Monday, November 5, 2007

Tiger Season

The regular season is underway! While I'm planning on posting primarily on the weekends, I thought I would post tonight in honor of the start of the college basketball season. The "2K Sports College Hoops Classic benefiting Coaches vs Cancer" began this afternoon. No word yet on the "XBox 360 College Hoops Invitational Challenge benefiting the 25th Annual Health & Well-Being Charity Walk". Richmond edged Maine 44-42. (Recap here.) Not sure whether the 44-42 final score indicates a season of competitive basketball or a season of boring low-scoring basketball, but I'll assume the former.

While this tournament is a great chance for many of these teams to build their tournament resumes, it serves an entirely different purpose for the Memphis Tigers. Unless and until someone in CUSA steps up and challenges Memphis on a regular basis, this is the regular season for Memphis. And there are plenty of intriguing games on the Memphis non-conference schedule. These include:

Oklahoma (projected)
Kentucky or UConn (projected)

But can this really prepare a team for the NCAA tournament like facing the variety of styles in the Big East or the depth of the ACC?

Last year, I thought Memphis was exceptionally lucky to receive a 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. While a George Washington team with only three top 50 wins received an 8 seed in 2006, last year's Memphis squad had only one top 50 win and still earned a 2 seed. I think this fell somewhere under the commitees stated goal to "get out and watch games". The committee saw Memphis in person and knew they were a better team than the computer profile showed.

And while I commend the committee for doing the right thing from a basketball point of view, it really makes the season seem unimportant for Memphis. If they don't have to earn a high seed with quality wins, the regular season doesn't mean much for Memphis. The only real question is how far they'll advance in the NCAA tournament this year. If they make the Final Four they'll be a success. After two straight Elite Eight appearances, anything else will be a disappointment.

I asked in my preview what would bring them over the top this year. A lot of people think that the MAA guard Derrick Rose will be the answer, and I can understand the temptation that he'll be a more effecient version of Jeremy Hunt. The only problem is that Hunt was pretty darn efficient. Rose is off to a nice start. Rose posted 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists in his first game against Tenn-Martin. (Recap here.) Memphis scored over 100 in their opener even without Joey Dorsey who is nursing an ailing shoulder.

Memphis will be back again tommorrow with a game against Richmond. Even if most teams are just warming up, its Tiger Season.