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December 05, 2007
by Robbie Gillies
The past two seasons the University of Memphis has gone 33-4 and made it to the elite eight in the NCAA Tournament and that's what they should expect from this season as well. For most teams, this would be an accomplishment, but for Memphis, anything less than a Final Four would be a big disappointment. Well, be prepared to be disappointed again.
This Memphis team is just like the rest of them: tons of talent, but no discipline and a horrible free throw percentage. The Tigers are 7-0 after beating USC in overtime last night, but they were exposed as a team that's not ready to contend.
Coach John Calipari has not been able to teach his players simple fundamentals. The big men underneath, Robert Dozier and Joey Dorsey are the most athletic front court tandem I've seen this year. They should be able to dominate the paint on offense and defense, and sometimes they do. But sometimes is not enough. Too often they look to go for the blocked shot instead of simply keeping their man out of the paint. On offense they're a liability because they shoot a deplorable 26% from the line. Perhaps they understand this weakness because they've only shot 15 free throws on the season. There poor free throw percentage might also explain why they're so tentative around the basket.
The guards are the stars of the Tigers offense. Junior Chris Douglas-Roberts averages almost 22 points per game and is the one constant for the Tigers. The other guard is highly-touted freshman Derrick Rose who averages 17 points per game. But, USC was able to shut Rose down with fundamental defense. USC's star freshman guard, OJ Mayo stayed in front of Rose and didn't let him use his speed to get to the basket. Rose is always looking to drive and if that's shut that down it throws him out of rhythm. Rose had just 2 points at the half and finished with just 9 points.
Memphis is looking to outscore teams through their athleticism resulting in easy fast break buckets. Unfortunately, this seems to be the only way they know how to play. They looked lost when USC got back on defense and allowed at most 10 fast break points in the game. The Tigers turned the ball over 21 times, including a combined nine from Rose and Douglas-Roberts. Most of these turnovers were a result of Memphis attempting to create fast break opportunities that simply weren't there.
Memphis might have the most talented team in college basketball. But talent can only take you so far, and so far that level of talent has only taken Memphis to the elite eight.