until six seconds and then foul when he crosses halfcourt.

How many practices did you see us work on that situation? We went for about a month, that's all I did -- up three, down three, miss the shot, how we tip it out, how we foul.

CA: Before Derrick Rose shot the free throws, Kansas called a timeout. Was Derrick clear on the strategy and what to do? Watching the tape, it's hard to tell how aggressively he was trying to foul.

JC: What (Rose's) point was, he was afraid they'd call an intentional foul. You know what? It's a good thing. He said, "I fouled him with my hip. I just didn't want to grab him because I thought they would give him the ball and the shots." You know what? The way things were going, they may have. So I don't blame him.

CA: Some have said you should have called timeout after Derrick's free throw to make sure everybody knew what they were doing. If you felt there was confusion, you would have called timeout?

JC: Yeah, but I just met with them. I met with them. My issue with calling a timeout was, (Kansas) has none left. You don't want to let them get organized. And even if I'm in a timeout, I'm saying the same thing I said when we were huddled there. You know how we do it. We call "Chest." It's a call. We're all in "Chest" now. The ball comes to halfcourt, we're fouling. We know how we foul. Why do we call it "Chest?" Because we want them to hit the chest.

Now, that's my choice. If the shot doesn't go in, I'm a genius and I did the right thing. He makes the shot, and all the sudden I should have called a timeout. That's what coaching is. I don't mind people having their opinion on it or second-guessing.

I went to the team after and knew what was going on. I was happy it was on me. Because if it was on me, it took it off free throws, the out-of-bounds play. It went away from all those things, and it zeroed in on a 50-50 play. Do you, don't you? Do you call timeout, don't you? Do you foul, don't you? That's why most of the coaches that called me and left messages or texts said, "I wouldn't have changed one thing." I did what I thought was right with the information I had. It wasn't as though I wasn't thinking. I was thinking.

CA: Did you think about calling a timeout after Chalmers' shot went in? There were still a couple seconds on the clock.

JC: When the ball went in, I'm thinking, 'Oh my God, he didn't foul.' Then I'm looking for Derrick to see if he's looping. If he's looping, I don't want to call a timeout because he's going to catch it at about top of the key and he'll get maybe not to the rim, but he'll get a good jumper off. Maybe an NBA three. So I'm looking and seeing (Anderson) and he throws it to Dozier. If I had that one to do over again, I would have called a timeout but then my play ... I would have run "Maryland," where we throw it directly to halfcourt and then up the middle to Chris or whoever. What if they'd have stolen it? People have a right to know, what were you thinking? What came into your decision? In overtime, I tried to go at Robert a little bit because Chris was tired. And I really rode Derrick too much. He was tired too.

That game, now, that's behind me. My meetings with my team are all about how we're going to get there next year. We want to be in that same game next year. I'm going out recruiting to try to close down some stuff, and I don't have any regrets, how I coached.

CA: So how do you feel moving forward?

JC: I'm good. Meeting with the team, hugging the guys, talking about how proud I was and asking them if they think they got better individually, meeting with the guys with decisions to make. Just talking about what a season we had. The guys, they're not like despondent. They're not. Chris may be a little more than others, but I hurt Chris in that game. I played him way too many minutes. When I put in Willie (Kemp) and Doneal (Mack), I was looking for something. When I didn't see it, I'm trying to ride it out and win it in regulation. Just get out of the game. I did not want to put it on those two. I wasn't going to do it to them. I didn't play them enough (earlier). So now you wind down the game and say, look, you better stick with who's here and ride it.

Even those guys, Jeff (Robinson) and Doneal, they want to play and I don't blame them. But my question to all of them is, what are you going to do to get better? We weren't big enough to win it in overtime without Joey. I told both Shawn Taggart and Robert Dozier, gain 25 pounds. You've got five months to do it. That's five pounds a month. They've got to do it. I told Pierre, you lose five, five, eight, eight, 10, 10 (each month) and you'll be fine. I told him, I'm with you. Whatever I've got to do to help you. He would be a great addition. For all of them, how are you going to get better? What is your plan to get better this summer so when we come back with the added recruits we can go back to this game? That's our goal.

CA: Where do Derrick and Chris stand as far as entering the NBA Draft?

JC: Chris is a little bit ... I said, your two options are, if you're in the first round, you go. The other is, you're not in the first round, you come back and you're a first-team All-American two years in a row, player of the year in the country and you're a lottery pick. You've got no downside. I told Antonio the same thing. If I thought you could be a first-round pick, I'd be the first to tell you to go. After next year, with all the stuff you've done, you're going to be a professional and you're going to have a long career.

With Derrick, I said, "You're No. 1 or No. 2 in the draft. I think you're the No. 1 pick. If I was picking, there would be no question you'd be No. 1 because I know you, I coached you. I said, now, you just have to make a decision. Do you want to eat Gummi Bears and Twizzlers? You stay another year. ... My suggestion was, you need to go, but I'm not the one who has to go play. I'm suggesting it, but you've got to know you're mentally and physically ready. When I had (Marcus) Camby, the first time we talked about it he said he wasn't ready for that league and stayed another year. I told Derrick, you've got to do what's right for you and your family. You ask me right now, I'm telling you that you need to do this. But I'm not the one who has to play and neither is (his brother) Reggie or your mom. You've got to do it. And I said, everybody would support you if you decided to come back.

CA: What about recruiting. Are you going to get a bump from this exposure?

JC: We're in good shape. I got some interesting texts, which I couldn't return (due to NCAA rules), from some different recruits that were unbelievable. One brought tears to my eyes, just how bad they felt and how they felt about us and me and the program. We're in good shape. We've got good players coming back. We'll probably sign a total of four guys, maybe five, but probably four. We've got every position covered within.

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

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I Can't Believe It Either

Calipari Named Naismith National Coach Of The Year

Calipari Named Naismith National Coach Of The Year
Tiger mentor is second head coach to win honor twice since award's inception in 1987.

John Calipari was named Naismith National Coach of the Year by the Atlanta Tip-Off Club Wednesday.

April 9, 2008

ATLANTA, Ga. - Two days after the Tigers' magical season ended with an NCAA championship game appearance, University of Memphis head coach John Calipari can add another honor to his already long list of accomplishments. On Wednesday, the Atlanta Tip-Off Club announced Calipari as the 2007-08 Naismith National Coach of the Year.

It is the second time Calipari earned the national recognition, as he also received the Naismith award for the 1995-96 campaign while directing the UMass Minutemen to the 1996 NCAA Final Four. Calipari is only the second coach to win the Naismith Award twice since the honor's inception in 1987. Duke's Mike Krzyzewski is the other coach to do so, taking home the award three times.

Connecticut's Geno Auriemma took home the Naismith Women's National Coach of the Year award.

Calipari took the Memphis hoops program to heights not seen in the Bluff City in quite some time, while also hitting some personal milestones in 2007-08. The Moon, Pa., native guided the Tigers to the NCAA Final Four, the program's first since 1985, and the NCAA title game, the school's first championship game appearance since 1973.

Memphis, under Calipari's guidance, won an NCAA Division I record 38 games (38-2 record) in advancing to the NCAA title contest. The Tigers, which began 2007-08 with a school-record 26-straight wins, moved into the No. 1 spot in the national polls in January and remained there for a school-record five-consecutive weeks. In fact, Memphis held down the No. 1 or No. 2 spots in the national polls for another school-record 16-straight weeks.

Calipari is also one of five coaches in NCAA Division I history to lead two different programs to a No. 1 national ranking (UMass, Memphis). The other four coaches to do so were Frank McGuire, Ralph Miller, Roy Williams and Eddie Sutton.

The 2007-08 Tigers also completed quite possibly one of the best three-year runs in NCAA Division I history. Memphis posted a 104-10 record since 2005-06 - all under Calipari - and the 104 victories are tied for the most in a three-year period in NCAA Division I history. The 104 wins also make Calipari the winningest coach in a three-year span in NCAA Division I history.

On Mar. 8, the Tigers defeated UAB to win their 30th game of 2007-08, and the victory placed Memphis and Calipari in elite company. The Tigers, 30-1 at that time, became the second program in NCAA Division I history to win 30 or more games three-straight seasons (Kentucky was the other program/1947-49, 1996-98). A week later, UCLA joined Memphis and Kentucky in that group. For Calipari, he became the second coach in NCAA Division I history to post three-consecutive 30-win seasons, joining Kentucky's Adolph Rupp who did it from 1947-49. A week later, UCLA's Ben Howland was the third coach to accomplish the feat.

In late February, Calipari won his 400th game as a collegiate head coach, and his overall record stands at 412-136. He is only the second head coach in the history of NCAA Division I basketball to reach the 400-win plateau in his first 16 seasons as a collegiate head coach. Roy Williams is the other coach to do so.

Calipari directed the Tigers to their third-straight C-USA regular season and tournament titles in 2007-08. It is the first time in the program's history that Memphis has claimed three-consecutive regular season and tournament crowns.

Calipari, who was named Conference USA Coach of the Year for the second time in three years (2006, 2008), was also a National Coach of the Year finalist for the Henry Iba and Jim Phelan Awards.

Dick Vitale - Calipari will bounce back

Calipari will bounce back
Dick Vitale

I feel badly for Memphis coach John Calipari. I don't think he slept on Monday night after his team's loss to Kansas.

My friends, you can be critical of mistakes down the stretch, or missed free throws. The bottom line is Memphis finished with a record 38 wins, and the two losses were nailbiters against Tennessee and Kansas. Yes the loss to the Jayhawks will hurt more because it was for the national championship. It is more disappointing because the Tigers led by nine points with just 2:12 left on the clock.

You cannot deny this was a great season for Memphis. The Tigers made their first Final Four appearance since 1985 and first trip to the championship game since Bill Walton and UCLA dominated in 1973. It was a great season, but it will be a long summer.

As I was getting ready to leave San Antonio, a fan came up to me and asked about Memphis not fouling at the end of the game. Calipari will be listening to that all summer while people forget his team went 38-2. That says a lot about gratification and the world we live in.

Let me tell you, Calipari has not done a good job at Memphis. He has done an incredible job! He has a 219-65 record with the Tigers. He is two victories from passing Larry Finch as the school's all-time win leader.

It is not easy to recruit there as I can tell you first hand from my days at Detroit. When you are in an urban area and going up against the power schools like, for example, North Carolina, Kentucky and Duke, it is a challenge. When those big names walk in the door, the eyes light up and the recruits get excited. At a school like Memphis, no offense, it is tougher to sell.

I know what a national championship would have meant to the fans down in Memphis. It would have been special and I know there would have been a huge celebration down on Beale Street.

Calipari is a master motivator and salesman. If he loses Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts to the NBA as many expect, he will simply reload and keep the Tigers on the basketball map.

It was a very difficult loss, but one that Calipari will learn from. It will be a tough lesson, but trust me, he will bounce back big-time!

While I salute Kansas as national champions, let's remember the positives of a super season at Memphis.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.

The Catch, The Shot and a Broken Heart

The Catch................

Yeah, I know, you have no idea what I am talking about. The catch came on the day that I lost real interest in profressional football 26 years ago. You see, growing up in Memphis in the 1970's most young boys were fans of the Dallas Cowboys. I was in awe of Tom Landry, Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, D.D. Lewis, etc.

The catch broke my heart. The catch was on January 10, 1982 when Dwight Clark of the San Francisco 49ers caught the touchdown to win the NFC Championship.

Right then I lost interest in pro football. I was broken hearted.

Well, now it has happened again and this time it is "the shot". Yes, this one you know - Mario Chalmers.

No, I don't think I'll lose interest in Tiger basketball or even in college basketball. I love both and always will.

But, this one is going to be hard. I just keep reliving the last two minutes in my head over and over.

The steal and 3 pointer on the inbounds play by Sherron Collins, the foul by Dorsey, the missed front end of a one and one by CDR, the loose ball scramble when Taggart should have called timeout, the back to back misses by CDR on the foul line, the miss by Rose with 10 seconds, the no-call time out, the foul that never came as Sherron Collins drove up the court and "the shot" by Chalmers.

I think I need to hear that Tyreke Evans is coming.......................

I feel the same.....................

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

John Gasaway - Heartbreak Hotel

April 8, 2008
Heartbreak Hotel
Kansas 75, Memphis 68 (OT)

by John Gasaway

So many things have to go right to lead by nine in a national championship game with a little more than two minutes left.

If, like Memphis, you're not a member of a "major" conference, you have to first build the program. Recruit a coach, then he recruits the recruits. He then has to find a way to keep his players focused throughout a conference season that doesn't challenge them. Next, if you're lucky, you'll taste some tournament success, build on consecutive trips to the Elite Eight, get one additional spectacular recruit, secure that one-seed, survive a strangely tough second-round game, and blow away three highly-ranked opponents. Only then will you find yourself here: up by nine with 2:12 left.

So many things have to go wrong to then lose a national championship game.

This game was a lot like this season. It refused easy categorization or, especially, the labeling of a favorite or an outstanding individual performer. Just when you thought you had this game figured out, it changed dramatically. In the end, of course, there could be only one outstanding performer: Mario Chalmers.

You could hear the ledes and, indeed, whole paragraphs being deleted all along press row when Chalmers sank the three that tied the game with 2.1 seconds left to play in regulation. In an unevenly played game, Chalmers provided one play that rose to the occasion. Chalmers is right-handed and he was going to his left, and he had Derrick Rose draped all over him. He made the shot anyway and tied the game at 63 going into overtime. With Joey Dorsey having already fouled out of the game for Memphis, the Jayhawks went on to win this game by seven.

Chris Douglas-Roberts will be remembered for missing three free throws in the final 75 seconds of regulation. That's fair, but keep in mind that his two missed free throws with 16 seconds remaining were offset by Robert Dozier's offensive rebound of the second miss. (Had this game gone differently, Dozier would have been one of the heroes. In the final three minutes he made both his free throws and recorded two offensive boards.) The Tigers could still have scored two points on that particular possession. As it happens, however, they didn't. They got just one point. Derrick Rose missed the first free throw and made the second. You know the rest.

Still, the endgame here was a little misleading. Memphis may have opened the door but KU still had to go through it and forcibly win this game. They did it by doing four things:

See "Mario Chalmers," above.
On offense, the Jayhawks insisted on twos all night long, and they made them. Usually when Memphis takes away their opponent's threes, it matters. Last night it didn't because KU made 60 percent of their twos. It's remarkable that the same network that displayed a graphic tallying something as wholly meaningless as a team's "rebounds per game" could also capture the essence of the Jayhawks' triumph in one statistically-based visual. Remarkable but true: the shot chart that CBS put up coming out of halftime showed how relentlessly Bill Self's team was pounding the ball into the paint. As I said earlier this year, that's your only shot against Memphis. You will not beat the Tigers with threes.
Kansas didn't foul. The sizeable, reputation-inflating defeats that Memphis laid on Michigan State and Texas were aided in no small part by 71 total free throws. Last night, conversely, the Tigers went to the line just 19 times and even that modest total was, of course, increased by intentional late fouling by KU.
Self's team took care of their defensive glass. As noted above, Dozier was a pest as far as KU was concerned--he recorded five offensive boards--but no other Tiger had more than two offensive rebounds.
You wouldn't know it from the halftime score (Kansas led by five), but the Jayhawks actually came out tight, while Memphis came out confident. Sure, the Tigers' half-court offense looked lifeless but, for all the talk this year about their innovative offensive scheme, the fact is that half-court offense is not the strength of this team. Their strengths are defense and points in transition. As it happens, there were very few points in transition. This game needed 45 minutes just to get to 72 possessions. By contrast, Saturday night's track meet between KU and North Carolina stuffed 79 possessions into just 40 minutes.

After about 30 minutes in which both teams traded baskets, a game of alternating runs--eerily similar to the aforementioned track meet--broke out with about nine minutes left to play. When Brandon Rush made a runner off the latest Mario Chalmers steal (at the expense of Chris Douglas-Roberts), the Jayhawks led 47-44. Things were about to get ugly, however, for Self's team.

KU went scoreless over its next five possessions, as Memphis turned a three-point deficit into a six-point lead with a little more than five minutes left. This coincided with some long-delayed scoring by Derrick Rose, including an eye-popping banked-in 19-footer that beat the shot clock. This will doubtless be portrayed as Rose "taking over" the game. Make no mistake: if anything took over the game during this stretch it was the Jayhawks' ineptitude, to the tune of two fairly unforced turnovers and 0-for-3 shooting. It took Chalmers--and, before that, a nifty steal and then three by Sherron Collins off a Memphis inbounds play--to get this game to OT.

Chalmers was indeed the hero, but this was very much a team effort by Kansas. Darrell Arthur made two exceptionally tough shots in the last minute. The first was as long as a two can be without becoming a three. The second was a turnaround with Shawn Taggart right in his face. Arthur's team needed both tough shots to fall and they did. They set the stage for Chalmers.

The talk coming into this game was that Memphis would limit the scoring of the Kansas guards, just as they'd done to Michigan State, Texas and UCLA. Apparently, Self simply told his backcourt to either feed the post or get there themselves. Indeed, Kansas made just three threes all night. Two of them came in the final two minutes and, as you may have heard, one of them came in the final three seconds.

You'll forgive Memphis if they never want to see the Alamodome again. Last year they lost in the Elite Eight to Ohio State in the building. Now this. The Alamodome has become synonymous with heartbreak for the Tigers. No wonder Memphis has now left the building.

John Gasaway is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.

ESPN's Andy Katz - Calipari: We let national title 'slip out of our hands'

Calipari: We let national title 'slip out of our hands'

By Andy Katz
Updated: April 8, 2008

SAN ANTONIO -- There were a few tears outside the Memphis locker room when freshman sensation Derrick Rose hugged his brother Reggie and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

There was shock and disappointment inside the locker room.

What didn't exist were excuses.

The last time Memphis lost was on Feb. 23 at home to Tennessee. That was the only time all season until Monday. After the Tennessee game, all but two Memphis players spoke to the media. A few, notably junior Chris Douglas-Roberts and senior Joey Dorsey, put their jerseys over their heads and declined any interview requests.

But they stood up and answered questions Monday night after an epic collapse against Kansas in the national championship game. The Tigers led by nine points with 2:12 remaining. They still held a three-point lead with 10 seconds left. And they let the game get away from them in overtime of the 75-68 loss to the Jayhawks at the Alamodome.

"Being so close to the national title, to not have it, I feel bad for our city and our players, because they know we had it," Memphis coach John Calipari said. "We collectively let it slip out of our hands."

"We can't hold our heads down," Dorsey said. "We beat ourselves."

Douglas-Roberts and Rose combined to miss 3 of 4 free throws (a nemesis that wasn't an issue when the two guards were a combined 20 of 23 from the line in the semifinal win over UCLA) in the final 16 seconds. And the Tigers failed to foul the Jayhawks with a three-point lead with 10 seconds left.

There's no complicated reason for the mistakes. They simply missed the free throws. And they let Sherron Collins break free, even though they thought they had fouled him before he passed the ball to Mario Chalmers for a tying 3-pointer with two seconds left.

We were five seconds, four seconds, three seconds away from a national title. … We weren't able to finish it off
--John Calipari
"It hurts, you know," Douglas-Roberts said. "It really hurts. They made some great plays down the stretch, and Mario hit a big shot at the end of regulation.
"We missed those shots. No excuses. They won the game fairly. I thought the officiating was really good. We just came up short."

Rose said the loss was a "heart-breaker." He said that the free throws shouldn't have been a reason for the defeat but that they did give Kansas a chance.

"I'm sick, disappointed to have that kind of lead since we've been the kind of team that finishes things off," Calipari said. "When you're up nine, you're supposed to win."

He said that when there were 90 seconds left in the game and his team was leading by five, he told his team and staff, "We just have to finish it off."

"I didn't expect us to break down; we normally don't," Calipari said. He questioned whether he should have burned a timeout after each missed free throw to calm CDR or Rose.

"We were five seconds, four seconds, three seconds away from a national title," Calipari said. "They make a tough shot. We thought we fouled Collins, but he figured out a way to get through our man. The kid makes a tough shot. They did what they had to do, and we weren't able to finish it off."

Calipari wanted to make it clear that Kansas grabbed this title.

Despite that sentiment, the Memphis players were surprisingly upbeat about how this team should be remembered, the legacy of a college basketball team that won more games (38) than any Division I team in the history of the sport.

[+] Enlarge

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
Derrick Rose had a spectacular game, but his missed free throw with 10 seconds left in regulation gave Kansas the chance to send it into overtime.
Dorsey referenced the Fab Five of Michigan (1992-93) and Houston's Phi Slama Jama (1983-84), saying none of those squads won a title yet are remembered as being great teams.

When Calipari was asked whether the 38-win record means much, he said rather succinctly: "No. No. … Our goal was to win them all and the national title. Right now, I take no solace in how many games we won, against ranked opponents, nonconference scheduling, road wins, RPI. None of that matters right now. What matters is I've got a team in there that is really, really down."

But Calipari can take something away from Monday night. The Tigers did handle themselves with dignity after the game. They have matured this season. You can argue they should have won the game. They were seconds away. But the 38 wins stand, and the crushing wins over Michigan State, Texas and UCLA in this tournament were as impressive a run as this event has seen in the past 10 years.

Still, that legacy won't be topped by a title. And because Rose is likely to declare for the NBA draft, Dorsey will depart as a senior and junior All-American Douglas-Roberts likely will leave for the draft, this show won't be duplicated.

"It was tremendous," Rose said. "I hope people keep thinking about us. I know we didn't get it done, but it was a nice ride."

Andy Katz is a senior writer at

ESPN's Tim Keown - How to win in the midst of a loss

How to win in the midst of a loss
By Tim Keown

Updated: April 9, 2008, 6:43 PM ET

I don't know John Calipari. I don't know much about the way he runs his program at Memphis, although being the coach of a team (UMass) that had a Final Four appearance completely stricken from the record is not a particularly resounding endorsement.

Say what you want about Calipari, but he is gracious in defeat.

I don't feel qualified to judge Calipari as a basketball coach. He coached his Memphis team well enough to convince a lot of talented players to play together. He installed a system that minimized him and maximized the players, which is an upset of sorts in the world of big-time college hoops.

Monday night wasn't his best moment, I'm sure, given the near-total meltdown of his team in the final 1:55, when it led by nine. He didn't call timeouts when he could have, and he didn't make sure his kids fouled at the right time.

From where I sat -- a long way from San Antonio -- it looked like the game got away from him. He became a spectator instead of a participant, and that's probably the biggest mistake a coach can make.

It's understandable, though. A lot of stuff happened in a big hurry, and he went from being sure he was going to win to not being able to get a handle on what was going on. The game went away before he knew it had any interest in leaving.

That's not the point of this. Blame Calipari, blame free throws, credit Kansas -- it's your choice. For the next 48 hours, a lot of people will do every one of those things.

But I'll say this about Calipari: I've never seen a better loser.

That's not snide or sarcastic. It's sincere. The art of losing is a lost art. As often as coaches preach "win with class, lose with class," it's always easier to win with class. Mostly because it doesn't involve the losing part.

Calipari's postgame graciousness was masterful. (For comparison's sake: Belichick, Bill.) He made eye contact and said insightful things and gave credit to Kansas. It was a pretty good game, but Calipari's performance was the most impressive thing that happened all night.

There was a perspective at work that isn't always on display from a winner, much less a loser. He talked about the missed free throws without blaming his players. He saw the bigger picture -- the pressure of the game, the youth of his players, the intensity of the moment. He discussed the situation late in the game -- up nine with less than three minutes, up three with less than five seconds left -- and took his share of the blame.

He even admitted he said a little prayer with Derrick Rose at the line with 10 seconds left in regulation, saying if he made two it was meant to be, but if he didn't it wasn't. You might accurately consider that somewhat defeatist, and it certainly opens the possibility that Rose's miss on the first shot caused him to stop coaching, but that's all beside the point.

It's not the kind of thing too many people want to be known for, but Calipari came up big in defeat. Maybe you can win for losing.

This Week's List

• Final thought on Calipari: You absolutely have to call timeout to make sure everyone knows you have to foul after Rose made the second free throw with 10 seconds left.

• The obligatory question that shouldn't be asked because you already know the answer so please wait for another day but oh I know you just can't: Within the first few questions of the postgame press conference with the Memphis players -- probably right after everyone exhausted every single variation on the "Why did you miss those free throws?" question -- someone asked Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts whether they were returning or going to the NBA.

• Just a wild, foolish guess, but: I'm thinking Rose is gone.

• For those of you watching the men's and women's Final Fours, I know you're wondering the same thing: What, San Antonio couldn't spring for an orange on the floor?

• Trendy stat of the first week of the baseball season: No team has won the World Series after losing its first six games.

• Meaningless stat of the first week of the baseball season: No team has won the World Series after losing its first six games.

• For something that might actually mean something, and might provide some perspective on the Tigers' plight, how about answering this: How many World Series winners over the past 20 years have lost six straight at any point during their championship season?

• Advice for Kevin Love, completely unsolicited: One more year in school.

• His outright mastery of his profession at his age might be the most astounding sight in sports: Greg Maddux on Monday, beating the Giants by allowing just one run on three hits over seven innings, and along the way retiring 19 of 20.

• Just for the heck of it: Greg Dreiling.

• Yeah, but Memphis knows what it's like to lose the Civil War: As soon as overtime started, Billy Packer informed us that Kansas "knows what it's like" to be in an overtime championship game, since it happened to the Jayhawks in 1957.

• Yeah, I know: It only feels like yesterday.

• And finally, the New York press just went to Threat Level Red: Derek Jeter left Monday night's game with a quad injury.

Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Sound off to Tim here.

ESPN's Andy Katz - Memphis #9 in '08-'09 Pre-Season Poll

Hook 'em Horns: Texas pre-preseason No. 1

By Andy Katz
Updated: April 9, 2008

No college sport is more affected by the lure of a professional league when the season ends than college basketball.

That's why it's an inexact science to play the game of what a team could look like next season prior to the NBA draft early-entry deadline.

But let's give it a try. That's what we've annually done at in the hours after the national title.

The deadline to declare for the draft is April 27. The time to withdraw won't come until mid-June. Some teams may not know if they are a contender or a pretender until then. They may have to sweat out multiple decisions in the hope that they can be a player come November. The numbers next to the schools may seem a bit silly in our pre-preseason poll since there is still so much to be determined. The poll will change multiple times between now and November once the draft sorts out the current rosters.

So, here you go. And as Memphis coach John Calipari liked to say often in the postseason: No one can pierce our armor.

1. Texas
Why? D.J. Augustin said that he's going to take his time on his decision of whether to declare for the NBA draft. Until he makes up his mind, Texas has to be the favorite to win it all. The Longhorns reached the Elite Eight this season. They beat UCLA and Kansas during the season -- two teams that reached the Final Four, including the national champ. If Augustin returns, the Longhorns will have the entire core of their team back for another run. The tandem of Augustin and A.J. Abrams in the backcourt, the developing Damion James and the likelihood that Gary Johnson will continue to shine makes Rick Barnes' club a formidable force. If Augustin comes back, the Big 12 has a legitimate shot to have back-to-back champs.

Why not? If Augustin does declare, the Longhorns won't be the favorite, but they likely wouldn't drop out of the Top 25, either. Texas under Barnes has established itself as a reliable power.

2. North Carolina
Why? The Tar Heels could potentially return everyone but Quentin Thomas. Underscore the word potentially. But an announcement has yet to be made for Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson, who still haven't made their decisions as of the Wednesday morning. Regardless of what occurs, the Tar Heels still return formidable frontline members Deon Thompson and Alex Stepheson. Danny Green, a key contributor in the NCAAs, and Marcus Ginyard are also back. Also, Bobby Frasor will be back in the rotation again after missing most of this season with a knee injury.

Why not? Let's qualify this. Even if the big three or a combination of one or two depart, the Tar Heels won't be as good as this next season but will still be formidable. If Lawson goes, then the Tar Heels will have a new point guard. And unless it's Derrick Rose, there will be a transition in Chapel Hill.

3. Pitt
Why? The Panthers return their entire core from a team that was in the Sweet 16 and only continued to get better as it got healthier. Levance Fields comes back at the point and DeJuan Blair and Sam Young are the anchors in the post. And there is still a chance that Mike Cook could get a sixth-year to come back from his severe knee injury.

Why not? There's not much to pick apart here. The Panthers should be the pick to win the Big East with a team that won the conference tournament title despite being so injury-riddled.

4. Kansas
Why? Let's see … the Jayhawks did just win the national title. Sure, the departure of senior guard Russell Robinson and senior forwards Sasha Kaun and Darnell Jackson hurts the depth and experience. And there is a good chance that Brandon Rush and forward Darrell Arthur declare for the NBA draft, but there is still enough left, even with all of that, for the Jayhawks to be a factor in the Big 12 and nationally. A backcourt of Sherron Collins and Mario Chalmers is as good as it could get next season around the country.

Why not? Let's assume that Bill Self stays on as coach, so there is no rebuilding job on the bench too. Losing Rush and Arthur will be a hit, but it would be even more of a problem if Chalmers and/or Collins get wooed to take a flyer on the draft. Then we could be looking at a Florida-like rebuilding.

5. Notre Dame
Why? The Irish are expecting back maybe the best inside-out combination in the league in Luke Harangody and Kyle McAlarney. Harangody was the Big East Player of the Year. McAlarney, when on, was one of the better shooters in the conference. Notre Dame, outside of its game against Washington State, rarely struggled to score. Mike Brey has done an outstanding job getting this program to be a regular in the mix in the Big East.

Why not? It's hard to pick on this squad too much. But defensive could be a potential wart at times, and a scoring drought as we saw against Wazzu made the team look rather pedestrian and slow.

6. West Virginia
Why? Just look at what happened in the NCAAs. Coach Bob Huggins did a masterful job of blending the John Beilein offensive strategies of back cuts and 3s with his much more demanding defense and rebounding. The big question, of course, is whether or not junior Joe Alexander takes the bait and leaves for the NBA draft. Key contributors Alex Ruoff, Da'Sean Butler and backup point Joe Mazzulla, who was sensational in the upset of Duke, return.

Why not? If Alexander is gone, then the Mountaineers can't be in the Top 25 to start the season. Losing point Darris Nichols also doesn't help. Not having a backup like Mazzulla for Mazzulla won't help, either.

7. Connecticut
Why? If Hasheem Thabeet returns for his junior season, then the Huskies will essentially be intact at all their key positions. Sure, UConn floundered a bit in the final two weeks of the season, and point guard A.J. Price did tear his ACL in the NCAA tournament. But there is still enough potential, and more experience, from a squad that looked like one of the Big East's best at times.

Why not? Thabeet could still bolt, Price still has to fully recover from the ACL and the inconsistencies from this group of players can't be ignored.

8. Purdue
Why? The Boilermakers were the surprise of the Big Ten this past season. They had one of the most pleasant hidden gems in Robbie Hummel. Mackey Arena is rocking again, and Matt Painter has ascended rather quickly as a well-respected coach. The Boilermakers will be the preseason favorite to win the league.

Why not? The Boilermakers will be in the Top 25. But how will they handle being a favorite? They have flaws and how they'll handle a quicker, more athletic team can be one of them.

9. Memphis
Why? The Tigers are still going to be the most talented team in Conference USA, regardless of the NBA draft decisions of freshman guard Derrick Rose and junior guard Chris Douglas-Roberts. Recruiting isn't over, and the Tigers are in the hunt for some of the top players remaining like Tyreke Evans and Devin Ebanks. Senior Joey Dorsey is gone in the middle. But Robert Dozier and Shawn Taggart are expected back inside, and Antonio Anderson, Doneal Mack and Willie Kemp give the Tigers a solid starting point for perimeter help.

Why not? The Tigers will most certainly slip with the likely early entrants. Coming so close -- seconds away from winning a national title -- may be a wound takes a while to heal.

10. USC
Why? Even if O.J. Mayo declares as expected, then the Trojans would still return three of the most talented players at their respective positions in forwards Taj Gibson and Davon Jefferson and guard Daniel Hackett. The Trojans were littered with injuries on this season's squad, and they'll also bring in a big-time recruiting class led by Demar DeRozan.

Why not? Gibson and Jefferson told the staff that they weren't going to declare for the draft. But if they change their minds, then it changes the perception of this team. And, it's going to be hard to duplicate what Mayo accomplished in his freshman season.

11. Gonzaga
Why? The Bulldogs return the core of their team and it will be led by four-year players: point guard Jeremy Pargo and center Josh Heytvelt. Matt Bouldin will be a junior, and Austin Daye and Steven Gray, two of the top shooters on this team, will be sophomores. There is enough experienced offensive talent to make the Zags another formidable player in the Top 25.

Why not? This particular Zags group still hasn't gotten over the hump against high-profile teams out of the WCC. Sure, the Zags did beat Connecticut in Boston, but the Zags need to prove yet again that they can take out the top teams on the slate to feel good about advancing in the NCAAs.

12. Miami (Fla.)
Why? The Hurricanes were one of the most improved teams in the country this season, going from being picked 12th in the ACC preseason poll to finishing in the top five in the league. The most significant departures are seniors Raymond Hicks and Anthony King. But the frontcourt isn't barren. The Canes return big-time scorers in Jack McClinton, James Dews and the inside presence of Dwayne Collins.

Why not? Miami still has a stigma that the Canes haven't been able to do this multiple times. They have to prove that they weren't just a one-hit wonder.

13. Duke
Why? Duke returns the core of this team with Gerald Henderson, Kyle Singler, Greg Paulus and Jon Scheyer all fully capable of scoring in bunches. There is reason to believe that with a favorable schedule, the Blue Devils can win a boatload of games yet again.

Why not? Losing senior DeMarcus Nelson can't be understated. Nelson had a solid senior season for the Blue Devils and his leadership will be a void. Also, the vacuum inside still isn't totally solved, and the Blue Devils may still be a team that can only go so far.

14. Davidson
Why? Two words: Stephen Curry. Curry announced he's coming back. And as a result, the Wildcats are automatically the favorite in the Southern Conference and a legitimate team to advance in the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats also return their inside presence in Andrew Lovedale, to give the Wildcats the inside-out combo.

Why not? Losing senior Jason Richards at the point could change how Curry is able to get open. Richards was one of the more underrated point guards throughout the course of the season. Seeing him shine on the NCAA stage proved how valuable he was to this team.

15. Arizona State
Why?? Well, first off, the Sun Devils should have been in the NCAA tournament this season if I had my way. They were a quality team and return the significant pieces, notably freshman James Harden. Herb Sendek has done an outstanding job blending his system with an athletic bunch that made the Sun Devils one of the tougher outs in the Pac-10.

Why not? ASU had its struggles to score at times last season. The Sun Devils had a nemesis in UCLA, a team that they couldn't come close to in two regular-season games. Not getting to the NCAAs should be a motivator but it also could indicate a problem of not being able to climb over the hurdle of being an elite team.

16. Oklahoma
Why? The Griffins. Blake and Taylor Griffin give coach Jeff Capel a solid interior that will be extremely difficult for schools in the Big 12 to defend. The backcourt had its moments this season, notably Tony Crocker, who hit a big shot to beat Baylor. The Sooners were a developing story under Capel and made a late run to ensure an NCAA bid. He has this team believing in itself and in him.

Why not? Not having senior Longar Longar means the Sooners don't have that experienced power player next to the Griffins to ease any attention. The Sooners seemed to be just one productive player off at times last season. We'll see if that matters much next season.

17. UCLA
Why? Well, technically, the Bruins could still return the core of a great team with Kevin Love, Darren Collison, Russell Westbrook, Josh Shipp, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Alfred Aboya all with eligibility remaining. But, that's not going to happen with Love and Collison reportedly going to declare, according to the Los Angeles Times. No matter what happens, UCLA is still UCLA under Ben Howland and that has translated into three straight Final Fours. Getting a top recruiting class led by Jrue Holiday and Drew Gordon makes the Bruins a major factor, as well.

Why not? Love and Collison will be gone. Westbrook could test. Mbah a Moute and Aboya are juniors, but according to UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero will graduate in the spring making their return still an unknown.

18. Syracuse
Why? When healthy, the Orange can be an exciting lot with Jonny Flynn making the transition game look rather easy. Syracuse gets back its two top perimeter threats from knee injuries in Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins. The enigmatic Paul Harris is back, and he is still an untapped resource.

Why not? Still want to take a wait-and-see approach on how the injured-players heal and whether or not the Orange can make stops when it matters most -- something that cost them even at home. Donte Greene declared for the NBA draft on Wednesday afternoon.

19. Georgetown
Why? John Thompson III has kept the Hoyas winning, regardless of personnel losses (like Jeff Green) that might have otherwise dropped them out of the Top 25. Georgetown still has a core group of players that can run the Hoyas' system, like Jessie Sapp, DaJaun Summers, Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Jeremiah Rivers around one of the top big man recruits in the country in Greg Monroe.

Why not? Losing Roy Hibbert and adding Monroe won't be a crusher. Not having Patrick Ewing Jr. takes away an athletic finisher. But, perhaps, the biggest loss will be not having point guard Jonathan Wallace. There are not many glue-guy point guards in the country that had as much to do with his team winning a conference championship like Wallace.

20. Tennessee
Why? The Vols should be back in the thick of the SEC East title race. Gone are seniors JaJuan Smith, Chris Lofton and Jordan Howell. But the Vols still return Tyler Smith, Ramar Smith, Duke Crews, J.P. Prince, Brian Williams and Wayne Chism, which can allow the Vols to play at a high level.

Why not? This team still may be searching for a point guard, and there did appear to be a burnout factor at the end of the season. So, it's hard to project how Tennessee will handle the expectation of being good again.

21. Louisville
Why? The Cardinals did lose Earl Clark and Derrick Caracter to the draft. Senior David Padgett is also gone, but they return the backcourt of Edgar Sosa and Jerry Smith and an impact recruiting class headlined by Samardo Samuels. Also, in classic Rick Pitino form, this past squad got better as the season progressed. Expect the same thing next season while the Cards try to mesh in a few more high-profile players.

Why not? The Cards will take a hit up front in experience. That won't knock them too far down, but its enough to question whether or not the Cards can be a Big East title contender.

22. Michigan State
Why? Tom Izzo. Sometimes that's a good enough reason. He hasn't let this program wilt. The Spartans will lose Drew Neitzel. He has been the core of this program for four years. But the return of Raymar Morgan as a scoring inside and out and the potential that Kalin Lucas can shine is enough to keep MSU right in the hunt.

Why not? How this team adjusts to not relying on Neitzel's shot to bail it out at times will be a factor. The Spartans will need to discover a new leader who can deliver when it matters most.

23. Florida
Why? Because it's hard to believe that Billy Donovan won't have the Gators ready to handle the rigors of the SEC after this past season's flameout. The talent is in place, and the NIT showed the Gators were capable. Nick Calathes is still one of the more talented freshmen. Let's assume that Marreese Speights does come back despite declaring for the draft on Tuesday, then the Gators will have the pieces in place to still be formidable in the SEC.

Why not? The Gators are bringing in another stable of recruits that will challenge the current crop. Potentially not having Speights could be an issue. So, too, could the blending of these two classes if Donovan loses patience with the rising sophomores.

24. Wisconsin
Why? Because there's no reason to doubt anything Bo Ryan does during the regular season. All he does with Wisconsin is win games and conference titles. You can nitpick about how far he takes the Badgers in the NCAAs if you must, but the Badgers are consistently winning. The core of this team will still churn out wins. It would be a mistake to dump this squad from the Top 25.

Why not? Losing Brian Butch and Michael Flowers is a hit. But the Badgers find a way to replace the moving parts of Ryan's system.

25. Mississippi State
Why? MSU had a legit shot to knock off Memphis in the second round. The Bulldogs, which usually do get hit by early-entry departures, still have two of the more talented players returning in guard Jamont Gordon and shot-blocker Jarvis Varnado.

Why not? The Bulldogs do lose a workhorse inside in senior Charles Rhodes. Having Ben Hansbrough transfer doesn't help, either. And, for whatever reason, MSU can sometimes fluctuate early in the season from a bewildering team into one that is suddenly a contender. It happened again this season.

Teams that were also considered for this list were: Clemson, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest in the ACC; Villanova and Providence in the Big East; Ohio State in the Big Ten; Xavier and UMass in the the Atlantic 10; Arizona, Washington and Cal in the Pac-10; Baylor, Nebraska, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M in the Big 12; Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Kentucky and Georgia in the SEC; Saint Mary's and San Diego in the WCC.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at