Team of the 2000s: #8 – Memphis

Posted by jstevrtc on August 11th, 2009

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Ed. Note: check the category team of the 2000s for our other entries in this feature.

We already know that this selection is going to cause some consternation among teams that weren’t selected as high.  It’s ok.  We get it.  The selection process ultimately comes down to a matter of taste, and Memphis blended with our palates a little better than the others.  If you disagree, let us know…

#8 – Memphis

team2000memphis

Overview. In the period from 2000-2009, few college basketball programs “felt” bigger than Memphis.  John Calipari showed up to run the show in 2000 and everyone knew what was to come — big-time recruits, lots of one-and-done types, scads more wins, deeper advancement in the NCAA.  Also on the way, whether justified or not, was that dirty feeling that comes with knowing that your program is being led by a fellow on whom you always feel you — or maybe a private detective you’ve hired — need to keep a close eye.  In terms of the on-the-floor expectations, Calipari delivered exactly what was expected of him; after a couple of warm-up years things improved and then really took off in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons when Memphis and their collection of ridiculous interchangable-part type athletes rode Calipari’s Dribble-Drive Offense to consecutive regular-season 30-3 records and Elite Eight apperances.  As a basketball power, Memphis was taken more seriously than it ever had been and it looked like Calipari was building a Leviathan.  The 2007-08 squad validated this by putting up such impressive numbers as achieving the school’s second-ever #1 ranking, a 38-win season (jeez), and its first Final Four since the days of Keith Lee and Dana Kirk back in 1985.  Then, in the championship game…well, in case you didn’t see it….about two minutes to go, up by nine, they….um….well, just check this out.  Even with this, even if you didn’t agree with all of their methods, the Memphis program had still reached elite status in the college hoops world.

calipari coaching memphis

Pinnacle. No question, things were sweetest in Tigerland when they posted that 37th win and made it to that 2008 Final Four.  That particular Memphis team, with Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose and a litany of other high-flying gazelles — you remember the likes of Joey Dorsey, Antonio Anderson, Robert Dozier, I’m sure — was so athletic that you forgot about any possibility of, er, shadiness.  For the most part, you just enjoyed the show.  A case could definitely be made for a co-pinnacle for this program mere days later when they were, as noted above, up by nine in the final with only a couple minutes left between them and the true goal inherent in any lofty expectations — a title.

Tailspin. The 63-63 tie that resulted from Mario’s Miracle.  When Mario Chalmers hit that jumper, things were never the same therafter.  You could feel it coming.  Kansas was on fire in that stretch and Memphis couldn’t hit a free throw, but it was that shot, that boot to the forehead, that has started the Tiger program on its tailspin.  The next season (2008-09) was a disappointment by comparison, ending with an upset loss to Missouri in the Sweet 16 even though Memphis was again a popular and sexy pick for the Final Four.  Then came the departure of John Calipari to Kentucky and the NCAA allegations of Derrick Rose’s test-taking naughtiness.

Outlook for 2010s:  Grade: C. While Calipari seems to be pretty much off the hook in this Rose business — and Derrick Rose as well, just because he moved on — in the near future the Memphis program could still possibly feel the NCAA’s bitch-slapping pimp hand, and that Pinnacle as described above could be erased from the history books altogether, meaning Memphis might have to pack up the Aerostar and vacate their ’08 Final Four and all 38 of those victories like they never happened.  Enter former Arizona (and single-season at Memphis) assistant Josh Pastner.  Already known among coaching insiders as a hell of a recruiter, he knows what it takes to win; he was a walk-on on Arizona’s 1997 championship team.  It’s not like he’s going to let the post-Calipari roster totally collapse, and he’ll most certainly bring in his own high-level studs.  The question is, given the recent achievements of this program, how much time will he be allowed?  It’s difficult to speculate as far as an outlook for this program until the NCAA decides what they’re going to do to them, if anything.  The buzz around the program is more positive than you might expect, and that’s because of Pastner.  If he’s allowed the time to get over any penalties the NCAA might unload on the program, it will still be quite a while before they return to the level they achieved in the late 2000s.  But, in the end, I’ll bet that this program will do a little better than, say, to go the way of their former home – the now-empty Memphis Pyramid, previously the residence of the NCAA’s Tigers, NBA’s Grizzlies, numerous concerts and conference tournaments, and more recently (but no longer) the home of the biggest and most oddly-shaped Bass Pro Shops you’ve ever seen.

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DJ Augustin Has Little Wee Arms

Posted by rtmsf on June 3rd, 2008

Apologies in advance for the small text on the table below.  You can see the entire cache of numbers here on a document we saved at Google Docs (fully sortable).  Alternatively, check the list (also sortable) over at DraftExpress, who we owe our eternal thanks to for providing these initial numbers.   

So what we’ve done here is color code highlight the best five (light green) and worst five (beige) performances in each category.  For basketball purposes, we’re assuming that height, weight and length are good things, body fat is a bad thing, and athletic ability in terms of vertical jump, agility and sprint times are valued.  For example, Brook Lopez was one of the tallest, heaviest and longest players at the camp (as expected), but his lane agility time of 12.77 seconds makes Shaq look like a gazelle (ok, maybe not that bad…). 

Anyway, for now we wanted to throw the numbers up and start digesting them.  We’ll have our thoughts on some of the surprises at the bottom later this afternoon.  Enjoy. 

Draft Combine Numbers

Thoughts:

The Lonny Baxter Award.  The biggest surprise that we saw this year was that Michael Beasley stands only 6’7 in socks (6’8 with shoes).  How is this possible?  How can the most dominant big man in the history of freshmen all-time only stand at 6’8 in his Nikes????  Can Beasley play 3 at the next level?  Chicago must be asking itself the same question.

 

Yes, Baxter Really Is Two Feet Tall

Well, it’s a good thing they’ve got the option of the next Jason Kidd in Derrick Rose then, right?  Oh wait, Rose is only 6’1.5 in socks ( 6’2.5 with shoes), a solid couple of inches shorter than Kidd, and more on par with Isiah Thomas and Chris Paul as comparisons.  The good news is that Rose can fly outta the gym with his 40″ vertical leap and his 3.05 3/4 court time, both third best in the camp this year.

One more player suffering from shrinkage this year is Joey Dorsey (6’6).  The Mouth of the South is lucky that he has such an unbelievable plastic-man wingspan (7’11) for his size, or he wouldn’t even be getting a sniff from the professional ranks. 

Legit BigsBrook Lopez and Javale McGee are legitimately 6’11 in socks, David Padgett isn’t far off (6’10.25), while DeAndre Jordan is just shy of 6’10.  McGee, Lopez and Jordan all have wingspans of 7’6 (Lopez is a half-inch shy) and utterly ridiculous reaches of over 9’5.  The most intriguing big man is John Riek, the postgraduate high school student who certifiably stunk up the camp, but comes in at 6’10.5 with a nearly 7’9 wingspan and a reach reported (but unverified) at 9’10.  Ummm… ok. 

Feeling a Little DoughyKevin Love said that he’s dropped fifteen pounds since the F4, but his body fat percentage (12.9%) belies a ways to go.  His size was a little shorter than expected (nearly 6’8), but his vertical leap was better than expected (35″), so he may end up being ok at the next level, given his already skilled face-up game.  The Tubbiest Player Award goes to Kentrell Gransberry, who clocked in at 17.4% body fat.  It showed in his ups as well, as his at 27.5″ was one of the lowest five of the camp. 

Best All-Around Athlete.  This is a tough call, but we’re going with Eric Gordon.  He has a top five vertical leap of 40″, which is simply eyepopping, he was also in the top five in the 3/4 court sprint (3.1 seconds), and he managed to bench the 185-lb bar fifteen times, which is significantly more than some other young guards (OJ Mayo – 7; DJ Augustin – 2).  Derrick Rose is also a consideration, as he can also get way up and is speedy all over the court.  But We’ll give second place to DeMarcus Nelson, who finished in the top five in both the lane agility drill (10.54 seconds) and the 3/4 court sprint (3.13 seconds), in addition to having a 38.5″ vertical leap and benching the bar nineteen times.  We give the nod, though, to Gordon based on his relative youth and the possibility of those numbers getting significantly better.

     

E-Giddy Is All Kinds of Athleticized

Other Minutiae.   Jerryd Bayless is a great athlete, but his wingspan is astonishingly short (6’3.5) for a 6’2 guy.  Don’t expect Bayless to ever become a tremendous on-the-ball defender with those arms.  Sonny Weems and Joe Alexander are two more players who tested well athletically, as Weems finished in the top five in the agility and sprint drills, while Alexander finished in the top five in the bench press and sprint drills.   This combine was not good to DJ Augustin – he appeared small and weak based on the numbers.  Shouldn’t a 5’10 sophomore be able to do more than two bench presses at that weight by now?

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05.30.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on May 30th, 2008

Taking a break from NBA Predraft Camp news…

  • Notre Dame got another major transfer pickup to go along with Ben Hansbrough (from Mississippi St.) – Scott Martin – a freshman forward who averaged 8/4 for the Boilers will be heading north on US 31 to ND.  Suddenly the Golden Domers are looking really good for the 2009-10 season.
  • UConn coach Jim Calhoun is reportedly facing skin cancer on his neck for the second time, and will undergo six weeks of radiation therapy this summer to remove it. 
  • Syracuse’s Donte Greene has decided that he’s a 1-and-done player, as he recently signed with an agent and will not be eligible to return to the Orange next season.
  • Joey Dorsey made the claim in Orlando this week that he has the inside track on who the Bulls will select as the #1 overall draft pick, and he says Michael Beasley.  Jeff Goodman writes about the maddening mind that is Dorsey.
  • Clemson’s head man Oliver Purnell got an extension to 2014 and a raise to $1M per annum.  Still significantly below Tommy Bowden ($1.8M), but hey, who’s counting. 
  • Luke Winn has a nice piece on Chris Lofton’s tumultuous senior campaign, as he is now finally starting to get his legs back after beating testicular cancer. 
  • In his first public interview since the Rodney Guillory scandal hit, OJ Mayo was more upset that the news hit on Mother’s Day than the fact it made him look like a cheat and a liar. 
  • In some sad news, Louisville center Clarence Holloway was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome, which has effectively ended his basketball career.  We wish him all the best fighting this disease. 
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Orlando Pre-Draft Camp Day 2

Posted by rtmsf on May 29th, 2008

So Wednesday was Day 2 of the Orlando Pre-Draft Camp (Day 1′s notes are here), and once again we’ll try to synthesize some of the reports coming from various sources who are actually attending the camp. Hopefully we’ll start to get a sense as to who is improving or shatting all over decreasing their stock. Our sources today are DraftExpress, NBADraft.net, Jeff Goodman and Doug Gottlieb.

Players Doing Well So Far:

Lawson Really Must Not Want to Return to UNC (photo credit: USA Today)

  • Ty Lawson, UNC
    • DraftExpressTy Lawson was a cut above everyone else on the floor here, showing incredible quickness taking an outlet pass and getting his team out in transition, and fantastic court vision finding open teammates on the move. He made the game very simple for all of his teammates, as all they had to do was run with him and make sure their hands were ready for the pass.
    • GottliebBest point guard here so far – UNC’s Ty Lawson, trailed closely by Sean Singletary. While Singletary is more refined than Lawson and seems to be using his experience from being here last year to his benefit, Lawson has an extra step that you just cannot teach.
    • NBADraft.net - (10pts, 5ast, 3stl) From the moment he came on the floor he changed the tempo of the game. Pushing the ball in transition, he made some nice decisions finding open teammates or getting to the hoop and finishing. The highlight for him may have been the fact that he completely outplayed Lester Hudson, the man he was matched up with. Not only did he get by Hudson at will of the dribble, but he held him scoreless for the longer part of the game.
    • Gary Parrish also wrote an article yesterday explaining how shocked Ty Lawson has been by UNC fans’ reactions to his attempts to enter the NBA Draft. Many of the same people who congratulated him as a Tar Heel are now trashing him through this process. Maybe that’s why he’s playing so well?
  • Joe Crawford, Kentucky
    • DraftExpressJoe Crawford had a very strong game with 19 points on 6-11 shooting, thanks to an extremely hot and aggressive start that kept his team in the game. He took the ball to the rack extremely well, showing smoothing body control, solid ball-handling skills and impressive overall scoring instincts, and also knocked down a number of shots from outside.
    • GottliebKentucky’s Joe Crawford and UAB’s Robert Vaden both looked very much at ease with the added 3-point range needed for this level of basketball. Crawford looks smaller that the 6-5 he has always been listed at, but he was explosive in terms of scoring in the first half of his first game.
    • NBADraft.netJoe Crawford was one of the big surprises of Day One. His 19 points were the high point total on the day. Crawford was able to use his quick first step to get by his man and to the rim. He also knocked down 2-3 from 3 showing the ability to pull up off the dribble from distance. Crawford appears on his way to claiming a spot in the second round if he can keep up his quality play.
  • Pat Calathes, St. Joseph’s
    • DraftExpress – Pat Calathes only got to play 15 minutes (sitting an extensive amount of time between stints), but really made the most of his time out on the floor, scoring 10 points and dishing off 5 assists (compared to just one turnover), many of the spectacular variety. His ball-handling skills, vision and all-around creativity were on full display throughout, looking aggressive and intelligent while not forcing the issue in the least bit. He would have had even more assists playing with some more skilled big man. He seems like a lock to get drafted at this point, and may be able to work himself considerably up the board if he continues to play like this in the next two days.
    • NBADraft.net - (10pts, 5ast) Showed some nice moves off the dribble and in transition, he was able to use his quickness to get by the defense. He seems to have put on some weight since Portsmouth, but still looks extremely skinny. He can knock down the mid-range shot, but with his unorthodox release he seems to lack range out to the NBA 3.
  • JR Giddens, New Mexico
    • Gottlieb – Giddens looked like, well, J.R. Giddens of old. He can still shoot the deep 3, runs like a deer, had a nice two dribble pull-up jumpers and generally looked good in trying to score. He did pout and not run back on defense a couple of times, he struggles to handle the ball on pick-and-roll situations, and he is not a pure guard by any stretch of the imagination. The consensus is Round 2.
    • DraftExpress(not the most skilled with the ball, but capable as a spot-up shooter and constantly making plays offensively and especially defensively thanks to his trademark length and explosiveness)

Players Hurting Themselves:

Can Shan Foster Do Anything Other Than Shoot? (photo credit: vanderbilt.edu)

  • Davon Jefferson, USC
    • GottliebDavon Jefferson will be taken in this draft. He moves well offensively off screens and looks like he will become a solid pro shooter. But he has no left hand and seems lost defensively. Jefferson will knock heads will Walker both in workouts and maybe the D-League.
    • NBADraft.net(7pts, 6rebs, 3ast) In the early going it seemed as if Jefferson may have made a mistake showing up this week, as he was almost non-existent. Although his performance was still not spectacular, he was able to salvage the day as he put up a decent 10 minutes together to finish the game off. His offensive skill is still in need of much work, but one cannot deny his terrific frame, and explosiveness.
    • DraftExpressWho hurt himself the worst? Most likely Davon Jefferson. He came here out of shape, and has barely been hustling at all for the past two days. Although he was able to use his freakish athleticism to make some plays on the glass and in transition, NBA types can’t be crazy about what they are seeing here. He needs to realize the urgency of the situation quickly if he wants to avoid destroying what otherwise might be a very promising future. At this point it looks very obvious that the 21-year old freshman is not ready to be in this draft, and definitely made a hasty decision hiring an agent
  • Wayne Ellington, UNC
    • DraftExpressThe most intriguing story might have been the incredibly poor play of North Carolina shooting guard Wayne Ellington—projected by some as a first round pick, but looking like anything but one from what we’ve seen in the first two days so far. Ellington was 1 of 8 from the field until the game was pretty much over with two minutes left and he managed to make his boxscore look somewhat respectable with two garbage-time baskets. He forced a number of shots badly, dribbled the ball off his foot on his way to 6 painful turnovers, played poor defense and did not grab even a single rebound in 27 minutes. He finished the game with 8 points, and is looking like he’ll be on the first plane back to Chapel Hill to kick off his junior season once this camp is over unless he can turn things around in a major way.
    • NBADraft.netWayne Ellington was one of the day’s big disappointments. He scored a couple buckets late to salvage his stats to a degree but in reality he was thoroughly outplayed by Gary Forbes who appears to have strength, size and experience over Ellington.
    • GottliebIf UNC gets Wayne Ellington back, which they should, Roy Williams should thank Deron Washington. Washington played picture-perfect defense on the UNC sophomore the entire first half of their matchup. Ellington got just two contested looks and struggled to separate himself from Washington’s long arms and great lateral quickness.
  • Shan Foster, Vanderbilt
    • DraftExpressShan Foster was a big disappointment once again, continuing the same trend we saw in the morning and the day before. He looks completely out of his element mentally, forcing bad shots and even air-balling one 3-pointer by about five feet, which is completely uncharacteristic of the player widely considered the top shooter in this draft class. He got chased off the 3-point line way too easily, getting caught into the trap of being forced to use his ball-handling skills, which he is much less effective at than just spotting up from behind the arc. He looks like he’s putting way too much pressure on himself, and will need to settle down a bit and remember what got him here.
    • NBADraft.netShan Foster struggled to get on track with just 7 points on 2-7 shooting. His lack of a great handle and ability to get by opponents appears to be getting exposed some. He’s a great shooter, but still must show a more diverse offensive game.
  • Danny Green, UNC
    • DraftExpressAlso on the negative side of the spectrum we found Danny Green (forcing the issue way too much, especially from behind the arc [0-4], and looking clearly hobbled by his sprained left ankle).
    • GottliebGreen is dribbling too much and seems stuck between wanting to be a 2 guard and playing more like his natural 3 position. He has plenty of upside since he is only 20, but family concerns may keep him in this draft.
    • GoodmanHe said he felt somewhere between 75 and 90 percent. Green also sounded upset that Roy Williams didn’t initially include him among the Big Three (Tyler Hanbsrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington), when he was getting early reports from NBA executives on where his players were projected

More takes on some of the other players at the Pre-Draft Camp:

  • GottliebRichard Hendrix looks leaner (he said he has lost 15 pounds and wants to lose more), and he was much more agile because of it. Hendrix, Maryland’s James Gist and Memphis’ Joey Dorsey are three very different, yet very draftable big men who give teams in the late first round and the early second round interesting options. Hendrix, who looks like the only one who could go in Round 1, is a skilled wide body who can face up and beat you with a catch and shoot off the pick-and-pop, and he is a good rebounder/outlet passer. Gist is the lean athlete who can block shots, has streamlined his jumper to 18 feet and runs the floor very well. Dorsey is a beast. He caught two alley-oops that counted, he is a pretty solid passer both on the outlets and in the offense, and his long arms make up for his lack of great height.
  • NBADraft.net - LR Mbah Moute (9pts, 5rebs) He seemed to have tweaked his ankle in the early going, but showed some character fighting through and still put up a decent performance. With his length and athleticism, he is always able to alter plays defensively, and convert on hustle baskets offensively. Devon Hardin had three thunderous dunks but struggled to display any touch or post skills. As impressive a physical specimen as he is, he appears to be a big tease, a player who gives the impression that he can become a force, but lacking the focus and direction to get there. Patrick Ewing (14pts, 5-7fg) With Ewing Sr. in attendance, the younger Ewing put in a decent game. He was able to convert on a number of open jumpers and showed some nice athleticism, but his overall skill set has glaring holes and he does not have a natural position on the floor. James Gist displayed his tremendous athleticism with a reverse jam in which he was fouled and missed, followed by a nearly identical reverse dunk in which he was able to covert. He also showed a mid range game knocking down a number of 12-15 foot jumpers. And while he still needs to add consistency to his shot, there’s some reason for optimism about his offensive game.
  • DraftExpress - Richard Hendrix had a solid outing with 12 points and 5 rebounds in 20 minutes. He was extremely unselfish and did a great job crashing the glass, showing a good feel for the game but also struggling a bit defensively on the perimeter and not being very effective finishing around the rim in traffic. Malik Hairston’s stat-line might not have been that impressive on paper (8 points, 4 assists, 3-4 FG), but he did a very nice job finding teammates within the flow of the offense and playing with and off of Pat Calathes, who he seems to have nice chemistry with. His athleticism looked better than advertised getting off the floor and elevating for dunks. DeMarcus Nelson was intense and aggressive, but looked a bit out of control at times too with some of his drives. Trent Plaisted had some flashes with his ridiculous athleticism, but was a bit too quiet in stretches, not making his presence felt enough.

Update: See our summary of Days 3 & 4 of the Orlando Pre-Draft Camp here.

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04.25.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on April 25th, 2008

Some news on early entries as the deadline (Sunday at midnight) looms and some other flotsam we’ve been holding on to for your Friday…

  • UNC’s point guard Tywon Lawson will be testing the waters.  Reading the tea leaves, does this signal a pending domino effect for his teammates Wayne Ellington, Tyler Hansbrough and/or Danny Green? 
  • Speaking of the Heels, in light of KU’s title, ol’ Roy’s face was consequently removed from a bathroom in a Lawrence, KS, barber shop. 
  • Super Mario Chalmers will be testing the waters of the NBA Draft, joining teammates Brandon Rush and Darrell Arthur in the pool. 
  • Memphis juniors Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier joined Derrick Rose and CDR in declaring for the NBA Draft this week – both will test the waters.  With Joey Dorsey (ahem) graduating, Memphis could potentially lose its entire starting five.    
  • The Texas backcourt of DJ Augustin and AJ Abrams have also decided to declare for the draft.  Abrams is probably only testing the waters. 
  • Missouri’s DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons will be testing the waters this year as well. 
  • A returner!!!  Tennessee’s Tyler Smith will return to Knoxville, where he’ll likely lead the Vols to another SEC regular season title (and not much else). 
  • VCU’s Anthony Grant and UAB’s Mike Davis received contract extensions from their schools.
  • You’ve probably heard that the itinerant Larry Brown stepped down from his job as Executive VP with the Sixers yesterday.  At least one report thinks he might be going to Stanford to take over Trent Johnson’s old job. 
  • This is a neat article on which Tobacco Road players and coaches are supporting whom in the 2008 election.  Um, shouldn’t Grant Hill be supporting Billary, given that his mom roomed with her at Wellesley?  Or…  maybe that tells you all you need to know. 
  • From the leftovers department, YABB did a quick and dirty analysis of the final conference standings of the NCAA Tournament.  Big 12… good.  ACC and SEC… bad. 
  • This is something we found that shows the progression/regression of the top four programs in terms of total wins over the last ten years.  Carolina really took a hit during those Doherty years, didn’t they?
  • Turning to the NBA Playoffs, this is a nice article on the positive effects that the late Skip Prosser had on his players now in the postseason – CP3, David West and J-Ho. 
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One last shining moment for this season. . .

Posted by nvr1983 on April 6th, 2008

After Saturday night’s blowouts, we can only hope that tonight’s title bout will give us a great game to finish off the season. I think both teams have too much talent to get blown out, but I never would have expected UNC to fall behind 40-12 before nearly making Billy Packer look like an ass (again).

I’ll offer my take and hopefully rtmsf will add his too later (see below).

Aside from a shaky performance at the free throw line against Mississippi State that made their 2nd round game much closer than it should have been, Memphis has totally dominated the opposition on its way to Monday night. I don’t think I am going too far into the realm of hyperbole when I say that their performance in the last 3 games has been as dominant as any team I can remember from the Sweet 16 to the National Semifinals. The even more amazing thing is that a lot of people were picking the Tigers to lose each of those games. The Tigers gave us all an indication of how far off we were in the first game of that stretch when they destroyed Michigan State in their Sweet 16 game as they led 50-20 at half. After easily beating Texas in Houston to advance to the Final 4, the Tigers had a little tougher time with the Bruins who hung tough for a half. Despite the close score for most of the game, I never got the sense that Memphis might lose the game. Of course, the poor FT shooting was at the back of my mind. As I noted in my post immediately after the game, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose completely dominated the game with Rose controlling the game from end-to-end and CDR controlling it inside the 3-pt line. Joey Dorsey also submitted what may be the greatest 0-point performance in a Final 4 by a non-PG (I can’t think of a great 0-pt performance by a PG, but just trying to be safe). Memphis also got a solid performance out of Shawn Taggert. One thing that has gone largely overlooked in the CDR-Rose lovefest was how good the Tigers played defense, which is something they have been doing all year. Perhaps it is because they are so captivating on offense or the fact that they rely on length and instincts rather than the Shane Battier step-in-front-for-the-charge style that the ESPN analysts seem to love so much. In any case, the Tigers’ defense is what really gets things going for them. Perhaps, if their key guys stuck around for another year or two or Rose came in a few years earlier (and they learned how to shoot FTs), we would be talking about this Memphis team along the lines of a 21st century Runnin’ Rebs team.

As for Kansas, like I said on Saturday night I’m not really sure what to say. They had one of the easiest paths to the Final 4 (based on opponents’ seed) that I can remember and the cruised all the way to San Antonio with the exception of the Davidson game where they looked tight. However, they made up for it on Saturday night against #1 overall seed UNC. Their performance in the first 15 minutes of the game was among the best I have ever seen at the college level. They were all over the court hounding UNC into countless turnovers as they jumped out to a 40-12 lead. The image of the game for me was little-used, but much-hyped freshman Cole Aldrich ripping the ball away from everybody’s national POY Tyler “Psycho T” Hansbrough. After Billy Packer declared the game was over with 7:32 left in the 1st half, Kansas fell apart and appeared to be headed towards an epic collapse when UNC brought the game to 54-50 with 11:16 left in the game. The Jayhawks survived with a late run of their own (possibly due to UNC running out of gas too). If you watched the first half of the game, you are aware of the tremendous pressure that the Kansas guards can exert. That pressure will certainly be put to a challenge against the Tigers’ talented backcourt.

A couple key things to watch tonight:
1) What tempo does Kansas want to play at? Kansas showed us on Saturday night that it can thrive on a fast pace against a very talented team. However, as you have probably read Kansas has the ability to play at both a quick (talented guards & inside guys who can run) and slow pace (guards who can penetrate & multiple inside guys with developed post games). Normally I would recommend that Bill Self flip a coin and use that to decide which way to play because Kansas can win either way, but against Memphis that is a different story. While the Tigers have talented, athletic guys at every position, they are much better when the game is up-tempo and they can use their athleticism. The Tigers lack a traditional inside game and don’t have many great outside shooters. Thus, Self should really thing about trying to slow the game down. It sounds crazy given how good Kansas looked against UNC (and it’s easier said than done), but doing so would give the Jayhawks their best shot at winning their first title since Danny Manning and Larry Brown led them to the promised land in 1988.

2) Who will guard Derrick Rose? Kansas has 2 exceptional defensive guards in Mario Chalmers and Russell Robinson, who both did a great job harassing UNC in the first half. As you may have heard, Rose is a completely different beast. As good as the Jayhawk defenders are, I don’t think they can stay with Rose if it is an uptempo game. However, if Bill Self listens to me and slows the pace of the game down, Kansas can use both in addition to Brandon Rush to try to contain Rose. I am assuming Rush will draw CDR, which is a tough assignment in itself, but he will need to help off CDR if and when Rose gets by his man.

3) Will Dorsey stay out of foul trouble? Shawn Taggert is a nice player, but he isn’t really built to battle the big guys from Kansas. If Memphis is going to win the title, they will need Dorsey on the court as he is the only one with the strength to give the Tigers an edge in this match-up. Dorsey will have to win the battle (or at least limit the Jayhawks’ advantage) against Darrell Arthur, Sasha Kaun, & Co. if Memphis wants to cut down the nets in San Antonio.

Who will take home the trophy?

Opening Line: Pick ‘em.
Prediction: It looks like the money in Vegas is going towards Memphis winning as the line has shifted to Memphis -2, which is a pretty big shift for a game that was originally a pick ‘em less than 24 hours ago. I could see this game going either way, but in the end I think the brilliance of Rose (assuming he lays off the Gummy Bears) and solid all-around play of CDR will carry the day. Plus, as I’ve learned decision markets are usually pretty reliable indicators of what will happen so I’m going with the Tigers in a hard-fought battle.

rtmsf take:

We’re still in considerable shock at just how dominant Kansas looked vs. North Carolina Saturday night. For the first ten minutes of that game, it appeared as if KU was playing Colorado in the Phog; NOT the de facto tournament favorite led by everybody’s favorite superhero, Tyler Hansbrough. Kansas was bigger, quicker, faster, and simply wanted it more. One thing we believe was a major factor but has been left unsaid in much of the MSM was that the KU players spent the entire week hearing Roy this and Roy that and they wanted to stick it to him for leaving the program in the manner that he did (even though his departure predates all of their arrivals at KU). Of course, all of the players and certainly Bill Self will deny this forever more, but KU played that first half as if something had been stolen from them. Carolina didn’t play with the same fire and intensity, and it showed (40-12). We’ll leave it to the KU fans to provide this info, but we can’t remember the last time a Roy Williams coached team was so thoroughly and completely dominated as they were last night. If it has happened at all, we’re guessing it would have been in the 90s.

As for the other semifinal, UCLA’s tendency to endure prolonged scoring droughts ultimately proved ineffective when facing a team with the caliber of Memphis’ talent. We were surprised with just how thoroughly dominated Darren Collison was by Derrick Rose as well as UCLA’s maddening inability to get the ball to Kevin Love in the post. Part of that was the Tiger defense making it very difficult for Love to find his preferred spots, but part of it is also attributable to poor decision-making by Mbah a Moute, Collison and others. It wouldn’t ultimately have mattered, because the Bruins were an offensively flawed team and they were never going to score enough points to threaten Memphis, but it still surprised us.

So we’re now left with the two least flawed teams in the tournament. It’s been well documented that Memphis struggles with FTs, and it showed in their one semi-scare against Mississippi St. in the second round; it’s also been commonly discussed that Bill Self teams have a tendency to choke under pressure, and KU certainly had a scare against Davidson and looked shaky at times yesterday after leading by 28 points. But these are ultimately nitpicks because both of these teams are beyond excellent and filled with NBA talent all over the floor. So which of these two squads is better and will win Monday night?

The thing that really stood out to us when we were watching the Carolina massacre was just how big and athletic Kansas looked compared to UNC (a team that itself has a reputation for size and athleticism). We think that this is the one area where Memphis can be exploited. UCLA was unable to capitalize on this advantage because only Love was a capable scorer on the blocks. Kansas can get offense underneath from not only Arthur, Jackson and Kaun off the bench, but also apparently from Cole Aldrich (who looked fantastic (8/7) in his 16 minutes yesterday). We think this is the mismatch that will have Bill Self salivating for the next 20 hours or so.

Memphis will counter with the silky smooth Derrick Rose (25/9/4 assts) and Chris Douglas-Roberts (28/4), but with the perimeter defense that we expect from the KU guards (who held the UNC perimeter players to 16-47 shooting), we think that Memphis is going to have trouble finding enough offense to match the Jayhawks. Put simply, there’s absolutely no way we see that the KU defense allows 83% of Memphis’ points to come from the backcourt as UCLA did, and who among the Memphis bigs will pick up the scoring slack? Dorsey? Taggart? Dozier? If that group collectively scores over 15 pts, we’ll be shocked.

So despite what the decision markets and our compadre on this blog suggest, we’re going with the Jayhawks to cut down the nets tomorrow night. Bill Self gets his first title, and John Calipari starts to hear the ignoble distinction of being the best active coach to not win a championship.

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Thoughts on Memphis-UCLA

Posted by nvr1983 on April 5th, 2008

We’ll provide you with a more in-depth analysis later, but we figured we would offer some of our early thoughts.

1) Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts totally dominated this game. UCLA didn’t have an answer for either one of them. It looked like Rose wasn’t attacking as much when UCLA put Russell Westbrook on him, but for some reason Ben Howland decided to keep Darren Collison on Rose for most of the game until Collison fouled out with 2:53 left. As much as we hate to say it, Billy Packer was right when he kept on saying that Westbrook should guard Rose and Josh Shipp should guard CDR, who probably would have abused Shipp, but at least one of Memphis’s studs would have been contained a little better. Rose is definitely ready to go to the NBA and CDR should be a nice addition to a team if a coach can find a way to incorporate his unique game into the offense. Both guys also did a great job knocking down FTs at the end making the last minute a mere formality rather than a tension-filled FT contest that many people were expecting if Memphis was in a close game. CDR also provided the game’s defining play with his baseline dunk on Kevin Love. It reminded us of Kobe’s “Who’s the MVP?!?” dunk on Nash a couple years ago.

CDR asserting his dominance

Look familiar?

2) Memphis got to play at the pace they wanted. It was evident early on that the game was going to be fast-paced. UCLA was able to hang close for the first half, but eventually the pace wore them down. This was particularly evident with Kevin Love who barely touched the ball in the 2nd half and looked sluggish moving up and down the court. In the end, Memphis’s ability to run and its deep-bench full of guys who can all run (except Pierre Niles) proved to be the deciding factor as they opened up a big gap late in the 2nd half and cruised from there.

3) Despite early foul trouble, Joey Dorsey and Shawn Taggert did a great job battling Kevin Love all game. Love won the battle in the first half, but the rotation of big bodies and the fast pace of the game wore out Love. We hope that Love stays in school at least one more year because he still needs some more work before he goes to the NBA. Tonight should have shown him as much. While the Memphis inside guys aren’t NBA-quality players, they have NBA-level athleticism and strength. Love has the requisite strength, but he isn’t athletic enough to go to the league right now. He will never be a Dwight Howard, but some more running over the summer will help cover up some of his athletic deficiencies. He has been able to get away with it all year because they pace has been slow and he has been the strongest guy on the inside, but today was a preview of what the NBA will hold and hopefully Love will consider that before declaring for the draft.

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Final 4 Preview: UCLA-Memphis & UNC-Kansas

Posted by nvr1983 on April 4th, 2008

UCLA vs. Memphis (6:07 PM): Coming into the tournament UCLA was picked by most analysts to win the championship, but after close games in the 2nd round and Sweet 16 several pundits (including your favorite college basketball blogger) wrote them off. The Bruins responded with what may have been their best performance of the year, a 76-57 beatdown of #3 seed Xavier. While super-frosh Kevin Love has given them consistent performances throughout the tournament (hence the West Regional MOP designation), the rest of the team has been up-and-down. The one thing that has carried this team has been that they play great D the entire 40 minutes. However, if the Bruins want to cut down the nets on Monday in San Antonio Ben Howland’s crew will need solid performances out of Darren Collison, Russell Westbrook, and Josh Shipp, who has played poorly in 6 of his last 7 games.

On the other side, Memphis was getting ripped apart by every analyst the entire season for their poor free throw shooting heading into the Sweet 16. It’s true that nobody will confuse the Tigers for a bunch of J.J. Redicks at the free throw line, but it doesn’t really matter when you’re up 50-20 at half (on Michigan State). The Tigers followed up that massacre with a demolition of #2 seed Texas, who was playing a virtual home game in Houston. In that game, Derrick Rose established himself as the premier point guard in college as he totally dominated 1st team All-American D.J. Augustin. Despite all the athleticism this team has, Rose is really the catalyst for everything and that’s certainly saying something on a team that features C-USA POY and 1st team All-American Chris Douglas-Roberts. However, the key for Memphis may be Joey Dorsey who has a penchant for picking up quick fouls (note: Final 4 games tend to be officiated closely; see last year’s semi where Oden and Hibbert barely played in the first half). If Dorsey can avoid foul trouble, he will be a force inside. If he gets in foul trouble, the Tigers will have to rely on Iowa State transfer Shawn Taggert. (Fortunately for Dorsey, there is nobody left in the tournament who can dominate Dorsey on the inside if he decides to run his mouth like he did last year before playing Greg Oden.)

This is the part where I normally would feature the key matchup, but in this case there are just so many interesting matchups: Derrick Rose vs. Darren Collison; Chris Douglas-Roberts vs. Russell Westbrook/Josh Shipp; and Joey Dorsey vs. Kevin Love.

- Rose vs. Collison: Collison is an outstanding college PG, but he’s out of his league here. We all saw what Rose did to Augustin and Texas. He’s just at a different level than any of the PGs in college. While he can get a little out of control at times, his physical skills (size, speed, and strength) would put him near the top of NBA PGs in those categories, which means he’s a nightmare match-up for almost any PG. In addition to this, Rose has shown that he can hit the outside shot and create havoc defensively because of his physical skills. Rose will have to watch out for Collison’s outside shot because he shoots a high percentage even if he doesn’t pull the trigger that often. If Rose is making his jump shot, he’s basically unguardable and could dominate this game. If he does, Ben Howland may have to switch things up and put Westbrook on him. I don’t think it will matter. Advantage: Rose.

- Douglas-Roberts vs. Westbrook/Shipp: This will be an interesting match-up as it features several really athletic players. Douglas-Roberts usuallly has a big edge in almost any match-up, but I think that the UCLA guards have the length and athleticism to bother him. I think Shipp will spend most of the night against CDR, but UCLA might use Westbrook on him occassionally. Westbrook is one of the most athletic players in the country, but CDR’s 4″ height advantage and long arms might be too much for Westbrook to overcome. The key to this match-up is whether Shipp can score. If he does, this match-up might shift more towards a neutral decision, but he hasn’t done it lately and that’s what we’re going with. Advantage: Douglas-Roberts.

- Dorsey vs. Love: This will be a battle of contrasting styles as Dorsey is more of a bruiser in the paint while Love has an excellent all-around game. There is no question as to who will “win” this match-up in terms of the box score and individual match-up. The big question is whether Love will get Dorsey in foul trouble early taking him out of the paint to open up the basket to UCLA’s perimeter players’ drives. Advantage: Love.

The real key to this game is the pace. If Memphis can turn this into a running game in the 70s or 80s, they should win. If UCLA can keep it in the 50s, it will probably come down to free throws and. . .well you’ve heard it a million times in the past month.

Opening Line: Memphis -1.
Prediction: As we said, this game will likely decided by the pace of the game. Everyone likes to talk about the Bruins’ defense, but the key may be the Tigers’ defense. While they are more known for their athleticism and dribble-drive motion offense, the Tigers can play phenomenal defense. If you need evidence, ask Tom Izzo about the first half of their Sweet 16 game when the Spartans looked terrified to bring the ball up the court. The Tigers use their athleticism to put a lot of pressure on the dribbler and fill passing lanes. Collison and Westbrook will be pressured all night, but should provide more resistance than Michigan State or Texas provided. It will be interesting to see how UCLA utilizes Love and his ability to throw the outlet pass to try and avoid this pressure. In the end, I just think Memphis is playing on a different level than the Bruins right now. This all depends on whether the Tigers can carry over their momentum from Houston to San Antonio. I’m going with Memphis pulling away midway through the 2nd half to win by 5 as they hit enough free throws at the end to advance to the championship game to face the winner of. . .

Kansas vs. North Carolina (8:47 PM): The juicy and delicious backstory to this game is ol’ dadgummit Roy coaching UNC for the first time against his former employer Kansas. Although Roy didn’t recruit or coach any of the current players on the KU roster, there are still numerous friends and acquaintances associated with the program who remain stung by Huckleberry Hound’s quick 180 from not giving a sheit about Carolina to taking the job one week later. Naturally, we tend to side with the KU boosters when they rail on Roy because it’s true – he can’t have it both ways. Like Pitino when he took the job at Louisville, you dance with the devil you came with, and both of these gentlemen made professional decisions that they undoubtedly knew would lead to their sanctified statuses at KU and UK being called into question.

So what does this mean for tomorrow’s game between a bunch of players who were all in high school when Roy Williams alighted for Tarheel blue? Not much. We expect that the Kansas players know how much this game means to its fans, and they might come out a little stronger than they otherwise would have, but in terms of the effects on the game over forty minutes, we don’t see it mattering all that much. As always, it comes down to the matchups.

In looking at the numbers and the talent on the floor at positions 1-5, it’s difficult not to like Kansas. Their offensive and defensive efficiency are both in the top five in the nation. Their scoring balance creates a conundrum (whom to stop?) for a defensively-challenged UNC team, as four starters average between 12.7 and 13.1 ppg. And their experience (2 srs, 2 jrs, 1 soph in the starting five) also trumps the younger Heels (2 jrs, 3 sophs).

The player by player matchups tell a slightly different story, though. On the perimeter, we love the way that Kansas guard Mario Chalmers and forward Brandon Rush have been playing, but nobody in college basketball has the quickness and wherewithal to stay with UNC’s Ty Lawson when he ignites the engine on fast breaks. The x-factor we see in the backcourt is Carolina’s Wayne Ellington. He has a tendency to run hot/cold, but when he’s hitting his outside jumper the Heels are damn near unbeatable. In their only two losses of the year Ellington went 9-30, and KU’s guards must make sure to rotate out on him to eliminate his open looks.

In the post, nothing more needs to be said about Tyler Hansbrough. The way he’s playing right now we’re going to just pencil him in for 25/12 and wonder how Kansas plans to counteract him. The trio of Darrell Arthur, Darnell Robinson and Sasha Kaun collective are talented enough to challenge Hansbrough, but once again, the x-factor will be whether UNC forward Deon Thompson can hit his open looks that will come as a result of triple teams on Hansbrough. Whether x-factors Thompson and Ellington will knock these shots down will go a long way to determining who will ultimately win this game.

Opening Line: UNC -3
Prediction: In our view, this game will be a test of just how good Kansas’ defense actually is. Assuming they let Hansbrough get his numbers, will KU then be able to put the clamps down on everyone else, especially the two x-factors mentioned above – Ellington and Thompson? Should Kansas limit those players to poor shooting nights while also corralling Lawson’s fast break opportunities, then the Jayhawks will have a very good chance and probably should win the game. But this is a weighty task, and we have a feeling that there are too many things that need to happen for Kansas to win this game. Therefore, our prediction is that either Ellington or Thompson will have a good game, Lawson will break free enough times to get some easy points, and the Heels will run away with the game early in the second half, winning by 10+ points. Part of the reason for our assessment here is that we simply think UNC is purring too well right now to be denied, but what most worries us about Kansas is what they exhibited last week against Davidson, the same thing we’ve seen throughout the Bill Self era. KU played tighter than a Promise Keeper’s new wife on their wedding night, and it’s that tendency that is pushing us to lean toward the Heels.

FYI – Vegas Watch has its breakdown of the odds for the F4 games here. Pretty interesting reading, and we’re not a “sharp.”

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Elite 8 Preview: Kansas-Davidson & Memphis-Texas

Posted by nvr1983 on March 29th, 2008

- #1 Memphis vs. #2 Texas (2:20 PM): The most-maligned #1 seed in recent memory, Memphis looked like they were playing with a chip on their shoulder in the 1st half against Michigan State as they absolutely crushed the Spartans jumping out to a 50-20 lead (that’s not a typo). If they play like that, it doesn’t matter if they continue to shoot free throws like Ben Wallace.

As the Spartans found out, Memphis has the most athletic team in the country. When they are on, they are virtually unbeatable. The problem is that if they aren’t then it comes down to the little things (like the aforementioned free throws). However, they were clicking on Friday night and they were absolutely scary. Honestly, it looked like a good NBA team was playing against a mediocre college team. The Tigers like to get out and run, which they do very well with potential top-2 pick Derrick Rose at point and C-USA POY Chris Douglas-Roberts leading the way. Defensively, they will need to focus on slowing down D.J. Augustin, who is by far the best PG they have faced. I am assuming they will put Antonio Anderson, who held Drew Neitzel scoreless (only 6 garbage time points), on Augustin but it will be a difficult match-up. He will need a lot of help from his teammates as Augustin is difficult to contain with just one man.

For the Longhorns to advance to San Antonio, they will need a big game from Augustin while utilizing Connor Atchley to take Joey Dorsey and company away from the basket. If Dorsey doesn’t come out the defend Atchley he could have a big game. If the Longhorns play their game and Memphis doesn’t play like they did in the 1st half on Friday, they should be in it at the closing moments. At that point, they will have to hope it comes down to free throws and Memphis reverts to its old form.

Opening Line: Memphis -3.5.
Prediction: In my bracket, I had these two teams meeting here and I picked Texas to advance primarily because of the home court advantage. I think Memphis is the better team, but playing what essentially amounts to a home game made it a toss-up. Most sportswriters/bloggers would use the argument that they picked a team at the beginning so they won’t change their pick even if the evidence shows otherwise, but here at RTC we like to use all the data available when making our predictions. The data we’re looking at shows that Memphis gave a good Michigan State team an @$$-whopping. Based on that and the fact that the court configuration makes it seem like the Texas fans are actually in Austin while the game is in Houston, we’re going with Memphis, but it will be close.

- #1 Kansas vs. #10 Davidson (5:05 PM): Davidson has had a great run in the tournament so far, which has surprised many observers, but comes as no surprise to some of their fans after the Wildcats ran through the Southern Conference this season. The question is whether they can continue this run against Kansas, which may be the most complete team in the tournament.

While the Wildcats were able to play great defense against Wisconsin in the 2nd half, I’m not sure how they will be able to handle Kansas’s athletes. The Jayhawks go 7 deep (all on Chard Ford’s top 100 prospect list), which should create match-up problems all over the court for Davidson. The Jayhawks don’t necessarily have a star player who they rely on, but they are led by Darrell Arthur and Brandon Rush. However, they are so deep that any of the 7 could take over the game for stretches. If the game does come down to crunch-time, the ball will most likely go to Mario Chalmers. The Jayhawks will most likely try to get the ball inside to utilize their physical advantage, but they also have Rush and Chalmers, who both had shot over 40% from 3 for the season.

On the other side of the ball, Davidson has quickly become the media darlings. A small school with an excellent academic reputation and a baby-faced assassin (Curry), everybody in the nation knows about them by now. While their victory over Georgetown was considered by some to be a colossal choke-job by the Hoyas, their victory over Wisconsin was about domination in the 2nd half. I think the key to the game will be how Jason Richards handles the the pressure that Kansas throws at him. Rush will likely draw the assignment of guarding Curry (assuming Bill Self puts Chalmers on Richards), but if Davidson is running him off screens like they did on Friday night to free him up against Michael Flowers then all of the Jayhawk guards will get their shot at him.

Opening Line: Kansas -9.
Prediction: The ride ends here for Davidson. They’ve had a great run knocking off 3 excellent teams, but I just don’t see them getting by Kansas who are very, very good when they play with intensity. I don’t think the Jayhawks will have much problem being hyped up for this game. That spells trouble for Davidson. I think Curry will get his 25-30, but it will come off a lot of shots. I see this game being close for most of the first half before the Jayhawks pull away early in the 2nd half and cruise in from there to win by about 10 points. Davidson just doesn’t have the athletes to match up with Kansas. You could have said the same thing in the Georgetown game (Wisconsin isn’t as athletic as either Georgetown or Kansas), but the Jayhawks won’t give up the ball 20 times like the Hoyas did.

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Sweet 16 Preview: South & Midwest Regions

Posted by nvr1983 on March 28th, 2008

South
- #1 Memphis vs. #5 Michigan State (9:57 PM): It seems like a lot of analysts consider this the best of the Sweet 16 games. I just don’t see it. I’d take either of the 2-3 matchups (Tennessee/Louisville or Texas/Stanford) over this game, but I still think it should be an interesting game.

Tom Izzo has done a good job getting the Spartans back on track after a bad February stretch where they lost 3 of 4 games. The Spartans returned all 5 starters from last year so they obviously have experience, which helped them withstand that rough stretch. However, coming into the tournament not a lot of people were giving them much respect particularly with Pittsburgh waiting in the 2nd round. The Spartans surprised a lot of people, including me, by knocking off the Panthers. The Spartans are led offensively by a pair of 2nd team All-Big 10 players: Raymar Morgan and the more-heralded Drew Neitzel. The duo, who average 14.2 and 14.1 PPG respectively, will need a big performance out of freshman PG Kalin Lucas if they want to try to run with the Tigers (IMO not the best strategy).

If you’re a college basketball fan (and if you’re on this blog you certainly are one unless you ended up here doing a Google search for Erin Andrews), you know about Memphis’s inability to hit free throws. I don’t buy into John Calipari that Memphis won their 2nd round game against Mississippi State at the free throw line because they made more free throws despite going 15/32 from the line. It seems like there hasn’t been a single analyst who picks Memphis to win the title, but when I look at this team I see an unbelievably athletic team that is 35-1 and came very close to being undefeated at this point in the season. The Tigers like to run and utilize a Dribble-Drive Motion offense. Leading the attack are Chris Douglas-Roberts and the ridiculously fast freshman PG Derrick Rose. While having those two along might be enough to sustain an offense, Calipari also has solid players in Robert Dozier, Joey Dorsey, and Antonio Anderson. The result is an unconvential offense filled with freakish athletes, a combination that is very hard to defend. One big key for Memphis will be is if they can keep Dorsey out of foul trouble as he is their muscle inside (at least as long as he doesn’t try to talk trash like he did last year before he got beat down by Greg Oden).

Opening Line: Memphis -5.
Prediction: A lot of analysts think the Tigers will be the first #1 seed to lose. I could definitely see that happening, but just not in this round. The Tigers have too much talent for the Spartans. If the Spartans have an X-factor, it would be Lucas. Unfortunately, he will be going against Rose who is several levels above Lucas at this point in their careers. The result is Memphis winning by 5-10 points. I think they will outplay the Spartans, but will keep the game close with their “winning” free throw shooting.

- #2 Texas vs. #3 Stanford (7:27 PM): Along with the Tennessee-Louisville game, this was our favorite game of the long weekend. Hopefully, this turns out to be more exciting than than the Cardinals rout was.

I’ll get this over with now: nobody left in the tournament can guard Brook Lopez. If he’s on, he should be getting 30 a night for the rest of the tournament. By now everyone knows that his twin brother Robin is the more defensive-minded one, which has led some people to speculate that Robin may be more successful as a pro (think Joakim Noah or Anderson Varejao). While those two will control the inside, the Cardinal use Lawrence Hill, Anthony Goods, and Mitch Johnson to control the perimeter. This trio hasn’t gotten much respect including from yours truly. However, if Stanford wants to beat Texas in Houston, they will need this group to control D.J. Augustin (and for Trent Johnson to stick around for the 2nd half).

Rick Barnes has done a great job making the Longhorns into a national title contender a year after losing Kevin Durant to the NBA. The Longhorns are led by D.J. Augustin, who has taken his game to another level as he has not had Durant to bail him out like last year. Augustin also has great support from A.J. Abrams, Damion James, and Connor Atchley. While the Longhorns don’t really have an answer for Brook Lopez, I don’t know how well the Lopez twins are going to be able to guard Atchley when he steps behind the 3 pt line where he has shot 42.3% (41/97) for the year.

Opening Line: Texas -1.
Prediction: If this game was outside of Texas, I probably would have gone with Stanford and the big guy inside. In the end, I think the homecourt and the Longhorns edge on the perimeter will let them pull away at the end of the game.

Midwest
- #1 Kansas vs. #12 Villanova (9:40 PM): This weekend in Detroit will once again focus all the attention on Bill Self and his heretofore confounding inability to get extremely talented teams into the F4 (o-4 trips to the E8). Considering that this bracket was blown apart by Cinderellas last weekend, the Jayhawks are the odds on favorite to win this region.

Villanova has looked really good in their two games against Clemson and Siena, shooting 52% and holding its opponents to only 37%. Scottie Reynolds has found his stroke, averaging 23 ppg thus far in the Tourney, and dropping eight threes in the two games. Look for Kansas to focus in on stopping Reynolds, as Villanova simply isn’t nearly as good of a team when he’s misfiring (27 total pts in Nova’s last three Ls).

But let’s be serious here. Kansas is the most talented team that Villanova has faced this season, and their season-long inconsistency is the reason they ended up a #12 seed. Their best wins of the year were probably close wins over Pitt and UConn at home, and neither of those teams bring the noise on offense (#1 off. efficency) and defense (#5 def. efficiency) as Kansas does. Villanova will play hard, but by most measures, a run to the Sweet 16 renders their season a successful one, and they’ll be happy to be there tonight. Kansas has much larger aspirations in mind, and as such, we expect a blowout win here tonight.

Opening Line: Kansas -11.5.
Prediction: KU jumps out early and often. Villanova makes a run in the second half to make things interesting, but they never seriously threaten the Jayhawks tonight. Bill Self’s albatross will be judged on Sunday.

- #3 Wisconsin vs. #10 Davidson (7:10 PM): The undercard in Detroit tonight could end up being a total washout, we’re afraid. Davidson has looked fantastic in its two come-from-behind upsets of Gonzaga and Georgetown last weekend, and Stephen Curry’s legend is already concretely imprinted into the national consciousness. But we have a sneaky suspicion that the #1 defensive team in the land will absolutely lock up Curry, leaving the rest of the Wildcats struggling to pick up the slack.

The game that concerns us was the 6-19 (3-10 from 3) clunker (15 pts) that Curry put up against UCLA back in December. The Bruin defense (#2 nationally) keyed on Curry, which allowed the other Davidson shooters to get open looks early, as Davidson ran out to a quick early lead. But once UCLA figured out that they were going to have to guard all the Davidson shooters, they took control of the game and pulled away easily in the second half.

Wisconsin will probably employ a similar strategy. They’ll slow the game down to a crawl, and essentially dare anyone but Curry to beat them. You can count on a bruising, grinding, no-mistakes gameplan by Bo Ryan’s team, and honestly, short of a superhuman effort by Curry again, we don’t see any way that Davidson wins their way into the Elite 8. Gonzaga was soft mentally, and Georgetown forgot that they had a 7’3 beast underneath the basket, but Wisconsin is a different story.

Opening Line: Wisconsin -4.
Prediction: As much as we’d like to see the Curry bandwagon continue for another game, we just don’t think it’s possible. The Badgers will bump and grind him into a poor shooting night, giving him and his teammates more motivation for next year’s possible dream season.

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After the Buzzer: Memphis Rose in Bloom

Posted by rtmsf on November 6th, 2007

Welcome to After the Buzzer. We’re sorta envisioning this to be a one-stop recap of notable information from each night’s games. Think Daily Dime meets Doug Gottlieb (w/o the credit card fraud conviction). Or something like that. Now, we’re not promising we can do this every single night of the season – a weekly Friday’s Ivies would put everyone to sleep, including especially us. But we’ll do our best to get you some college hoops insights for your morning bourbon coffee. Except for this morning, because it’s already the afternoon. Details, details. If there’s anything you guys want to see as a regular feature, hit us up at rushthecourt@yahoo.com and we’ll unabashedly claim the idea as our own think about adding it.

ATB v.4

11.05.07

The 07-08 season got underway at the Memphis Regional last night for the CvC first round games.

· Richmond 44, Maine 42. Remember when the Richmond Spiders were good with Dick Tarrant on the sidelines beating the likes of Syracuse and Indiana? No longer. 100 Memphins (?) showed up early to watch a high school game break out.

· Memphis 102, UT-Martin 71. The nightcap that nobody outside of the Pyramid saw (thanks ESPNU) showed just how explosive the #1 blogpoll Tigers can be. Joey Dorsey didn’t play, but no matter. Chris Douglas-Roberts led the way with 28/8, but reviews were sparkling for the debut of superfrosh Derrick Rose (17/6/5), fueling message board chatter about the number of trip-dubs Rose will have this year. Possible Memphis concerns – 1) they let UTM’s Lester Hudson drop 35 on them (do they play D?); and, 2) 58.6% from the line (17-29).

 

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On Tap Tonight. The Memphis Regional continues and the Lexington Regional of the CvC gets started.

  • #1 Memphis (-29) v. Richmond (ESPNU)maybe the Fedex will open up the concessions?
  • # 15 Kentucky (-27.5) v. Central Arkansas (ESPNU) - Gillispie’s debut at Rupp
  • Gardner-Webb (-3.5) v. Alabama A&Mkeep an eye on A&M’s Mickell Gladness
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09.19.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on September 19th, 2007

Aside from Bruce Pearl’s newly-freed, um, pearls, what else is going on this week?

  • From the we-don’t-see-this-often file, Memphis’s home newspaper called out Tiger star and smack-ophist Joey Dorsey for being a piece of oversized dung troublemaker who deserves expulsion from the team.
  • Speaking of trouble, former Oklahoma State all-american Byron Houston was sentenced to four years in prison for violating probation based on a public nudity charge.  Memo to Byron: please stay away from railroad tracks.    
  • Rivals makes a pair of arguments that the Big 10 or the ACC will be the worst major conference this year.  Our vote, just like last year:  Big 10. 
  • Tim Donaghy’s employer waxes poetic on the dangers of gambling to UNC athletes, while simultaneously casing the damage to Psycho T’s nose from Gerald Henderson’s errant ‘bow
  • A former Bruin riffs on his coach Steve Lavin’s wedding that he didn’t get to attend
  • Tony Mejia at cbssportsline.com came up with a list of top NBA players by school attended, and we found it fairly cool. 
  • Goodman talks about Arizona’s offseason (Chase Budinger got stronger), while Parrish confirms that UK fans are indeed nuts (lining up 3 days early for Midnight Madness tix). 
  • Finally, Norman Chad takes our fun, stomps on it, and renders it immature, selfish and otherwise useless. 
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