|Memphis' challenge? Win out to assure 2nd No. 1 seed in 3 seasons|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 12 March 2008 12:56|
The Tigers are hosting the Conference USA tournament for a fifth straight year on the home court where they haven't lost a postseason game since the 2005 championship game when Darius Washington Jr. missed the free throws that could have put the Tigers automatically into the NCAA tournament.
No. 2 Memphis hasn't lost a game in this league since March 2, 2006, at Alabama-Birmingham - still the Tigers' lone loss to a Conference USA opponent over a span of 68 games.
A No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament seemingly is locked up, right?
Maybe not if the Tigers fail to win a third straight tournament championship, and coach John Calipari doesn't see it as unfair to a team that is 30-1.
``Because everybody else has got to win too,'' Calipari said Wednesday after being named the league's coach of the year. ``They all got to win too. If ... the four other teams win their tournaments and we lose ours, then they should be one seeds.''
Memphis doesn't have a long history of being a top seed in the NCAA tournament. It's happened only once, and that was in 2006.
Being a top seed again seemingly would be assured for a team that spent five weeks ranked No. 1, three times unanimously, and with only one loss.
So Calipari, with friend and former boss Larry Brown around Wednesday, is trying to ease the pressure on his Tigers. His message to only the second Division I program to win at least 30 games in three straight seasons?
Relax, enjoy and have fun.
``Everybody is tired. Every coach is tired. Every player is tired,'' Calipari said. ``I told my team a week ago that the team that can fight through this, the team and coach that can keep fighting through how we all feel, those teams are going to get the high seeds and be playing a week or two longer than everybody else.''
Aiding the Tigers is their home-court advantage. Until then-No. 2 Tennessee beat them on Feb. 23, they had won 47 straight games here. Junior Chris Douglas-Roberts, the conference player of the year, acknowledges home court is a big advantage.
``We enjoy our fans and our fans enjoy us, so it's like another home game,'' he said. ``We have all the support as opposed to these teams that are coming and don't have that many fans, maybe 50 to 100 fans. It's in our advantage.''
Is that fair?
``It's fair for us,'' Douglas-Roberts said.
It can't hurt the Tigers to keep pouring it on opponents either. Only No. 5 Kansas has a larger margin (an average 21 points per game) than Memphis (18.9).
The Tigers, who have a first-round bye and don't play until Thursday night, won't see the CUSA team that came closest to knocking them off until the championship game if both advance.
UAB (22-9) needs wins to ensure its own NCAA tournament berth after falling short of a Memphis upset 79-78 on Feb. 16 in Alabama. UAB could face a challenge from Houston (22-8) in the semifinals Friday.
Memphis comes into the tournament having won four straight, including a 38-point victory over Tulsa in its regular season finale last weekend. Calipari said such big margins came when his team was hitting its 3s and dominating the boards.
He's also not worried about his Tigers studying the Internet or trying to figure out where they will be playing in another week, not when the whole seeding process is subjective.
``It's subjective in that you have people from different leagues that are from different parts of the country that are human,'' Calipari said. ... ``That's why you can't worry about all the other stuff and the hype around it. All you can do is take care of things you have control over and for us, that's today's practice.''
``We want to be the team that's having more fun in this tournament than anybody. If we're having more fun than anybody win or lose, we're preparing ourselves and we're getting better.''