|As expected, Tigers earn second No. 1 seed in three seasons|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 16 March 2008 15:02|
And yes, the end goal is a national championship.
``We created those expectations before the year even started, and that's what we're living up to,'' Memphis junior Chris Douglas-Roberts said Sunday. ``We're not taking that back at all. That's what we want.''
The Tigers (33-1) gathered at coach John Calipari's house and watched the bracket announcement in his living room, surrounded by reporters and TV cameras. They expected to receive one of the four No. 1 seeds and wound up as the second of those seeds in their fifth NCAA berth in six years.
This will be the Tigers' 21st NCAA tournament appearance, but they haven't played in the Final Four since 1985. The school's lone appearance in the national championship game was 1973, when it lost to UCLA.
For a team that lost in a regional final each of the past two seasons and where the first 34 games this season have been the warm-up act, anything less than the Final Four, finally, would be a disappointment.
``We're in a great position to win it all,'' sophomore Doneal Mack said. ``We're just going to take it one game at a time. We're not looking ahead in the bracket and stuff like that. We've got Texas-Arlington coming up. That's who we're going to prepare for.''
No disrespect to Texas-Arlington (21-11), a team making its NCAA debut as the Southland Conference tournament champ, but Memphis is enjoying a very special season, the kind that Calipari wants every fan to enjoy. He encourages the dreams while pointing out how rare it is for a team from a league like Conference USA to compete at this level.
``Put your hands behind your heads, smile and enjoy this. You shouldn't be dissecting. You shouldn't. ... Stop. Just enjoy this.
``If our season ends on a loss, wherever it is, we're all going to be disappointed. I'm going to be disappointed,'' Calipari said. ``If it ends on a win, boy are we all going to be happy.''
This is a program that was ranked No. 1 for five weeks, including three when it received every vote, until the lone stumble in a 66-62 loss to Tennessee on Feb. 23. Memphis heads in having won seven straight and as Conference USA's three-time regular season and tournament champ.
These very experienced Tigers already find themselves in rare territory.
They have won 99 games over the past three seasons, fifth-best in such a stretch behind only three other schools with Kentucky doing it twice. Reaching the regional semifinals will tie Memphis with Duke (101) for fourth in that category, and a regional final victory matches Montana State (102).
The national championship has eluded Memphis since losing to Bill Walton and UCLA in 1973. A win in the title game would give Memphis 105 and the most ever over three seasons, passing the 104 wins by the Kentucky teams from 1996-98.
The last thing the Tigers wanted was a repeat of their past two NCAA tournament trips. When the stakes were the highest, they found themselves playing road games.
M in San Antonio. The Tigers survived - barely - with a 65-64 win before an Alamodome packed with 26,060 fans, and most were cheering for the Aggies.
Now, the Tigers know they likely will enjoy a home atmosphere Friday in Little Rock.
But if they advance to the regional final, they could be playing Texas in Houston.
Calipari cautioned against looking past Texas-Arlington, since so many highly anticipated games never materialize.
``If teams can advance that far, you know what? They should have an advantage, and hopefully someday in my lifetime we'll have an advantage,'' he said.