Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Memphis a Mystery

From the N.Y. Times:

Despite Ranking, Memphis Remains a Mystery for N.C.A.A. Tournament

Memphis earned its first No. 1 seeding in the N.C.A.A. tournament and fell a game short of the Final Four last season. But the Tigers were hardly expected to achieve similar success this season after losing two top players from that team to the N.B.A.

Now, having won an N.C.A.A. Division I-best 19 consecutive games and being the first team to streak through Conference USA undefeated since 2000, the sixth-ranked Tigers (27-3) are poised to be seeded No. 2 or No. 3 in this month’s N.C.A.A. tournament.

“Whether they merit a No. 1 seed, I don’t know, but I do think they’re better than they were last year,” Rice Coach Willis Wilson said in a telephone interview.

As the Conference USA tournament starts on its home court Wednesday, Memphis is perhaps college basketball’s most mysterious highly ranked team.

The Tigers have victories against Kentucky (20-10), Mississippi (19-11) and Gonzaga (22-10), and their only losses are to Georgia Tech (20-10), Tennessee (22-9) and Arizona (20-9), all of whom were ranked at the time.

But 16 of their wins were in Conference USA, which is ranked 11th nationally in the Ratings Percentage Index, behind such leagues as the Mountain West, the Western Athletic Conference and the Atlantic 10.

As a result, Memphis, led by the sophomore guard Chris Douglas-Roberts and a stingy defense, is ranked eighth in the R.P.I., but its strength of schedule is 77th.

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