Friday, March 23, 2007

Gotta Love Memphis

Normally when one of my tourney favorites is dispatched, I find myself hating the team that eliminated them. But when Texas A&M (my title game pick and home to tourney favorite Acie Law) lost a heartbreaker to Memphis last night, I found myself strangely happy for the Tigers. Some theories on how this could happen:

1. Residual from last year's tourney when I had Memphis going to the Final Four and rooted passionately for them to beat UCLA in the regional final.

2. Respect for the way they handled their business in front of a frothing, partisan crowd in San Antonio. That was like playing a road game in the Pit back in the late 90's.

3. Admiration for the way that Antonio Anderson shook off a 1-4 day at the line (and the knowledge that he was a 64% shooter) to calmly drain a pair of free throws to win the game.

4. The knowledge that in 48 hours, the Tigers would be playing the insanely lucky Ohio State Buckeyes. Kind of a "hey, I'm going to be rooting for them in two days anyway" argument.

5. The fact that they run the Vance Walberg AASAA (attack, attack, skip pass, attack, attack) offense. Walberg is the current coach at my alma mater Pepperdine University, so there is a bonus point right there. But more than that, this is exciting basketball. It's not "foul as often as possible because the refs can't call them all," which is the popular strategy being employed by UCLA, Pitt, Wisconsin, Miami of Ohio, Southern Illinois (the refs allowed the Salukis to turn that Kansas game into a schoolyard brawl - that was NOT basketball), and others. Texas A&M was one of the few "defensive" clubs that actually played honest defense, which is why I liked them so much. But the brand of ball Memphis plays is thrilling. And while they are a shooter or two short on the perimeter, they run, they finish, they try wild forays into the lane. It's good stuff. A Memphis-Tennessee game would have blown the lid off of the gym. Alas (see #4).

6. Mid-Major power. I loved UNLV back in the day and I love Memphis now for the way they shed any labels that experts try to put on them because of conference affiliation. When are we finally going to learn that while conference affiliation may play a role in preparation (quality of the competition), it has nothing to do with the talent level of the team. This was a big, fat "suck it" to the power conferences, and especially to the Big East (the conference that decimated Conference USA).

7. The anticipation of things to come. As noted in my previous post, I think Derrick Rose is going to be something special next year and that Memphis will have a shot at going undefeated. So jumping on the bandwagon now makes a lot of sense.

All that to say: Memphis, I forgive you for beating my Aggies, and you have my full support going forward.

Go Tigers.

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