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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Gary Parrish - Rose shows that doubting Memphis is unjust, thanks to just hoopin'

Rose shows that doubting Memphis is unjust, thanks to just hoopin'
April 5, 2008
By Gary Parrish Senior Writer

SAN ANTONIO -- Just hoopin' might just be good enough.

This is what Memphis is teaching us.

One blowout at a time.

"Just going out there and just hoopin', that's what it's all about," said Memphis point guard Derrick Rose, the coldest hooper of them all. "No matter what's going on. Call all the plays? Whatever. If you're just hoopin' you've got nothing to worry about."

Seems that way now, doesn't it?

The Memphis Tigers are one win away from the first national title in school history thanks to Saturday's 78-63 victory over UCLA that was impressive and dominant, but mostly just a lesson to the nation. Folks keep waiting for this team to be exposed, to run into a bad matchup, to reach a point when just hoopin' doesn't get it done. For the record, I thought that point would come last weekend in an Elite Eight game with Texas.

But I was wrong.

The Tigers blew by Texas.

And now they've blown by UCLA.

And everybody who thought playing a weak Conference USA schedule wouldn't properly prepare Memphis for the NCAA tournament couldn't have been more off-target. Turns out, it was perfect preparation because now the Tigers are blowing out Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-10 opponents just like they blew out C-USA opponents.

They pounded Michigan State by 18 points.

Then they pounded Texas by 18 points.

Then they pounded UCLA by 15 points.

The Sweet 16, Elite Eight and Final Four have been simple, like earlier matchups with SMU, Rice and Tulane. Typically indifferent writers have walked away using words like whoa and wow, and there was this one guy who described himself as slack-jawed in the postgame news conference.

Honestly, the whole thing has been absurd and ridiculous -- just Memphis rolling through one opponent after another while using a dribble-drive motion offense that's been labeled everything from "innovative" to "irritating." Some people like it, sure. But most traditionalists roll their eyes and call it glorified street ball.

Either way, here's what I know: It's working.

And the main reason is Derrick Rose.

The coldest hooper of them all.

"We don't look at Derrick as a freshman," said Memphis senior Joey Dorsey, who finished with no points and 15 rebounds against UCLA. "Once he came in here he was coached by the veterans a little bit, but he just came in and started playing. And he's playing well right now."

No kidding.

Rose got 27 points, four rebounds and five assists against Michigan State, 21 points, six rebounds and nine assists against Texas and 25 points, nine rebounds and four assists against UCLA. In the process, he completely overwhelmed three All-America-caliber points guards in Drew Neitzel, D.J. Augustin and Darren Collison, the last of whom had the worst game of his season against Memphis, and it was no coincidence.

Collison was 1-of-9 from the field, finishing with two points four assists and five turnovers. He was bad at the beginning, in the middle and at the end, and when he committed his fifth foul on Rose near midcourt with 2:53 remaining it almost seemed like Collison's No mas moment.

Rose was asked about this, by the way.

Asked whether he thought Collison wanted to foul out.

"I didn't even know he fouled out until you just told me," Rose answered. "I swear I didn't know. I thought he hurt himself or something."

Oh, Derrick.

You were right and wrong. Collison didn't physically hurt himself. But his NBA stock was damaged in a big way because, when it was time to hoop on a big stage, he failed miserably and looked out of place.

Which brings me back to hoopin' and the effectiveness of it.

Sometimes we spend so much time waiting for something to be exposed (like Memphis' offense) and talking about flaws (like Memphis' free throw shooting) that it's easy to lose focus as it pertains to the big picture. We look at the trees instead of the forest. But basketball, regardless of how it's played, is a bottom-line business. And Memphis' bottom line is pretty damn impressive heading into Monday night's national title game, even if it doesn't run offensive sets every time down the court.

The Tigers are 38-1 overall with the only loss coming by four points last month to Tennessee.

They have blown through the Big 12 and Pac-10 champions in consecutive games.

And you know what else?

They aren't surprised.

"Going into the game we knew we were gonna win," Rose said.

Excuse me, Derrick.

How'd you know that?

"With this team we have, man, it's hard beating us," Rose said with a smile. "I know that if a team is gonna come out and fight us at the beginning of the game, for a couple of minutes or throughout the game, we're still gonna find a way to win somehow because that's what we do. And we're just a great team."

Just a great team of hoopers who are hoopin'?


But it'd be wise not to discount that at this point.

Because it's starting to look like just hoopin' might just be good enough.

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