I was just reading yet another ‘expert’ bashing Memphis. You’ve heard it all – they play in a weak conference and they lost to Tennessee so they are a weak number one seed. There is even lots of talk that they will lose that number one seed unless they win the conference title, or at least make the final. That’s all absolutely ridiculous. I’ll admit I am a big fan of this team, and that I have been for years (ever since John Calipari, one of the few top coaches in the country, showed up), but I don’t think that they are getting nearly enough respect. Here are ten reasons that you should agree with me:
1. Derrick Rose – This kid is ridiculously good, and he is getting better with every game. This will clearly be his only trip to the tournament, and we have seen in the past how players in his position have stepped it up in the tourney – think of Durant and Oden.
2. Chris Douglas-Roberts – He doesn’t get as much attention as some of the other juniors out there, but this guy is among a small handful of the best players in the country. He’s a difference maker who steps up when his team most needs it.
3. Depth – Shawn Taggart and Doneal Mack could start for a whole lot of teams in the country. They don’t often do so for Memphis because there are so many legitimate players ahead of them.
4. Conference – The CUSA can’t be confused with one of the top conferences, but it isn’t nearly as bad as people think, either. Nine of the 12 teams have winning records. UAB beat Kentucky. So did Houston. Both teams were in the bubble discussion. Southern Miss was very profitable, and so was Southern Miss. There are a lot of non-BCS conferences out there that are no deeper or tougher than this one.
5. Winning streak – Even if the conference isn’t the strongest, it is truly impressive that they went undefeated in it. They did that last year, too. The year before they only lost once. 45-1 is impressive regardless of who a team is playing.
6. Non-conference schedule – Few teams have challenged themselves as much or fared as well as Memphis. Just look at the list of tournament teams they have faced besides Tennessee – Gonzaga, Georgetown, Arizona, USC, UConn, Oklahoma, Siena and Austin Peay. They obviously beat all of them, and they were a solid 5-2-1 ATS against them. The idea that this is a team that hasn’t been tested is a total joke.
7. Road trips – The Tigers are 9-0 on the road, and 4-0 on neutral courts. They are 6-6-1 ATS. They won’t be playing the tournament at home, so it obviously helps that they are proven road winners.
8. Versatility – They scored in the 90s regularly. They won with totals of 62 and 63. This is a team that can score with anyone and keep up to any style of game. It will be tough for a team to catch them off-guard.
9. Defense – They are the sixth best team in the country at defending field goals, 16th in stopping the three, and fifth in rebounding margin. They are second in the country in defensive efficiency. If defense wins championships than their aren’t many teams better situated.
10. Tigers are scary – They could attack and kill any other mascot out there. Except maybe the Musketeer if he got lucky.