|Tigers can't console themselves with good season after blowing national title|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 08 April 2008 10:33|
Instead, Memphis has a new claim as the ``Home of the Blues'' after blowing a national championship in Monday night's 75-68 overtime loss to Kansas. The Tigers, who led by nine points with 2:12 left, now find little solace in a record 38 wins, and 104 victories the past three seasons.
These talented Tigers now find themselves lumped with the likes of Michigan's Fab Five and Houston's Phi Slamma Jamma as great teams that simply couldn't win it all.
``You have the kind of lead we had, you're supposed to win the game,'' coach John Calipari said.
All-American Chris Douglas-Roberts added, ``We weren't successful.''
Maybe it's because these Tigers hadn't really been tested much this season in the final minutes. The team that ran off 26 straight wins and blew through Michigan State, Texas and UCLA in the NCAA tournament hadn't been forced to hit free throws at the end to protect a fragile lead.
Free throws, the Tigers' biggest weakness during the season and the area Calipari promised wouldn't hurt his mentally tough players, cost them even as they were preparing to celebrate.
``I just knew we was ready to cut the nets down,'' senior Joey Dorsey said of the final seconds.
Free throws had come easily in the tournament until the final 75 seconds, even for a team that hit only 59.7 percent during the season, among the country's worst. Then the Tigers missed four of five starting with Douglas-Roberts' missing the front end of a 1-and-1, then clanking two more with 16.8 seconds remaining.
Derrick Rose, the dazzling freshman who had given Memphis the lead by taking over the game, was at the line with 10.8 seconds left needing two free throws to kick start the celebration. On the bench, Calipari was praying.
``I said, 'Lord, if he makes this, these two, we're supposed to be national champs. And if that's your will, I'm fine. And if he misses them and we're not, I'm fine with that, too.' That's what I said in my mind. I'm probably not supposed to say that, religiously, but that's what it was,'' Calipari said.
Rose missed the first, then hit the second. Then the Tigers couldn't foul Kansas before Mario Chalmers' 3-pointer forced overtime. By then, the Tigers were spent - especially with Dorsey fouled out on the bench.
Calipari might kick himself over the next few days. Should he have called more timeouts to rest his Tigers? Would that have helped at the line? How did they miss fouling Chalmers?
``I will probably do some soul searching on this. Look back, what play or two could we have done,'' he said.
Calipari might change the way his Tigers practice free throw shooting. Or that might not be a problem with the roster he has next season.
Dorsey is gone after winning 126 games at Memphis along with reserve Andre Allen, the senior who was suspended for the Final Four because of a team violation.
Both Douglas-Roberts and Rose likely are gone to the NBA. Rose said he'll have to meet with his family, but his impressive play throughout the tournament greatly elevated his value. Douglas-Roberts also is likely to go.
``It's hard to get to two national championship games in a row,'' he said.
Calipari won't be holding them back.
``I would be happy for all three if they had an opportunity to play in the NBA and be drafted and those things,'' he said.
Juniors Robert Dozier and Antonio Anderson are likely back, and guard Willie Kemp was the starter last season as a freshman before Rose took his job. Calipari has forwards Angel Garcia and Matt Simpkins committed, while he could replace Rose with Tyreke Evans, who has yet to pick a school. Memphis also is recruiting forward Devin Ebanks.
``We really wanted this for the city because the city is so behind us,'' Douglas-Roberts said. ``They all came together during this run. We really wanted this for the city, we wanted the city to remember us.''
They will be, even if not as champions. Several hundred screaming fans in Tiger blue greeted the team at the airport on Tuesday.