Office Hours: Holiday Edition

By David Scott - December 22, 2007

Before the professor can properly re-charge the batteries during our own mini-break, we need to close out the Grade Book on 2007 and in particular this past week of fantastic basketball.

Before we get into the nitty gritty (with a heavy Memphis-GTown bent), let us wish everyone a very happy and safe holiday break and the most prosperous of New Years in 2008. You’'ve all been fantastic students thus far this season and we expect that to continue through the remainder of the year and beyond. Now sit up straight, stop doodling and pay attention. . .

A: Memphis Tigers
Every time we get around the Calipari Crew - as we were for the latter part of last week - we are reminded of just how different this program is from virtually every other college franchise. The inside joke around the team is that it’'s like a circus at any given moment complete with three rings, jugglers and clowns.

If there’'s not a Chinese contingent being followed by a documentary crew, there'’s a mega-hyped game like the Georgetown contest from Saturday at the FedEx Forum that came complete with reported sightings of Justin Timberlake, Jessica Biel and Joe Thiesmann. If there's not a motivational guru taking one-on-one meetings with players, there's an NBA player (Sam Cassell) giving group advice.

And if there'’s not true motivational material, Calipari - in a very Bill Belichikian manner - will generate some out of thin air.

For the Hoya game, Calipari convinced his team that they were home underdogs when in fact they were six point favorites. And you know what? It worked as it usually does. Calipari has an uncanny knack for pushing the right buttons and invigorating his charges when they need it most. Chris Douglas-Roberts’'s bounce back game was only the latest in a string of Calipari creations that has led to big wins.

"This was big," said Calipari, "it's on the shelf now for (the committee to look at) and we have to get ready for Arizona."

The Tigers host the Wildcats on Saturday in a game that, as of Sunday morning, will pit the two highest RPI teams in the country ('Zona is No. 1) against each other.

A: Antonio Anderson, Memphis
Anderson, who does the dirty work for Memphis, was The Professor'’s wing man on our flight back to Boston (he'’s from Lynn, Mass. the city The Prof was born in). After a typical stat-sheet filling contest where Anderson contributed seven points, five assists, four rebounds, two steals and a block in 33 minutes, the junior was understandably fatigued for the flight home. Still, so experienced and so well-traveled is the 6-6 guard that he was able to sleep through almost the entire three hour flight. The Prof still can'’t get a sniff of in-air sleep without medicinal aids.

D: Roy Hibbert, Georgetown
One of the most likable and thoughtful student-athletes of his senior class, Hibbert was a virtual no-show against Memphis in a game the Hoyas really needed their 7-footer to be a presence. Even the explanation from John Thompson III that Hibbert does more than just score and rebound doesn'’t justify the six point, six rebound, three turnover snoozer he submitted on Saturday. Hibbert told Joey Dorsey over the summer that he came back to school in part to get stronger. To this point, his game is being exposed as weaker than many thought and if he doesn'’t get more aggressive and consistent for Georgetown they won’'t even sniff the Final Four again and he'll hurt his draft stock in immeasurable ways.

A: Duke and Piitsburgh
A wonderful college basketball game last Thursday at Madison Square Garden, won by the Panthers in OT. With the current state of the New York Knicks, it was probably the last example of high-level hoops the Garden will see until the Big East Tournament.

F: The Professor
Not until after the game was over did we learn that Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel were in the FedEx Forum. That kind of knowledge would have been perfect for the live-blogging we were doing and would have provided minutes of smarmy, Justinica jokes. Instead we’'re left to wonder if Biel and The Prof could have made beautiful music together. Bitter, I am. Better, I will be. Biel-less I shall remain.

A: American Univeristy
For the first time in 80 years the Eagles downed Maryland lead ex-Virginia coach and eighth-year head man Jeff Jones to remark, ""It will certainly make [the holidays] more fun."

Not for Gary Williams and the Terps. Said Maryland junior Dave Neal: "We are frustrated. Right now we don't know what is going on."

That's not what you're hoping to hear out of your players.

B-Minus: Gonzaga
With Josh Heytvelt back, the Top 20 Zags should have won the Oklahoma game which they dropped, 72 -68. Now, granted it will take some time to re-assimilate Heytvelt into the offense (he played just 15 minutes against the Sonners) and we;’re willing to give the Zags the benefit of the doubt - especially because our guy Jeremy Pargo had a career-high 28 points in the loss. If Pargo plays like that and Heytvelt becomes Heytvelt, the Zags will be fine. They will likely fall from the Top 25, but they shall return, we'd guess.

A: Derick Nelson, Oakland University
The junior scored a game-high 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds as Oakland (6-6) stunned No. 23 Oregon (8-3), 68-62, on Saturday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills. The Golden Grizzlies defeated their first ranked opponent (1-15) in school history.

Meanwhile, Oregon's Ernie Kent is going to once again have to deal with the whispers (or louder) that his job hinges on a strong season - something he went through last year before the surprise Elite Eight run (and 29 wins) for the Ducks. To call for Kent's job now seems premature to us. It's Oregon folks, and the guy has had two Elite 8 runs this decade.

F: Santa
All The Prof wanted for the Holidays was a Bobby Knight action figure doll with the kung fu grip and the buckshot rifle.

Instead, we got a crummy O'Reilly Auto Parts sweater.

Rook Look - Morris Almond

A weekly check-in with a professional player who was toiling on a college campus last year at this time:

The ex-Rice star tied the NBDL's scoring record with 51 on Friday night and followed that up with a 36-point effort the next night as the Utah Flash won two straight overtime games. Almond was last season's Conference USA Player of the Year after single-season conference records for points average (26.4 ppg), points scored (844), and free throws made (241).

Almond leads The D-League in scoring at 32.0 ppg.

Information and quotes from school releases, official websites and wire stories were used in this notes column.

Posted by David Scott at 04:23 PM on December 22, 2007

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