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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Is Cal Being Courted By St. John's? Is He Interested? No, But Read On........

Interestingly, I was recently contacted by a blogger who writes the http://theeastcoastbias.wordpress.com blog. He inquired as to whether I thought there was validity to John Calipari possibly leaving Memphis in the future to take the job at St. Johns.

These are my thoughts on the subject.

At least at this stage in the game, I can not see Cal leaving since he (most likely) feels he still has unfinished business at Memphis - namely, winning a national title. But, lets look forward a bit to possible outcomes to this year for the Tigers.

1) We all hope that Cal brings home the crown to Memphis. A Final Four appearance is clearly expected, anything less than that will be deemed a failure on the season. If Cal doesn't make it to the Final Four this year, I believe he will 100% come back.

2) Memphis advances to the Final Four or beyond. The season will be viewed as a success. Cal will have succeeded in taking his second non-BCS league team to a Final Four. As best I can tell from my research, that has NEVER been done.

So, the question is will Cal look for another chance to rebuild a program?

We know that Cal was seriously approached last year by Arkansas and Kentucky. He reportedly never really considered either, and why would he with the Tiger team he had coming back (you know the #1 ranked Tigers who are 20-0)?

We also know that was very seriously approached and publicly courted by North Carolina State after the '05-'06 season. Cal turned down the Wolfpack, but got a sizable raise at Memphis and some assurances that assistant coaches would be taken care of.

However, we also know Cal probably looked at NC State and said this isn't 1974 and I don't have David Thompson. Also it isn't 1983 and I do have a shot clock to deal with (sorry Jimmy V, you didn't win with better talent, just better game time coaching). Can NC State really compete with Carolina and Duke these days? Did Cal say I don't want to go up against Roy Williams and Coach K four times a year. IMO, Probably.

So, what about St. John's?

NYC is the greatest stage in the land, but it isn't the greatest college basketball stage. Sure, St. John's has some tradition. But it isn't Carolina, UCLA, Kansas, Indiana, Duke or Kentucky. New York is a pro sports market. I've been to MSG for a tournament when St. John's was really good. The place was half full in a city metro with 8.2 million bodies. Gee, Memphis averages 16K with only 1.2 million in the metro. Cal has already experienced the New York media market as head coach of the Nets in the NBA. I don't think he has the best memories of the experience. Sure $15 million over five years probably made him get over it, but why subject yourself to that again? Can St. John's afford Cal? Yes, I'm sure they can. If Memphis can, then St. John's can - probably several times over.

Cal does have a big $2.5 million annuity payment coming his way in about two years. That on top of his annual salary of $1.3 million (or up to $1.7 million with incentives - most of which he will qualify for this year) is a nice package to stay around for.

Has anyone really looked at the cost of living in Memphis relative to New York City? Manhattan is just under a double, Queens not as bad, but clearly a big cost adjustment to little ole Memphis, with no state income tax and very affordable housing.

But let's just say this is not about the money (really if it was about the money, Cal would have most likely taken the Kentucky post).

Is St. John's a better job than Memphis. Well, playing in the Big East is clearly more impressive than C-USA, but a lot more competitive to boot. Frankly, I'd rather have the UConn or Georgetown job considering their histories.

Don't get me wrong, I think St. John's is a good job. It would easily place in the Top 50 jobs in D1 basketball. Recruiting is a lot easier. You can field a top 20 team and never have to miss a home cooked meal.

Memphis has a lot to offer too. The FedEx Forum is a top 25 facility, the Larry Finch practice facility is also top 25. Playing in C-USA, while not impressive, does afford Cal the chance to play the top non-conference schedule (i.e. Arizona, Gonzaga, UConn, Georgetown, Texas, Tennessee, Arkansas).

Cal is pretty darn popular also. The networks love him. He is a regular guest on the Best Damn Sports Show. He could run for mayor in Memphis (though former Memphis Grizzlies and Dukie Shane Battier would beat him out even now).

Ok, enough on this. So, in conclusion, will Cal leave Memphis? Maybe, but not for the Red Storm. Maybe Chuck Martin will go back to Queens.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

And Then There Was One..................



You gotta love the Tom Penders picture.



Tigers Win at Houston, Move to 20-0, Kansas Falls at Kansas State


Tigers defeat Houston, move to 20-0
By Dan Wolken

HOUSTON – The first time senior forward Joey Dorsey came to the bench for a rest, coach John Calipari stopped right in front of him and screamed over the noise in a jam-packed Hofheinz Pavilion.

“C’mon,” Calipiari said, trying to cajole more effort out of his big man. “This is an NCAA Tournament game!”

Though the University of Memphis did not actually play an NCAA Tournament game on Wednesday, the No. 1-ranked Tigers faced a test about as close as they could find for Jan. 30. And like every other test this season, they passed, beating Houston 89-77

As an undefeated run through the regular season now becomes more and more of a possibility for Memphis, which improved to 20-0, the Tigers are not likely to face a regular-season situation more difficult than Wednesday.

Against a Houston team playing for its NCAA Tournament life, the Tigers overcome a hostile environment, an early deficit and a late run to secure their 29th straight win in Conference USA. They did it by shooting 58.5 percent from the field, out-rebounding the Cougars 49-29 and by taking control of the game with a 13-0 run in the first half thanks to consecutive 3-pointers by sophomore guard Willie Kemp.

The victory, combined with Kansas’ loss at Kansas State, left Memphis as the nation’s lone undefeated team. It also gave Memphis a one-game lead over Houston in the C-USA race and practically crushed the Cougars’ hopes of landing an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, unless they can upset the Tigers at FedExForum on Feb. 13.

Early on, however, it appeared as though this might be Houston’s night as the Tigers committed three turnovers on their first four possessions and trailed 18-11 with 11:56 left in the first half. But Kemp helped turn the game with timely baskets, and the Tigers pulled away to an 11-point lead at halftime.

Memphis then scored the first eight points of the second half to lead 54-35, but Houston didn’t make it easy for the Tigers to finish off the game. The Cougars crawled back within 70-62 with 8 minutes remaining, but Memphis never let it slip further thanks to a defense that held Houston to 35.3 percent from the floor and 5-for-22 from the 3-point line.

Chris Douglas-Roberts gave the Tigers two straight baskets – a tough baseline runner and a transition dunk – to push the edge back to 12. Douglas-Roberts made 9-of-13 from the field and finished with 28 points.

The Tigers finally finished it off with 3:23 to go when Dorsey’s putback dunk gave them an 80-65 lead. It was Dorsey’s 19th rebound of a career-high 21. With a big size advantage, Memphis dominated inside. Junior forward Robert Dozier scored 21 points on 9-of-13 from the field, including consecutive buckets that gave the Tigers a 78-63 lead.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Monday blog by Dan Wolken


Monday blog
Posted by Dan Wolken

As John Calipari talked to the team after practice Monday, he hit on a point I noticed watching the Gonzaga game. I’ve never seen the Tigers run as fast as they did Saturday. They made Gonzaga look slow, and Gonzaga isn’t slow. But you can point to at least 10 or 12 plays in that game where the Tigers’ speed was simply overwhelming, where they got buckets simply because they sprinted down the court and beat the defense. That’s the advantage Memphis has over most teams, and I’m not sure any team in the country can run with them when they operate at that speed.

There was an Internet rumor that 2009 recruit Lance Stephenson — a big-time player out of New York — was at FedExForum for the game. Not true. The only big-time guy coming in from out of town is Tyreke Evans for the Tennessee game.

After the game, Calipari mentioned that he’s working with Kansas and Arkansas for possible games at neutral sites. The Arkansas thing may surprise some of you, especially in light of comments a couple weeks ago about not wanting to play SEC teams unless they publicly supported Memphis being invited into the SEC (and Cal’s comments years ago about not wanting to play the regional teams like Arkansas). It’s a nuanced position, and I’ll try to make it as simple as possible. Calipari wants to play the “national” teams (Arizona, Ohio State, Gonzaga, Syracuse, West Virginia, etc.) as home-and-home games. He wants to play the regional teams, but only on neutral/NCAA Tournament sites, where they aren’t given a platform to recruit in Memphis (like playing Arkansas in North Little Rock or Tennessee in Nashville). Apparently, Arkansas has expressed a willingness to play Memphis at Alltel Arena in Little Rock with the tickets split in half. While the crowd would lean more Arkansas, I’m sure, it would be an interesting experiment to see how many people Memphis would bring down there to play the Hogs.

Meanwhile, I loved what Calipari did in the Gonzaga game with Doneal Mack, whose playing time had been down a good bit. The reality is, if the Tigers had a player like Lee Humphrey — just an absolute cold-blooded 3-point shooter — I don’t think they’d ever lose. Now, those kind of guys aren’t easy to find, but Mack can be a reasonable facsimilie. I’ve seen him in practice enough to know how good he can be; in fact, there are days when the second team beats the first team simply because Mack goes crazy making shots. Mack went 2-for-8 from 3…If the Tigers can get 3-for-8 from Mack in some of these games, they’d take it and run with it.

Also, I talked to Tom Penders tonight about his Houston team. One interesting thing about their 85-71 loss to Arizona is that Jerryd Bayless wasn’t supposed to play in that game, but he did play, and Arizona came out with entirely new offensive sets. In other words, Houston prepared for something and got something else, which is one reason why they weren’t able to guard Arizona. Penders thinks his team is still in the NCAA Tournament race, even if it doesn’t beat Memphis, which I don’t necessarily agree with. On the other hand, I took a quick look at filling out a bracket yesterday and I came up two teams short, so it’s not like the at-large pool is overflowing this year.

Also, a quick FYI. My regular time slot on AM 560 has been moved to Tuesday for this week, due to the Super Bowl so I’ll be in studio at 11:20 a.m. tomorrow to talk Tigers.

'U' word suddenly surrounds Memphis


'U' word suddenly surrounds Memphis
Calipari: No pressure building with victories
By Dan Wolken
Tuesday, January 29, 2008

With each victory notched by the University of Memphis since beating Georgetown on Dec. 22, the idea of an undefeated regular season has bubbled closer to the surface of college basketball's consciousness. At the same time, however, more and more voices have chimed in with the notion that No. 1-ranked Memphis would benefit by losing a game heading into the NCAA Tournament.

"I just need to know," coach John Calipari said, "which of those people have coached."

Though there's still a long way to go before the Tigers (19-0) can zero in on going unbeaten, the number of true danger games on their schedule is dwindling rapidly. If Memphis can get by Houston on Wednesday at Hofheinz Pavilion -- arguably the most difficult road test remaining -- only a monstrous upset would prevent the Tigers from being 26-0 on Feb. 23 when they play Tennessee.

Calipari said after Saturday's 81-73 victory over Gonzaga that he believes Memphis will lose at least one or two games in Conference USA. At the same time, Calipari said he doesn't buy the argument that heading into the NCAAs without a loss would be detrimental to the Tigers' chances of winning a national title.

"What you want to do is make them feel invincible," Calipari said. "Not arrogant, but have a swagger based on preparation, hard work, respect and confidence in each other, based on a love between the team. That's what you're trying to do, and a loss doesn't do that. I've been in this a long time. What a loss does? It puts doubt in your mind."

The idea that Memphis would be better served by losing a game is a popular one. A couple examples:

On Saturday, ESPN.com's Pat Forde wrote, "But in my view, pulling an undefeated bull's-eye into March Madness will hinder Memphis' title quest."

On Jan. 10, Sports Illustrated's Seth Davis wrote, "Personally, I think this is a no-brainer. I say it's better not to be undefeated ... (I) believe that if a team hasn't experienced losing, then it doesn't achieve the kind of growth that can only come about through adversity. And at some point, instead of playing to win, you start playing not to lose."

There simply isn't enough evidence, however, to establish a causal relationship between going undefeated in the regular season and failing to win a national title. Sure, every NCAA champion since Indiana's 1976 team has had at least one loss in the regular season. On the other hand, the last time a team has even tried to win the NCAA Tournament without a regular season loss was UNLV in 1991.

That's not much of a sample size. And as long as the Tigers remain unblemished, they will not acknowledge that a loss could be useful.

"We want to win every game we play," junior guard Antonio Anderson said. "That's all we want to do is win. We're not buying into anything anybody else has to say besides the guy behind us. That's about it. If a loss comes, it comes. But we just have to continue to play the way we've been playing, regardless of our record."

In that respect, Calipari is fortunate that Memphis' run at history is occurring as the New England Patriots are one game away from finishing off a rare unbeaten season. Calipari, of course, is rooting for the Patriots to win the Super Bowl on Sunday because it's hard to deny the connection.

"The Patriots winning their game will have a lot to say (whether) an undefeated season didn't hurt them," Calipari said. "If they're the best team, it shouldn't matter what you did in the past. What does that matter? It's these two teams playing. It's like the lottery; the odds are the same. They don't change, unless you let the past affect the future."

Part of going undefeated, however, is being able to handle the daily questions about it and the potential for added stress, especially in the modern media age. Calipari talks often of his 1996 UMass team, which felt the weight of history by the time it reached 26-0 but was finally unleashed after it lost a home game to George Washington.

At the same time, Calipari says this situation is different, since the Tigers won 25 straight last season before losing to Ohio State in the Elite Eight. It also should be noted that Memphis was under tremendous pressure during that streak, since the team knew that any loss would significantly hurt its NCAA Tournament seed.

"If we lose, then hey I'll say that, yeah, we needed that," Calipari said. "I'm going to say, we absolutely needed that. When I was at UMass and we won those games early, it was an albatross, but that team had never done what this team did. So it just built."

Is it building already? The Tigers say no, and if they lose Wednesday, it's unlikely to be because of the undefeated talk.

"I think people will try to put the pressure on you," sophomore guard Doneal Mack said. "You have to look at the Patriots. They stay humble and stay focused, and that's all we're trying to do."

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

ESPN Upset Special

ESPN Upset Special
Wednesday: Houston over Memphis, 8 p.m. ET

The No. 1 Memphis Tigers take the show on the road. The drive and kick offense and suffocating defense have Chris Douglas-Roberts, Robert Dozier, Derrick Rose and Joey Dorsey attacking on both ends of the floor. The Cougars have a great mix of high school, junior college and transfer players with valuable experience. Kelvin Lewis, Rob McKiver and Lanny Smith make up the three guard line up for coach Tom Penders. Lewis, an Auburn transfer, had a career high 17 points against UTEP, McKiver can score from anywhere on the floor and Smith is a quick athletic point that can handle the ball and leads the team in assists. Inside, Tafari Toney and Texas transfer Dion Dowell score and take care of the rebounding. Houston will not be intimidated by the Tigers and might have enough high-major players to keep it interesting at home.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tiger Critics - Pick Your Poison


Ok, I'm amazed at the criticism I am hearing about the Memphis schedule, so I decided to do some research (By the way, Memphis is 5-0 versus the Sagarin Top 25, Kansas is 2-0, the closest competitor is Tennessee at 4-1)

Strength of Schedule

Memphis

RPI #34
Sagarin #97
Ken Pomeroy #42

Kansas

RPI #36
Sagarin #85
Ken Pomeroy #28

Tennessee

RPI #2
Sagarin #12
Ken Pomeroy #7

UCLA

RPI #32
Sagarin #36
Ken Pomeroy #19

Duke

RPI #37
Sagarin #47
Ken Pomeroy #15

North Carolina

RPI #11
Sagarin #28
Ken Pomeroy #37

Memphis definitely has the weakest of the group, but not by a big margin, especially compared to Kansas. If you take into account the fact that Memphis plays in the worst conference in the group, it is pretty easy to explain.

So are the critics mad that Memphis has home games against Georgetown, Arizona, Tennessee and Gonzaga? I remember the Tigers playing three of those teams on the road last year. Only Georgetown is new on the schedule. And yes, Memphis was 1 and 2 in those road games last year.

Are the critics now going to say that Memphis has only beat marginal competition on neutral sites?

Oklahoma (14-5) (RPI - #28, Sagarin - #27, Ken Pomery - #27)
Connecticut (14-5) (RPI - #23, Sagarin - #22, Ken Pomery - #28)
Southern Cal (13-6) (RPI - #38, Sagarin - #21, Ken Pomery - #24)

Pretty strong resume by those teams.

Memphis holds AP No. 1 for 2nd week


Memphis holds No. 1 for 2nd week
Florida, St. Mary's, Kansas St. return to the rankings
Posted: Monday January 28, 2008 2:20PM; Updated: Monday January 28, 2008 2:20PM


Top 25 AP Poll
Rank School Record Last week
1. Memphis 19-0 1
2. Kansas 20-0 2
3. Duke 17-1 4
4. North Carolina 19-1 5
5. UCLA 18-2 8
6. Georgetown 16-2 9
7. Tennessee 17-2 3
8. Michigan St. 18-2 10
9. Washington St. 17-2 6
10. Texas 16-3 12
11. Indiana 17-2 7
12. Butler 19-2 15
13. Wisconsin 16-3 11
14. Stanford 16-3 20
15. Xavier 17-4 23
16. Drake 18-1 22
17. Marquette 14-4 21
18. Pittsburgh 16-4 13
19. Vanderbilt 17-3 14
20. Florida 18-3 --
21. Saint Mary's, Calif. 17-2 --
22. Kansas St. 14-4 --
23. Texas A&M 16-4 18
24. Mississippi 15-3 17
25. Baylor 16-3 25


Others receiving votes: Mississippi St. 112, Connecticut 108, Arizona 102, Dayton 69, Notre Dame 63, Southern Cal 63, West Virginia 63, Louisville 40, Purdue 34, Oklahoma 28, Villanova 27, South Alabama 22, Clemson 20, Gonzaga 17, Rhode Island 17, Arizona St. 16, Houston 9, Miami 7, UNLV 4, Saint Joseph's 3, Va. Commonwealth 1.

Memphis made it to a second week as No. 1.

The Tigers led The Associated Press' college basketball poll Monday, doubling their only other stint as a top-ranked team. In January 1983, Memphis went to No. 1 and lost hours later.

This edition of the Tigers (19-0) beat Tulsa and Gonzaga last week and stayed No. 1 with 46 first-place votes and 1,774 points from the 72-member national media panel.

Kansas (20-0), the only other unbeaten team in Division I, held second for a second straight week with easy wins over Iowa State and Nebraska. The Jayhawks had the other 26 No. 1 votes and 1,754 points.

Duke moved up one place to third, the Blue Devils' highest ranking since No. 1 in the final poll of 2005-06. North Carolina, which was No. 1 from the preseason poll until Memphis moved up following the Tar Heels' home loss to Maryland, jumped one place to fourth.

UCLA and Georgetown moved up three spots to fifth and sixth, while Tennessee, which lost 72-66 at Kentucky, dropped from third to seventh.

Michigan State moved up from No. 10 to No. 8, while Washington State dropped three places to ninth and Texas advanced two spots to round out the top 10.

Indiana, whose 29-game home winning streak was snapped by Connecticut on Saturday, dropped four places to 11th and was followed by Butler, Wisconsin, Stanford, Xavier, Drake, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt and Florida.

Saint Mary's (Calif.), Kansas State, Texas A&M, Mississippi and Baylor were the last five ranked teams.

Florida, Saint Mary's and Kansas State all returned to the rankings for the second time this season. They replace Dayton, Villanova and Arizona State, all losing two games last week.

Florida (18-3), the two-time defending national champion, was ranked 25th in the second poll of the regular season after losing to Florida State. The Gators returned at No. 20, having won seven of their last eight games, including an 86-64 victory over Vanderbilt on Sunday.

Saint Mary's (17-2) was No. 24 in the poll of Dec. 10, the Gaels' first ranking since the 1988-89 season. They lost at Southern Illinois in their next game and fell out until this week. Saint Mary's has won 10 of 11 since, the only loss at Texas.

Kansas State (14-4) returned to the rankings having won 10 of its last 11, the only loss at Xavier. The Wildcats, who were 25th in the preseason poll and were ranked for the first three polls of the regular season, host No. 2 Kansas on Wednesday.

Dayton (14-4) fell out from 16th after losing 69-43 to Xavier and 80-63 to Richmond last week. The Flyers were ranked for the last four weeks, reaching as high as No. 14.

Villanova (13-5) lost to Rutgers and Notre Dame last week and dropped out from 18th. The Wildcats had been ranked for 10 of the last 11 weeks, reaching as high as No. 17.

Arizona State (14-5) returned to the poll two weeks ago after not being ranked since the final poll of 1994-95. The Sun Devils lost home games to Washington and Washington State last week.

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

Over The Edge…..

Over The Edge…..
Posted by John Stacy, Tiger fan blogger

Maybe I’m too emotional but it occurred to me when I walked down the passageway yesterday that I was going to see my Tigers as the #1 team in the country. All our lives we’ve said, “We’re number 1.” We mostly meant conference champs at times. Sometimes it was just in our hearts. Then there were just after the good wins. But this time we are truly number one and I was going to get to watch them. You gotta admit you had a good smile about that.

I ran into about 75 different Gonzaga fans yesterday. Most were nice enough but there were some exceptions. One decided he wanted to pop off early in the 2nd half trying to rile the section around him. It lasted about 2 minutes then he had nothing to say. I guess when you’re losing by 16 it’s hard to talk smack.

My cable box is broke so it is no TV Sunday. So this might end up being longer than usual.

I’m kinda sorta torn about the what how the national media talks about the Tigers. We all want them to give this team the respect they deserve. We want them to finally acknowledge that the University of Memphis has a program that is on par with the best in the country. I did say program for a reason. Back-to-back Elite Eights followed up with a season like this are signs of a solid program. We didn’t just jump up as St. Joes did a few years ago. Cal has this program at a point where we can expect to win at a high level for a while. Maybe that’s why the national “experts” don’t like it, could someone actually be challenging the national status quo?

If you don’t think this basketball team isn’t helping with football recruiting then you’re nuts. Crowds like yesterday show kids how exciting it can be to be at Memphis. It helps a lot.

I can’t say this enough, join the Tiger Scholarship Fund! If you call yourself a Tigers fan or supporter then help us build for tomorrow today. This is your way to improve our program. It starts with each of us. If you can sit back and criticize the programs while calling yourself a “fan” then help improve us. Do your part. You can pay over the next six months and do the school a lot of good. Sorry to get up on the soap box but I feel strongly about this.

By the time he’s a senior Doneal Mack will be a very memorable Tigers shooter.

My favorite play yesterday was Joey’s block, breakaway and flush. How many teams in the country can say they’ve got a big man who can block a 3-pointer, chase it down and breakaway for a dunk? Not very many I can promise you that.

Can’t win them all by double digits huh. I should be happy winning 17 of 19 by no fewer than 10 should be good enough.

If you were there yesterday, come back for the next four home games. There is no reason that the place shouldn’t be full for every home game from here on out.

Alright, that’s enough.

later
j

Buffalo (NY) News - Memphis enjoys view from summit

Memphis enjoys view from summit
Updated: 01/26/08 6:50 AM

The last time Memphis was ranked No. 1 in the country, the giddy feeling lasted a mere six hours.

On Jan. 10, 1983, coach Dana Kirk decided to inform his team, then known as Memphis State, after a game against Virginia Tech that it had ascended to the top spot. But the Hokies, led by sharpshooter Dell Curry, had other plans and knocked off the Tigers by 13 points. But last Monday when the Tigers were voted No. 1 for the first time in 25 years, coach John Calipari didn’t bother concealing the information.

“They were on it,” Calipari said. “They knew what every TV announcer had said. When North Carolina lost and there was Game Day all day that day, no one mentioned us. No one stepped up and said, ‘Well, it looks like Memphis is going to move into that No. 1 spot now.’ It wasn’t that way.”

Now the best team in the country has a sizable chip on its shoulder wider than the Mississippi River and with good reason. The Tigers are 84-8 over the last two-plus seasons, including 18-0 this season heading into today’s nonleague showdown against Gonzaga. If programs like Kansas, UCLA and North Carolina had a .913 winning percentage over a similar span, there would be talk of a dynasty. Such is life for schools outside BCS conferences, even one like Memphis that has a rich tradition.

Although Calipari helped create the resurgence at Memphis, the school hasn’t garnered this much national attention since the Penny Hardaway era in the early ’90s. Calipari returned five starters from last season’s 33-4 group that lost to Ohio State in the Elite Eight and has a roster stacked with NBA prospects, including freshman point guard Derrick Rose, who could be the top pick in the draft come June.

In terms of scheduling, Calipari follows the same blueprint he had while at Massachusetts: Play the most difficult nonconference schedule possible, even if it means taking the show on the road.

“If you want to be the champion, you can’t fight on the undercard,” Calipari said. “You have to take on all comers.”

In the last two years, Memphis has played at Tennessee, Arizona, Gonzaga and this year played USC on a neutral floor and hosted Georgetown. Next month, it hosts Tennessee. “Those scheduled games sprinkled throughout our league, makes our schedule tougher than most,” Calipari said.

And perhaps positions Memphis for an extended stay atop college basketball.

Jeff Goodman - College Hoop Blog: Good 'N Plenty


College Hoop Blog: Good 'N Plenty
by: goodmanonfox

Now I can book my trip to Memphis for Feb. 23.

The top-ranked Tigers dispatched of Gonzaga and in doing so, ran their record to a perfect 19-0. They are one of just two remaining unbeaten teams left in the country, but unlike Kansas, John Calipari’s club has a fairly clear road – except for a date on Feb. 23.

That’s when Tennessee comes to town.

Calipari and Vols coach Bruce Pearl won’t say it publicly, but they don’t like one another.

It’ll be a war.

Getting back to the Tigers, they came out of the gates in both the first and second half against the Zags with plenty of intensity. Sometimes it’s easy to forget what a difference freshman Derrick Rose can make.

The Tigers were up just three points early in the second half when Rose buried a 3-pointer. On the next possession, he found Antonio Anderson for a fastbreak dunk that gave Memphis an eight-point lead that was never really threatened the rest of the way.

This isn’t the same team as the previous two that were ousted in the Elite Eight – primarily due to the addition of Rose. However, the Tigers still have one glaring deficiency that could keep them from getting to the Final Four.

Shooting.

The Tigers were just 6-of-24 from long distance, but even more worrisome is their inconsistency from the charity stripe.

It’s a safe bet that Memphis will be the worst free throw shooting team in the NCAA tournament. The Tigers entered the game shooting 58.5 percent from the line, fifth-worst in the entire country (for comparison, North Carolina is shooting 76 percent as a team). Memphis made 59 percent against the ‘Zags and missed a few down the stretch.

The bottom line is that Memphis has continued to win. The knock is that they haven’t beaten a single NCAA tournament team in a road game and they shouldn’t be tested in the next seven league games.

While Conference USA is improved from a year ago, there aren't any teams capable of receiving an at-large bid.

Memphis' next – and final regular-season test – will likely come against the Vols. Exactly one month from today.

ESPN - Top-ranked Tigers are like Coach Cal: relentless, unselfish and paranoid


Top-ranked Tigers are like Coach Cal: relentless, unselfish and paranoid
By Pat Forde, ESPN.com

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Memphis Tigers began their game against Gonzaga on Saturday the way Mike Tyson began fights in his prime.

The opening bell was still echoing while the Tigers were beating the Bulldogs senseless.

The score was 10-0 after 127 seconds. The Zags' mouthpiece had flown into the third row, and their eyes were swelling. Memphis had made all four of its shots; Gonzaga had missed all three. Bulldogs coach Mark Few was calling timeout to stop the hemorrhaging.

"It's tough for us to simulate that in Spokane," Few said dryly.

It's tough to simulate the Memphis Experience on any college campus.

Gonzaga regrouped and actually led for one shining moment late in the first half before submitting, 81-73. But that opening flurry showed exactly why Memphis is 19-0 and ranked No. 1.

The athleticism and controlled fury Memphis threw at Gonzaga off the opening tip was breathtaking. And keep in mind, that tip-off came at the sleepy hour of 11 a.m. local time.

So how did John Calipari get his team that jacked up for that early a tip-off?

"Coach told us a lot of people flew in just to see us lose today," Memphis guard Chris Douglas-Roberts said.

"You turn on the TV, and people are picking this game as one they think we'll lose," guard Antonio Anderson said. "That's definitely why we came out ready."

Thus we have a quintessential Calipari team: relentless, unselfish … and plenty paranoid. We have a team that perfectly reflects its coach.

I think we'll lose two league games.
--John Calipari

If you sent Cal a box of chocolates, he'd have them tested for arsenic. And if you vote his team No. 1, it's only to see it fall.

Did anyone really fly to Memphis just to see the Tigers lose? Probably not, unless you were wearing Gonzaga colors. Most out-of-town media types were here to see a rare close game because there wasn't a whole lot to be learned from watching Memphis' previous four home games -- a 42-point win over Siena, a 37-point win over Pepperdine, a 41-point win over East Carolina or a 36-point win over Southern Mississippi.

But if Calipari can construct a straw man for his players to bayonet, you'd better believe he will. In the absence of competition, he'll create motivation elsewhere.

Cal has the luxury of spending his time doing that because the Tigers' schedule is almost totally stress-free from here until roughly the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament.

They won't lose before then. Even if Calipari does not see it that way.

"I think we'll lose two league games," he said. With a straight face.

"Their team will play out of their minds, and we'll break down a little," Calipari said, not convincing anyone. "They're not machines. Now, I've been wrong before -- I think it was in '79, might have been '77."

Which means he's overdue. With the Conference USA tournament to be played right here at the FedEx Forum, expect the Tigers to be 34-0 on Selection Sunday. They'll be the first unbeaten to reach the NCAA Tournament since UNLV in 1991.

That would be a huge story line. As it stands now, Memphis is the first team from outside the big six football conferences to be ranked No. 1 since Saint Joseph's in 2004. But don't mistake the Tigers for Cinderella, no matter what Calipari is selling.

"We're going to go from being Tennessee's team to being America's team," Cal proclaimed, in a fit of grandiosity. "Like we did one time before."

The one time before was 1995-96, when Calipari's Massachusetts team spent most of the season ranked No. 1 before losing in the national semifinals to Kentucky. That team validated Cal's coaching ability nationally, although it never should have been in doubt after he took an overachieving UMass team to the Sweet Sixteen in 1992.

This Memphis team bears little resemblance to those UMass clubs. It has a McDonald's All-American and surefire lottery pick in freshman Derrick Rose (19 points, nine assists and eight rebounds vs. Gonzaga) at point guard. It has other future pros in Douglas-Roberts and rebounding fool Joey Dorsey. It goes nine deep without running out of size, speed or shooters.

The Tigers never tire of playing defense, and they're playing with notable unity on offense. How do you average 17 assists a game? By giving up the rock and avoiding forced shots.

"It's impressive to see everyone, as we say, pulling the rope," Few said.

But in my view, pulling an undefeated bull's-eye into March Madness will hinder Memphis' title quest. I asked Calipari, who has referenced the New England Patriots repeatedly, whether he agreed.

It depends on if the Patriots win," Calipari said.

Fair enough. But it's hard to find two league losses on the remaining schedule. Maybe two that will be within 20 points.

The first is Wednesday at Houston. The Cougars are 14-3 but own just a single victory over a team ranked better than 120th in the RPI (that would be No. 82 Marist … woo-hoo). Houston will play right into Memphis' hands, running up and down the floor. The Tigers will roll.

The other road game of consequence is at UAB on Feb. 16. The Blazers are 9-0 at home, and Mike Davis has a couple shock-the-world wins on his résumé from his time at Indiana. But UAB also has lost to Marshall, Wichita State, South Florida and Georgia Southern.

That means the only other game of immense consequence is at home against Tennessee on Feb. 23 (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET). The Volunteers have the athletes to match up fairly well with Memphis, but playing on the road will make that a tough assignment.

With the Gonzaga hurdle cleared, one of the primary story lines from here on out will be Memphis' run at perfection.

"We're coaching to win every game," Calipari said. "What are the chances? Not good."

They're better than they were before Gonzaga stepped into the Forum. After his Bulldogs gave the Tigers their best battle at home, Few said the undefeated talk has detracted from appreciating Memphis' overall excellence.

"I don't think that's a fair thing to hang on their head," Few said. "Everyone needs to step back and think what a wonderful season they're having.

"It's not accurate to portray their conference as easy to roll through. That's what people always put on us. But I hope they do [go undefeated]. I'm rooting for them."

Don't let your players hear that, Cal. Not if you're selling them on the idea of everyone wanting to see the Tigers lose.

Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Your Still the One !!!!!!!!!!!

Bulldogs say Tigers a bit better than Vols

Bulldogs say Tigers a bit better than Vols
Gonzaga has rare insight after playing -- and losing to -- both
By Jim Masilak
Sunday, January 27, 2008

It's a shame Jeremy Pargo has business on the West Coast in late February. Gonzaga's junior point guard would love to be at FedExForum when No. 3 Tennessee visits the top-ranked University of Memphis in four weeks.

Having played and lost to both the Tigers and Vols this season, Pargo and the Bulldogs are uniquely positioned to assess one of the most highly anticipated games of the college basketball season.

Pargo expects it to be a can't-miss affair. He also expects the Tigers to win.

"It's gonna be a game to watch, I can tell you that," Pargo said in the aftermath of the Tigers' 81-73 victory over the Bulldogs on Saturday at FedExForum. "They're pretty similar. Overall, I think Memphis is a little more athletic than Tennessee. Memphis probably has a pro in every single spot. They get out on the press and jump on people. Some of the stuff they do is unbelievable."

Gonzaga is one of just two common opponents between the Vols and Tigers, both of whom also defeated Middle Tennessee earlier this season. While Tennessee beat Gonzaga, 82-72, on a semi-neutral court in Seattle last month, the Bulldogs walked away from Saturday's slightly narrower road loss singing the Tigers' praises.

"I think Memphis has a better team," Gonzaga guard Micah Downs said. "Don't get me wrong; Tennessee has a really good team. But Memphis has the size at every position. (Point guard Derrick) Rose is 6-3, the two guards are 6-5 or 6-6, (Chris Douglas-Roberts) is 6-7, and they just get bigger and bigger when you go down the lineup."

Tennessee impressed the Bulldogs with its tenacity on defense and perimeter shooting. The Vols hit 10-of-29 3-point attempts and forced 18 turnovers against the Bulldogs, while Memphis went 6-of-24 and induced 13 turnovers.

Like Downs, however, Gonzaga forward David Pendergraft thinks the Tigers' superior frontcourt size could give them an edge.

While the Bulldogs out-rebounded the Vols, 34-32, when the teams met on Dec. 29, Memphis enjoyed a 40-28 edge on the boards in Saturday's game. Tennessee will likely have forward Duke Crews in the lineup to face the Tigers -- the 6-7 sophomore missed the trip to Seattle for medical reasons -- but the Vols are still relatively thin in the interior.

Pendergraft suspects Joey Dorsey, Robert Dozier and Shawn Taggart could have a field day in the paint against the Vols.

"They're a little bigger and more athletic than Tennessee," Pendergraft said. "Tennessee is tenacious and plays with a lot of energy ... but those three guys are gonna cause problems for Tennessee."

Junior forward Josh Heytvelt, who played sparingly against the Vols while recovering from a foot injury, also likes the Tigers' chances against their state rival.

"They play the same type of game, up-tempo and fast-paced. They play the same type of defense also," Heytvelt said in reference to the man-to-man tactics employed by both Memphis coach John Calipari and the Vols' Bruce Pearl. "It's a good matchup. I think Memphis has a little bit of an upper hand. They seem to click a little better than Tennessee."

Gonzaga guard Matt Bouldin isn't sure which team to pick, but he isn't discounting Tennessee's chances.

"I don't know," he said. "I think Memphis will have a tough time with them because of how hard they play. Everybody on their team can make things happen and that makes them a big-time threat."

Gonzaga coach Mark Few was essentially non-committal when asked to assess the matchup based on first-hand experience. Like Pargo, however, he imagines it will be a spectacle.

"I think Memphis is probably more physical," Few said, "but the speed in that game is gonna be something."

The Tigers' victory over Gonzaga was their third in as many years, including an overtime thriller last year in Spokane. Those Bulldogs who have been around for all three encounters think this Memphis team is clearly superior to the previous two editions.

"I think this lineup has an edge," Pendergraft said. "A lot of those guys are more experienced on this team. They've got seniors out there who know how to run their system. That's the difference between Memphis and those other teams. They know how to handle situations, and they pass that knowledge down to younger guys like Derrick Rose so they can see what's expected in those situations. Because of that, I think this team gets the edge."

Few seemed to agree when he said that "Memphis has a chance to be real special."

"They seem to get along great," Few added. "They share it; they make the extra pass. Everybody's doing a good job -- as we like to say, pulling the rope.

"Memphis is terrific, really terrific, and they are worthy of No. 1."

Tigers remain undefeated with 81-73 win over Gonzaga


Tigers remain undefeated with 81-73 win over Gonzaga
First home game with No. 1 ranking a success
By Dan Wolken
Saturday, January 26, 2008

Don't turn your head, even for a second. Don't look at your cell phone, reach for your popcorn or, heaven forbid, get up and leave. For two hours, twice a week, when the University of Memphis puts its No. 1 national ranking on the line, just stare straight ahead and keep your eye -- literally -- on the ball.

Anything less than total focus, and you're liable to miss something special from this blur of a basketball team, which has never run faster, transitioned better or made good things happen quicker than it did Saturday in a 81-73 win over Gonzaga.

Turned your head? You just missed Joey Dorsey getting down the court in three humongous strides and throwing in a windmill dunk.

Looked at your cell phone? You just missed Chris Douglas-Roberts blowing by Austin Daye and reversing under the basket in a flash for an old-school layup that touched nothing but net.

Reached for your popcorn? You just missed Dorsey stuffing Matt Bouldin's 3-point attempt, which took all of two seconds to turn into a breakout dunk for Antonio Anderson.

Tried to beat the crowds to the restroom at halftime? You just missed Douglas-Roberts fight through a crowd and tip in his own miss with 48.6 seconds left, even with his body angled away from the rim. And you definitely missed freshman Derrick Rose elevate over everybody for a monster tip-dunk as the clock ran out.

"It's tough for us to simulate that up in Spokane," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.

It's tough to simulate what these Tigers are doing anywhere. With all 18,152 sets of eyeballs at FedExForum clamoring for their first glimpse of the No. 1 team in the country, Memphis added heft to its ranking and 19-0 record with a victory as educational as it was entertaining.

While the Tigers' athleticism and speed was at times overpowering -- leading to at least a dozen highlight-reel moments -- they were also forced into a predicament few opponents can offer. Even as Memphis took control of the second half with a 7-0 run that pushed the lead to 53-41 with 13:48 to go, the Tigers had to keep making plays, keep making baskets until the clock ran out.

And Memphis did it by making 50 percent of its second-half field goals, out-rebounding Gonzaga 40-28 and committing just 11 turnovers, giving the Tigers enough breathing room to survive a batch of missed free throws down the stretch that kept the game going a few minutes longer than it needed to.

"That's preparing us for teams in the tournament," Douglas-Roberts, who made 7-of-11 field goals and scored 21 points, said. "They're going to do the same thing. They'll make us keep making plays because they're going to make plays. When you're an Elite Eight-level team, you're going to keep making plays, and that's what they did."

The Tigers made plays, too. Tons of them. And they tended to come in bunches, from the 10-0 spurt that opened the game, to the pair of alley-oops that started the second half and established Memphis' zone offense, to the 7-0 run the Tigers put together after Gonzaga cut the lead to 62-55 with 8:09 to go.

Many of those runs were initiated by senior forward Joey Dorsey, who had nine points, 13 rebounds and four blocks to spark a 23-8 edge in fast break points. And they were usually facilitated by Rose, who might have had his best all-around game to date with 19 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. Rose went 6-for-12 from the field, and his ability to drive, stop and get off an open shot in the lane prevented Gonzaga (15-5) from putting together a big run in the second half.

"They're fast; they're athletic at every single spot," said Gonzaga guard Jeremy Pargo, who scored 25 points with seven assists. "They're almost unguardable, but you've got to slow those guys down some kind of way and do what you have to do to stop them."

For awhile, the Bulldogs did it with a zone defense that lulled the Tigers into taking too many 3-pointers -- they went 4-for-15 in the first half -- and by pushing the ball at every opportunity, not allowing Memphis to get set defensively in the halfcourt.

After sophomore Doneal Mack's 3-pointer gave the Tigers a 25-13 lead, Gonzaga scored 11 straight points, then took the lead with 2:17 to go in the half on a Micah Downs' second 3-pointer. But the Tigers scored the last four points of the half -- all on second-effort plays -- to lead 35-32 going into the break, setting the stage for another dramatic second half in a series that produced them the last two years.

But despite making 14-of-29 field goals in the final 20 minutes, Gonzaga could not catch up to the Tigers, who now could be sprinting toward something unique with just a few legitimate challenges in the way of a possible undefeated season.

"On the road, any of these teams (can beat Memphis)," Tigers coach John Calipari said. "We almost lost to SMU a year ago. I think there will be two games where the other team will play out of their minds and we just won't have it that game. To go unblemished with what we have left ... Are we good? Yeah, we're good. Are we that good? Maybe in two weeks; we're not right now. But ... I wouldn't trade them for any team in the country."

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

TIGERS REPLAY

As the game turned

After Gonzaga got back into the game by playing zone and forcing the Tigers to take outside shots, the start of the second half was crucial for Memphis. Leading just 35-32 at the break, Memphis came out on the first possession with a lob play, which freshman Derrick Rose executed perfectly to Chris Douglas-Roberts for a slam. Then, Rose hit a 3-pointer from the wing 1:22 into the half, and the Tigers built the lead back to 42-34 just seconds later after a Joey Dorsey block led to Antonio Anderson's transition dunk. After a timeout, Memphis nearly forced a shot-clock violation -- Gonzaga's Jeremy Pargo missed a jumper at the buzzer -- and Robert Dozier made two free throws shortly thereafter to push the edge back to 10.

As the rotation turned

As has become his custom in marquee games this season, coach John Calipari rode his starters against Gonzaga. Four starters played more than 30 minutes, led by Douglas-Roberts' 35. Dorsey, who was not in foul trouble until the very end, played 33 minutes, tying his season high. Calipari used Shawn Taggart and Doneal Mack as top substitutes with 18 and 16 minutes, respectively. Sophomore Willie Kemp has been lost in the shuffle recently. He played four minutes against Tulsa -- Calipari pulled him after missing an open shot, failing to secure a rebound and committing a turnover -- and a career-low two minutes against Gonzaga.

Rim gems

There were plenty to choose from, especially in the first half. Two moments, however, stood out. The first was just 4:49 into the game, as the Tigers were running all over Gonzaga. After Pargo missed a runner in transition, Rose controlled the ball quickly and immediately looked downcourt, where Dorsey was all alone for a windmill jam. Then, with 10:44 left in the first half, Calipari was barking at Douglas-Roberts for not running hard enough to control a loose ball, which could have led to a breakout basket. So Douglas-Roberts made up for it by ripping the ball away from Micah Downs and whipping his body around as he elevated toward the basket for a dunk, giving Memphis a 22-10 lead.

Hide your eyes

Calipari was irritated with a few things Rose did as the Tigers were trying to grind out the final two minutes. On one possession, Calipari felt Rose was trying to be cute with the basketball, which could have led to a turnover. Moreover, Rose made just 2-of-6 free throws in the final 1:05 after going 4-for-4 earlier in the game. The Tigers had a big enough lead that it didn't matter too much, though Gonzaga was able to cut the lead to six and force Douglas-Roberts to make two with 21 seconds left. "He doesn't know one steal and a dunk, the game changes," Calipari said. "We miss some free throws, this isn't 11, 10. It's three."

Scorer's table

The Tigers didn't get much off their transition game Wednesday at Tulsa, so a big focus Saturday was creating easy baskets whenever they got an opportunity to run. Gonzaga obliged with 13 turnovers, which wasn't a lot, but the Tigers got down court so quickly, they were able to convert them into 21 points. Gonzaga wasn't nearly as proficient in the transition game, scoring just seven points off Memphis' 11 turnovers.

Lockerroom chatter

"You can't make a mistake on teams like Gonzaga. They'll capitalize on every mistake; that's why we needed a game like this. A lot of teams we've played haven't capitalized on our mistakes, so we didn't know what to do and what not to do. They're a great team at every position; they can hit the three and dribble and pass." -- Douglas-Roberts

Odds and ends

Calipari joined Larry Finch as the only Memphis coaches with 200 victories, improving to 200-63 in his eighth season.

Calipari said earlier this week that he needed to find more minutes for Mack due to his ability to score points in bunches. The sophomore guard did his job Saturday, scoring nine points in 16 minutes, though he went just 2-for-8 from the 3-point line.

"Whoever is scoring out of (the bench), you leave them in there," Calipari said. "Because we'll smother you on defense, so if we have a guy who can make a three, (the lead) is 12, 14, 16 , and if we're not scoring, you go with those guys. They score."

Both Calipari and Gonzaga coach Mark Few said they want to extend this series beyond next year's meeting at Spokane Arena, and the conversation prompted Calipari to divulge some future scheduling plans. He mentioned that he is working on potential neutral-site games with Arkansas and Kansas for future years.

"Why neutral? It prepares you for the NCAA Tournament," Calipari said. "Going on the road does nothing for you to prepare you for the NCAA Tournament. It doesn't do anything except add losses to your team. You'd rather play on neutral sites, half and half. That's the NCAA Tournament; get used to it. I've just got to find more teams that are willing to do it. We've got some teams that just want to come to Memphis and recruit and don't care what it does for us. They just want to be here, and most of those teams, we just don't play anymore."

Anderson finally committed a turnover with 4:31 left in the game when he had the ball stripped. He had gone five games without a turnover and has not committed more than one in a game since Dec. 15 against Middle Tennessee.

Dozier went 0-for-5 from the field, failing to make a basket for the first time since going 0-for-3 against Oklahoma on Nov. 15. The junior forward is 1-for-12 in the Tigers' last two games.

Looking ahead

Tigers at Houston, 7 p.m. Wednesday

- Dan Wolken

Friday, January 25, 2008

Hey Memphis Fans, With the Ranking Comes the Scrutiny and the Attention


Hey Memphis Fans, With the Ranking Comes the Scrutiny and the Attention

Wow! I can't believe how many articles I have read over the past five days telling me Kansas is better, Memphis didn't play so good at Tulsa, Jeff Capel says Kansas is way better than Memphis, Tim Floyd says Kansas is better than Memphis, etc., etc., etc.

Ok, so maybe they are better. I really don't care. What I care about is that Memphis is in the same conversation as Kansas, North Carolina, Duke and UCLA.

How many national titles in that group?

UCLA - 11
North Carolina - 4
Duke - 3
Kansas - 2

20 !!!!

Let's remember, Memphis has zero (but we're hoping this is our year).

All the team can do is lace up the sneakers every night and go and take care of business. And the job of the fan is to support their team and create conversation showing the world that Memphis has a large and loyal fan base.

Debate over true No. 1: Memphis or Kansas?


Debate over true No. 1: Memphis or Kansas?
By DON WOLKEN
Thursday, January 24, 2008

Until someone receives more votes than the University of Memphis in either the Associated Press or USA Today/ESPN poll, the Tigers can securely proclaim themselves the nation's No. 1 college basketball team.

But are they the best team? That's a more complicated question.

"I've said it's the most highly thought-of team in the country. That's what we are right now," coach John Calipari said. "It doesn't mean we're the best team in the country. Kansas may well be, it could be North Carolina, Georgetown, UCLA. We don't know. But we're the most highly thought of team in the country right now."

For the Tigers, who won their first game as No. 1, 56-41, at Tulsa Wednesday night, there is no way to determine whether they are truly the best team. None of the programs Calipari mentioned will play each other the rest of the season, though the Tigers' Feb. 23 clash with No. 3 Tennessee could go a long way toward building an argument on either side.

Though opinions ultimately won't matter much since college basketball determines its champion with a 65-team playoff, the debate at this point is really down to Memphis and Kansas, the only two unbeaten teams left.

In fact, the Jayhawks and Tigers have near-identical resumes. Memphis is 18-0 against the 52nd-toughest schedule in the country, according to the Ratings Percentage Index.

Kansas is 19-0 (including one non-Division 1 win) against the 53rd-ranked schedule. Memphis is 5-0 against teams in the RPI top 50; Kansas is 4-0 against the same.

Both teams beat Arizona at home (Kansas needed overtime; Memphis won with Wildcats star Jerryd Bayless sidelined).

The Tigers beat Southern California in overtime on a neutral court; Kansas beat the Trojans by four points in Los Angeles.

Both teams own victories over Oklahoma; though Kansas' was decidedly easier, Memphis played the Sooners in the third game of the season when its offense wasn't as organized.

Kansas won non-conference road games over middle-of-the-pack ACC teams Boston College and Georgia Tech. The Tigers beat mid-pack Big East teams Cincinnati (on the road) and Connecticut (neutral). From a resume standpoint, the only real tiebreaker is Memphis' Dec. 22 triumph against Georgetown.

"(No. 2) is where we should be," Kansas coach Bill Self said Monday at his weekly press conference. "Memphis started out ahead of us, and they haven't done anything to warrant anyone believing that they haven't done what they are supposed to do. We have played fairly consistently, and I don't know if being No. 2 or 1 means anything right now.

"I think it will certainly be motivation for our guys because we haven't gotten to go where we want to go. I don't really read much into it, but we are probably about where we deserve to be."

Despite Self conceding the No. 1 ranking, he and Calipari would both like their chances in a head-to-head meeting. Though Calipari wouldn't pick a winner, saying only that it would be "a great game," his players were predictably less diplomatic.

"We're a better team, I feel," junior guard Antonio Anderson said. "I'm not talking bad about them; I'm just commenting on my guys. We go out and play extremely hard. They've got a great team. I'm friends with (Kansas guard) Mario Chalmers; we've been good friends from high school.

"They're really good. Their guards and bigs are extremely good. But if we had to play tomorrow, I'm going with us. That's just how I am. But they're a great team."

Jeff Capel, the Oklahoma coach, disagreed with that conclusion after the Jayhawks dismantled his team last week, 85-55.

"They're better," Capel told reporters, referring to his Big 12 rival Kansas. "This is the best team we've played, and we've played some really good teams. They're so balanced. They shoot it obviously better than Memphis. They're bigger. They're probably equally as good in transition. I think this team passes the ball better. I don't think it's close. I think this is the best team in the country."

Pete Gillen, the former Virginia coach and current CSTV analyst, has seen both teams in person and called Kansas' 85-60 win at Boston College for Westwood One radio.

Still, he said he'd pick the Tigers in that matchup, pointing to junior Chris Douglas-Roberts as the "X factor" for his ability to penetrate and make clutch baskets.

"I think it would be a great game," Gillen said. "I think Memphis would win. A lot of people are going the other way, but they'd play mainly man-to-man, which is a plus for Memphis, and they penetrate so well.

"Kansas is playing unbelievably well, so a lot of people are going with the Jayhawks, but I'm sticking with Memphis. Derrick Rose is going to get better and better, and I just think Douglas-Roberts is really, really hard to defend. He's a money guy. When they really need a basket, he comes through more often than not. Kansas was tremendous the day I saw them, but I think on a neutral court Memphis would win in a great game."

USA Today - Memphis and Kansas reserves not just sitting around

Memphis and Kansas reserves not just sitting around
By Marlen Garcia, USA TODAY

Chris Douglas-Roberts, leading scorer for Memphis' top-ranked basketball team at 16.6 points a game, barely breaks a sweat sometimes. He doesn't always get the chance because on average, he plays 27 minutes a game. Second-ranked Kansas' leading scorer, Darrell Arthur, averages fewer than 24.

Both teams, the only unbeaten Division I teams in the country, get sizable contributions from the bench. Memphis' reserves average 27.8 points a game heading into their date with visiting Gonzaga on Saturday (ESPN, noon). That's the same number Kansas' subs are contributing going into their Big 12 game against Nebraska.

Whether backup guard Andre Allen fills in for Derrick Rose at Memphis or Kansas' Sherron Collins is giving the Jayhawks a high-octane boost off the bench, both squads have high performing reserves.

"In both cases, they have players coming off the bench that are good enough to start on most top-20 teams," says ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, who coached at Manhattan, St. John's and New Mexico. The key is getting starters and reserves alike to check their egos at the door, Fraschilla says.

Douglas-Roberts, for instance, could be scoring more than 20 points a game with a few more minutes in the lineup, but Memphis coach John Calipari says his starters willingly give up minutes to reserves. On the flip side, Memphis reserves have learned to accept limited roles.

"I had to make a statement one day because I think guys off the bench wanted to play more," Calipari says. "I walked into our team meeting and I said, 'I want to tell Chris Douglas-Roberts, Antonio Anderson, Robert Dozier and Joey Dorsey, I appreciate that you're accepting the fact of playing only 25 minutes when you probably should play 35.' I basically was making a statement like, 'Hey, guys, let's respect your position and be the best at your position in the country.' And you know what? I think they're taking that on."

Fraschilla believes Kansas' bench is slightly stronger than Memphis'.

"Kansas may have a little bit more power up front with their bench," he says. "(Center) Sasha Kaun had been a starter and Cole Aldrich, the 10th man, was a McDonalds' All-American last year. (Kansas) can withstand injury a little easier."

USA Today - Weekend tip-off: Gonzaga to test Memphis


Weekend tip-off: Gonzaga to test Memphis
USA Today
By Eddie Timanus, USA TODAY

Starting five

1. Looking out for No. 1: Gonzaga's philosophy of playing anybody anywhere is on display again Saturday as the Bulldogs take their shot at top-ranked Memphis. But the fact the Tigers were pushed Wednesday at Tulsa and still won by 15 indicates just how tall an order the Zags face. Gonzaga's backcourt of Jeremy Pargo and Matt Bouldin might be able to match big shots with the Tigers' Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose, but the Zags might not have an answer for Memphis' veteran posts, Joey Dorsey and Robert Dozier.

2. Encore? Maryland returns to action Sunday for the first time since knocking North Carolina from the pinnacle of the polls. The Terrapins look to notch another high-profile Atlantic Coast Conference upset as No. 3 Duke visits the Comcast Center. Maryland's team defense again will be tested, but this time the priority will be on the perimeter, where G Greivis Vasquez must not let Duke's DeMarcus Nelson hit from long range.

3. On the road again: Winning away from home has been difficult in the young Big East campaign. No. 9 Georgetown, which lost its most recent road game to then-No. 16 Pittsburgh, will give it another try Saturday night at West Virginia. The Mountaineers' list of victims on its home floor already includes Marquette and Syracuse, but the Hoyas have a couple of things working in their favor. Georgetown leads the nation in field-goal defense, helped by 7-2 C Roy Hibbert, and West Virginia had to go to the wire Wednesday night, needing a late bucket from F Da'Sean Butler to escape a determined challenge from in-state foe Marshall in a game played at Charleston, W.Va.

4. Close quarters: The East Division of the Southeastern Conference is starting to resemble a NASCAR race with restrictor plates. Five teams are bunched within a game, and all of the contenders have at least one conference loss. No. 13 Vanderbilt got a midweek respite but jumps back into the fray Sunday at Florida. The young Gators, rebuilding around C Marreese Speights and G Walter Hodge, got out of South Carolina with a two-point win Wednesday. The deep and experienced Commodores, paced by sharpshooting F Shan Foster, must still show they can handle a pressing defense in hostile territory.

5. Cardinal virtues: No. 21 Stanford put itself in good position in the top-heavy Pacific-10 with last week's sweep of Arizona and then-No. 25 Arizona State. Saturday, the Cardinal make the short trip to Berkeley, where California will be eager to atone for back-to-back heartbreakers. The Golden Bears' success could hinge on how well C DeVon Hardin holds up against Stanford 7-footer Brook Lopez.

Long-time followers of March Madness might remember Cleveland State's brief appearance on the national scene when the 14th-seeded Vikings upset Indiana in 1986. CSU hasn't returned to the Big Dance or beaten a ranked team since — until last week when, under second-year coach Gary Waters, the Vikings toppled then-No. 12 Butler. They have reason to hope the NCAA dry spell will end as well. Alone atop the Horizon League, the Vikings play the second of four consecutive conference road games Saturday at Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Number of the week

12.6: Kansas State freshman phenom Michael Beasley wasted no time showing why his name topped many recruiting lists. The 24 rebounds he snared in his first collegiate game Nov. 9 against Sacramento State still is the top individual total in Division I this season. His average has leveled to a more earthly 12.6 a game, still good enough to lead the most recent NCAA stats. Beasley is also the Big 12 scoring leader at 24.6 points a game and occasionally flashes three-point range. His Wildcats host Iowa State on Saturday before next Wednesday's date with archrival Kansas.

Postgame blog: Memphis 56, Tulsa 41


Postgame blog: Memphis 56, Tulsa 41
Posted by Dan Wolken

The Tigers needed that.

A lot of national commentators think Memphis can just roll the ball out in a Conference USA game and chalk up a win regardless of the circumstances. Having been at all these games, I can assure you it’s never that easy. While it’s true that 5-6 teams in this league simply aren’t capable of putting up any resistence, the Tigers got challenged several times last year in league play (remember Southern Miss, UTEP, at Houston, etc.) and will get challenged several times again this season. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Sure, it’s fun to beat everybody by 30, as Memphis had done against the bottom-half programs like Marshall, Southern Miss, Rice and East Carolina. But it’s awful hard to learn from those games, awful hard to figure out how you’re going to function in a tighter game, awful hard to extend your starters like you need to do in the NCAA Tournament. That’s why games like last night are a valuable experience for the Tigers.

Having said that, nobody is going watch tape from last night and rave about the Tigers as a No. 1-ranked team. They probably took more bad shots last night than in any game this season, which helps account for the 8 airballs they shot. Robert Dozier and Joey Dorsey got nothing done offensively. Antonio Anderson wasn’t on his best stuff. Chris Douglas-Roberts was hot early, then completely disappeared for 20 minutes before coming back strong down the stretch. Derrick Rose was really good in stretches, but he didn’t take over the game when things got tight. Doneal Mack and Willie Kemp weren’t much of a factor off the bench. Andre Allen didn’t play one of his best games. And, of course, Shawn Taggart was the hero with 12 second-half points.

Defensively, the Tigers were good, though not as good as the numbers would indicate. Tulsa shot 30.9 percent, but they missed several wide-open 3-pointers and a couple layups early in the second half that could have changed the complexion of the game. Ben Uzoh, a really good scorer, had a bad night (3-for-9). And freshman Glenn Andrews, who had been shooting the ball exceptionally well, went 1-for-12. So the Tigers were a little bit lucky in that respect.

I am confident the Tigers will play better against Gonzaga, though it’s still a game they could lose. Gonzaga has a lot of talent, and they’re finally healthy enough to win a game like this.

In The Making For Eight Years

The Nasty Boys Sports Blog
By Doc Hancock

For the last two or three years, I’ve been proud to let my friends from outside Shelby County know that I lived in the murder capital of the country, that our mayor was a shithead, and for all intents and purposes had a problem with a third of the inner-city population.

While two of those three are true, I can’t be certain about the last thing on the list.

But the certain feeling that this town has received since the Memphis Tigers — who prior to this week was ranked at the top only once in nearly 90 years of basketball and wound up losing it the same day back in 1983 when they faced Virginia Tech — became the new #1 in the country on Monday, it’s one of bliss.

When Marquette, St. Louis, Charlotte, Cincinnati, DePaul, and Louisville all bolted from Conference USA for greener pastures, leaving Memphis and UAB behind, people never envisioned the Tigers being in the discussion for National prominence, let known National Championship contenders.

It was, according to the experts, going to turn into another lowly basketball conference that would only yield one whipping boy to the NCAA Tournament and nothing else.

But if there’s one thing that Calipari learned from his time at UMASS in the 90’s, it didn’t matter what conference they were playing in or even how sucky it is.

All that matters was that his guys went out night in and night out to give it their all on the floor.

Instead of preparing for conference play with cupcakes, Calipari rid us of the Ole Miss series and introduced the Tiger faithful to top-caliber teams like UCONN, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma, and even Kentucky.

He brought in guys like Rodney Carney, Earl Barron, Joey Dorsey, Andre Allen — guys who weren’t on the top of many prep lists out of high school — and molded them into skilled players.

Then there was the second chance given to Jeremy Hunt, who overcame legal troubles to return to the team in 2006-07 and become a valuable asset off the bench.

Need I say more?

How about nabbing guys like Jeff Robinson and Derrick Rose, highly touted prep stars who decided to come to Memphis and possibly win a National Championship?

Pretty darn good coach, if you ask me.

Given the fact that the basketball program was in a mess prior to Calipari’s arrival with the Tic Price scandal, the #1 ranking is something that has been in the works since that press conference in March of 2000 in the Pyramid.

That day, along with Monday, could very well be two significant dates in the recent history of Memphis basketball.

Hopefully, come April, a third one can be added to this list.

Mike DeCourcy - Kansas cruising under the radar at No. 2


Kansas cruising under the radar at No. 2
Posted: January 23, 2008

Memphis is running up in front, absorbing all the wind resistance that comes with being ranked highest in the polls. Kansas sits comfortably behind. If this were a NASCAR race or a 1,500-meter run, we might say the Jayhawks are drafting.

Memphis owns the No. 1 ranking in both polls and is second in the Ratings Percentage Index. The Tigers are most commonly presented as the leading candidate to carry a perfect record into the postseason. North Carolina held the No. 1 spot up until losing last weekend. But inside the circle of those who coach, who scout, who follow the game most closely, Kansas is talked about with the highest degree of reverence.

This is an enviable position: possibly the best team with definitely the least attention.

"I think it's fine," coach Bill Self says. "Those teams are legitimately good. I think it's allowed us to operate with less interest level from the media standpoint. Being ranked No. 1 or 2 right now ... it doesn't mean anything."

Kansas' schedule has been plenty demanding in terms of location -- with a home game against Arizona mixed in with road trips to Southern California, Georgia Tech, Boston College and Missouri -- but has lacked the sexy non-league matchup that might have commanded everyone's attention.

So KU quietly has chewed up every opponent in its path, overwhelming victims with its brazen defense and obnoxious wealth of offensive weapons. In a recent nine-game stretch, the Jayhawks were led in scoring by seven different players. They can score inside with bigs Darrell Arthur and Darnell Jackson. Wing Brandon Rush can hit from long range. Guards Mario Chalmers and Sherron Collins can attack off the dribble.

They are so selfless the only thing standing between the Jayhawks and the Final Four might be mass enrollment in the Peace Corps.

"We're sharing the wealth, and everybody's playing their part in moving the ball," says point guard Russell Robinson, who manages it all. "We have a lot of options. The open guy shoots it; that's our main objective."

Of the nation's elite teams, KU has the most feared defense. Chalmers and Rush are lockdown defenders, and Jackson and backup center Sasha Kaun block shots. The Jayhawks are so adept at ripping the ball from opposing hands they sometimes gamble at the wrong times.

It's not easy to find flaws in the Jayhawks at this point. Self and Robinson both said the team could improve in "late-game situations," which seems logical, because recently the regulars' late-game routine is to watch the walk-ons mop up another blowout. It's hard to get good at something you never do, so this is regularly addressed in practice.

"They're enjoying just playing the season," Self says. "They're enjoying the practices, enjoying each other. Our five seniors have a chance to win four league titles in a row. They look at that as a goal, something they're eager to do. It's been a fun group. They're just light on their feet every day."

Always realistic about his teams, Self can't help but feel optimism about this group. But the sunshine grows a little too bright when he says of the No. 2 ranking, "I don't think, by any means, it is a show of disrespect for us."

Well, of course it is. As it was when one major publication ranked the Jayhawks No. 8 in the preseason despite the Jayhawks bringing back all but one key player from a 30-win team, or when a well-known sports web site last week featured video of an analyst suggesting KU consistently underperforms in March.

Kansas is caught in the mythology of the tournament, which demands some team -- or, preferably, some coach -- be labeled an underachiever because of upset losses here or there. Self has been to the Elite Eight four times in the past eight seasons, and to the Sweet 16 two others years in that stretch. That is a marvelous tournament record. But many define him by the Jayhawks' consecutive first-round losses, in 2005 and 2006, and by the absence of a Final Four appearance.

In fact, Self's .640 tournament winning percentage is better than Jim Calhoun's record before Connecticut won the 1999 title, better than Lute Olson's before Arizona became champion in 1997. Opposing fans hoping Self will get in the Jayhawks' way will have to wish they encounter other obstacles.

For instance, North Carolina or Memphis. "I watch their games. I'm a basketball fan myself," Robinson says. "They're definitely fun to watch. You can make a lot of arguments that we're better, they're better. But my thought is, until the game is played you won't really know."

Robinson knows if such games occur, they will happen on a very big stage: the Final Four perhaps, and no sooner than the Elite Eight.

"That's what I look forward to," he says. "Hopefully, that day will come."

Mike DeCourcy is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at decourcy@sportingnews.com.

Some are saying fellow-unbeaten Kansas is better than Tigers


Some are saying fellow-unbeaten Kansas is better than Tigers
By Dan Wolken
Wednesday, January 23, 2008

TULSA, Okla. -- Until someone receives more votes than the University of Memphis in either the Associated Press or USA Today/ESPN poll, the Tigers can securely proclaim themselves the nation's No. 1 college basketball team.

But are they the best team? That's a more complicated question.

"I've said it's the most highly thought of team in the country. That's what we are right now," coach John Calipari said. "It doesn't mean we're the best team in the country. Kansas may well be, it could be North Carolina, Georgetown, UCLA. We don't know. But we're the most highly thought of team in the country right now."

For the Tigers, who play their first game as No. 1 tonight at Tulsa, there is no way to determine whether they are truly the best team. None of the programs Calipari mentioned will play each other the rest of the season, though the Tigers' Feb. 23 clash with No. 3 Tennessee at FedExForum could go a long way toward building an argument on either side.

Though opinions ultimately won't matter much since college basketball determines its champion with a 65-team playoff, the debate at this point is really down to Memphis and Kansas, the only two unbeaten teams left.

In fact, the Jayhawks and Tigers have near-identical resumes. Memphis is 17-0 against the 52nd-toughest schedule in the country, according to the Ratings Percentage Index.

Kansas is 18-0 (including one non-Division 1 win) against the 53rd-ranked schedule. Memphis is 5-0 against teams in the RPI top 50; Kansas is 4-0 against the same.

Both teams beat Arizona at home (Kansas needed overtime; Memphis won with Wildcats star Jerryd Bayless sidelined).

The Tigers beat Southern California in overtime on a neutral court; Kansas beat the Trojans by four points in Los Angeles.

Both teams own victories over Oklahoma; though Kansas' was decidedly easier, Memphis played the Sooners in the third game of the season when its offense wasn't as organized.

Kansas won non-conference road games over middle-of-the-pack ACC teams Boston College and Georgia Tech. The Tigers beat mid-pack Big East teams Cincinnati (on the road) and Connecticut (neutral). From a resume standpoint, the only real tiebreaker is Memphis' Dec. 22 triumph against Georgetown.

"(No. 2) is where we should be," Kansas coach Bill Self said Monday at his weekly press conference. "Memphis started out ahead of us, and they haven't done anything to warrant anyone believing that they haven't done what they are supposed to do. We have played fairly consistently, and I don't know if being No. 2 or 1 means anything right now.

"I think it will certainly be motivation for our guys because we haven't gotten to go where we want to go. I don't really read much into it, but we are probably about where we deserve to be."

Despite Self conceding the No. 1 ranking, he and Calipari would both like their chances in a head-to-head meeting. Though Calipari wouldn't pick a winner, saying only that it would be "a great game," his players were predictably less diplomatic.

"We're a better team, I feel," junior guard Antonio Anderson said. "I'm not talking bad about them; I'm just commenting on my guys. We go out and play extremely hard. They've got a great team. I'm friends with (Kansas guard) Mario Chalmers; we've been good friends from high school.

"They're really good. Their guards and bigs are extremely good. But if we had to play tomorrow, I'm going with us. That's just how I am. But they're a great team."

Jeff Capel, the Oklahoma coach, disagreed with that conclusion after the Jayhawks dismantled his team last week, 85-55.

It should be noted, however, that Capel would have had little to gain by calling Memphis the better team, especially after the Sooners had just taken a 30-point beating at the hands of a Big 12 rival.

"They're better," Capel told reporters, referring to Kansas. "This is the best team we've played, and we've played some really good teams. They're so balanced. They shoot it obviously better than Memphis. They're bigger. They're probably equally as good in transition. I think this team passes the ball better. I don't think it's close. I think this is the best team in the country."

Pete Gillen, the former Virginia coach and current CSTV analyst, has seen both teams in person and called Kansas' 85-60 win at Boston College for Westwood One radio.

Still, he said he'd pick the Tigers in that matchup, pointing to junior Chris Douglas-Roberts as the "X factor" for his ability to penetrate and make clutch baskets.

"I think it would be a great game," Gillen said. "I think Memphis would win. A lot of people are going the other way, but they'd play mainly man-to-man, which is a plus for Memphis, and they penetrate so well.

"Kansas is playing unbelievably well, so a lot of people are going with the Jayhawks, but I'm sticking with Memphis. Derrick Rose is going to get better and better, and I just think Douglas-Roberts is really, really hard to defend. He's a money guy. When they really need a basket, he comes through more often than not. Kansas was tremendous the day I saw them, but I think on a neutral court Memphis would win in a great game."

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

Dick Vitale - Kansas under the radar


Kansas under the radar
Dick Vitale
SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

Memphis has played outstanding basketball this season and John Calipari is getting the most out of his people, but what about the other unbeaten team, Kansas? There is something about this Jayhawk squad that is unique and special. They have phenomenal balance and what does that remind you of? ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla recently mentioned it on a telecast; this Kansas team is reminiscent of Florida. I couldn't agree more with that assessment.

When you study this Jayhawk edition, look at the distribution of points. They have so many weapons capable of scoring and beating you; it is hard to know which guy is going to hurt you. Look at the improvement of Darrell Arthur and Darnell Jackson inside.

I have said it before and I will say it again … Kansas has the best perimeter play in America. Their versatility with Mario Chalmers, Sherron Collins, Russell Robinson and Brandon Rush is impressive. This club is playing unselfish basketball, and using its defense to create offense.

Bill Self has a juggernaut that is on fire. You can say the Jayhawks are playing as well as anyone in the nation. They have flat-out dominated. At 18-0, this is the school's best start since going 22-0 in 1996-97.

Think about this: Kansas is 32-1 in its last 33 games and has won 26 straight regular-season contests.

It is that athleticism and quickness and a special purpose each time they take the court. Maybe it is that football mentality which has hit the basketball program? Only kidding, as Rock, Chalk Jayhawk has been led by basketball for many years and that will continue. Sorry Coach Mangino!

Self has his kids playing the way Billy Donovan did the last few years. Look at the balance of both clubs. The Gators' high scorer last season didn't average 15 ppg. Kansas has some similar numbers. Through 18 games, Kansas has had seven different leading scorers. There have been four different high scorers in the last four outings.

Brandon Rush, a preseason All-Solid Gold choice, is the team's fourth-leading scorer, averaging just under 12 ppg. Now that is balance, my friends!

How steady is this team? The Jayhawks have shot 50 percent or better in 14 of its 18 games this season. That shows that Self's team has utilized good shot selection.

This is a legitimate threat to cut the nets down in San Antonio. My friends, I have a feeling this club is going to be a continuing juggernaut all year long. I don't see a slip coming soon. This is a well-coaching team playing with purpose and working as a T-E-A-M … T for togetherness, E for effort, A for attitude and M for mental toughness. You need that mental toughness to become a champion.

Will this be the year that Kansas gets the championship? Imagine if we had a Kansas-North Carolina title game? I am not predicting that, and sorry John Calipari, but that sounds interesting, baby!

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.

Gonzaga plays at top-ranked Memphis on Saturday

Gonzaga plays at top-ranked Memphis on Saturday
By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

SPOKANE, Wash. -- To hear John Calipari tell it, his top-ranked Memphis Tigers sound like the Gonzaga of the East.

Both programs are in lightly regarded conferences, and must play tough schedules to attract the attention of Top 25 voters.

On Saturday, Gonzaga (15-4) plays at Memphis in the latest installment of a cross-country series that Calipari would like to continue for at least four more years.

"It's great for both schools," he said. "It prepares us both (for the NCAA tournament)."

The teams are talking about extending the series for two years or four years, he said.

"I'd do four," Calipari said.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few liked the idea of four more years.

"These games have had really, really high intensity and drama," Few said Wednesday.

Playing in Conference USA, Memphis (18-0 after Wednesday night's 56-41 victory over Tulsa) has to contend with critics who say that league's schedule is easier than teams face in the major BCS conferences. That means Calipari has to find top-notch opponents during the non-conference season, and often can't lure them to campus.

Instead, he tries to schedule powerhouse opponents in tournaments and other neutral sites.

"We've got to get to neutral events," Calipari said. "We can never get those opponents at home."

It's the same system that Few has pursued at Gonzaga, which dominates the West Coast Conference. The Zags typically fly all over the country to play in tournaments during the nonconference season. This year they've been to Alaska, Boston and Oklahoma City for neutral games.

Memphis and Gonzaga also don't have much margin of error during their league seasons, Few said.

"In both cases, there's a feeling you've got to be perfect in your league," Few said. "It's not fair."

On Monday, Memphis replaced North Carolina as the No. 1 team in college basketball - the Tigers' first appearance in 25 years at the top of The Associated Press poll.

Memphis is led by Chris Douglas-Roberts (16.3 ppg), Derrick Rose (14.1 ppg), Robert Dozier (11.2 ppg) and Joey Dorsey (8.4 points, 10.2 rebounds per game)

The only other time the Gonzaga squad has faced No. 1 was against Cincinnati in a 75-68 loss on Dec. 4, 1999, at the Rock-N-Roll Shootout in Cleveland.

Memphis will be the third Top 10 team the Zags have played this season. They previously lost to No. 6 Washington State 51-47 and to No. 3 Tennessee 82-72. Gonzaga's other losses this year are to Texas Tech and Oklahoma.

"We'll have to play just about perfect," Few said. "You are dealing with one of the best accumulations of raw, physical, athletic talent in the last 10 years."

Memphis is only the fourth non-BCS program to be ranked No. 1 since UNLV in 1990-91. The others are Massachusetts in 1994-95 and 1995-96, both coached by Calipari, and Saint Joseph's in 2003-04. That Saint Joseph's team beat Gonzaga 73-66.

The Zags have never been ranked higher than No. 3. The highest-ranked team they have defeated was No. 2 North Carolina last season.

Memphis leads the series with Gonzaga 2-1. Last season, the Tigers won 78-77 in overtime in Spokane.

"It was an unbelievable environment," Calipari said. "The fans are knowledgeable and respectful, even though they are loud and crazy.

"It's one of the best road trips we've taken," he said."What a great city."

Muskogee (OK) Daily Phoenix - Memphis blues

Memphis blues
Tulsa's big to knock off No. 1 falls short

TULSA (AP) — Without another standout performance off the bench, Memphis’ second chance to be the top-ranked team in the country might have ended in defeat, just like the first time.

Chris Douglas-Roberts scored 20 points, and reserve Shawn Taggart scored 12 of his 14 in the second half to help No. 1 Memphis beat pesky Tulsa 56-41 Wednesday night and avoid the fate that befell the Tigers their only other time with the No. 1 ranking 25 years earlier.

“We always were No. 1 in our eyes, but now they finally put us in their top notch,” said Taggart, who had his third-highest point total of the season. “We’re going to go out there and we’re going to play exactly how we played when we were No. 3 and exactly how we played when we were No. 2.”

After winning each of its last six games by at least 20 points, Memphis (18-0, 5-0 Conference USA) didn’t take a double-digit lead until Douglas-Roberts’ two-handed jam with 6:21 remaining made it 48-38.

Freshman point guard Derrick Rose set up the dunk by tipping away Calvin Walls’ pass and then tracking it down in the frontcourt before firing a pass to Douglas-Roberts.

Taggart followed with a 3-pointer — only his sixth in 11 attempts this season — and Douglas-Roberts added a layup off a baseline inbounds pass as Memphis reeled off nine straight points to go up 54-38 with 4:02 left.

Memphis coach John Calipari thought for a while that the ascent to No. 1 might have been affecting his team’s performance. By the end, he decided it was more about the impact of the ranking on his opponent.

“You know it’s inspiring the other team. You’ve got to hope that it’s inspiring to your team even more,” Calipari said. “If it becomes an anvil around their neck, let’s lose. If it becomes something that drags us back, let’s lose.

“I think a lot of this had to do with Tulsa.”

The last time Memphis reached No. 1, Virginia Tech was waiting hours later to pull off a 64-56 upset on Jan. 10, 1983. It took the school just over a quarter-century to get back to the top.

“I’ve been wanting to be No. 1 since I was a freshman. It was great for me,” said senior Joey Dorsey, who had a career-high 19 rebounds to pass 1,000 for his career. “I ain’t trying to lose it. I’m trying to be No. 1 until the year’s over.”

Walls scored 12 points to lead the Golden Hurricane (9-7, 1-3), which dispatched the triangle-and-two defense for the first time and also relied on the 2-3 zone instead of coach Doug Wojcik’s usual man-to-man style.

“I’m not sure that anybody does a better job of preparing their team for us than what Doug does,” Calipari said. “The problem is that when you’re playing them early in the season, he exposes some of the stuff for other people to kind of come after you a little bit.”

The Tigers’ next test comes at home Saturday against Gonzaga, and Wojcik said he’d already spoken with Zags coach Mark Few — a close friend.

“I’m proud of my guys. ... We really had a chance tonight,” Wojcik said. “We really did.”

The Tigers’ inside tandem of Dorsey and Robert Dozier was neutralized much of the night by 7-footer Jerome Jordan, and the Tigers couldn’t get much going from outside.

Memphis shot only 37.9 percent, its third-lowest mark of the season, and was 4-for-16 from 3-point range but was able to make up for it by holding the Golden Hurricane to their season-low in scoring and only 22 percent shooting in the second half.

Dorsey, who was held scoreless Saturday against Southern Miss, had only two points, Dozier had three and fellow starter Antonio Anderson didn’t score. Rose had 14 points.

Tulsa drew its first sellout crowd in over two years, and the first capacity crowd at the Reynolds Center for an opponent other than Oklahoma since sixth-ranked Gonzaga visited in February 2004.

“Doug had them ready, their team was excited about playing, their fans were excited about it, and Shawn Taggart spoiled their party,” Calipari said.

“Let me say it again: Shawn Taggart spoiled their party, because the rest of us were just OK.”