Office Hours: Final Four Look-Ahead Edition

By David Scott - March 30, 2008

HOUSTON -- The Memphis Tigers locker room had been cleared out of pesky media types and there remained four of the key elements to the team's Final Four run: The beefy Joey Dorsey; The elastic Chris Douglas-Roberts; The phenom frosh Derrick Rose; and The inimitable John Calipari.

Calipari had just finished changing into his "lucky" cordorouys and was walking out of the Reliant Stadium locker room for one last time to face one last throng of cameras. He paused, caught the attention of CDR and said to his junior: "I'm so proud of you, Chris."

"Thanks Coach," said CDR as the two hugged. "I love you, Coach."

"I love you too, Chris."

Calipari turned and left the locker room. The three players got together for a lingering photogrpaher and posed for a picture. The moment lasted a second or two. The memory will last a lifetime.

This is what happens when you win your first Elite Eight game in three straight tries. This is what happens when a special freshman joins a group of veterans and the team loses just one game in the regular season. This is what happens when kids buy into a system and coaches push the right buttons.

This is what happens during March Madness.

"I believe in these guys, I trust them," said Calipari during his post-game press conference. "I'm just proud of these players. This has been a wonderful year and we want to win a couple more if we can."

The Tigers are not alone in seeking that pair of wins and here is how The Professor sees things shaking out in San Antonio, in addition to some other observations from this weekend of games:

A: Calipari
The coach - who confirmed to The Professor early Sunday night that he had received 130 text and voice mails combined after the game - was remarkable all weekend long in his approach and strategy. He took the pressure off his players but didn't let them forget that the "experts" were doubting them and the result was the Tigers playing their best basketball of the season. They had a chip on their shoulders and it showed.

Calipari has nurtured Derrick Rose and never held him back. He has persuaded Joey Dorsey to be the defensive presence that he has become. And he kept CDR happy enough - even with Rose's last season emergence - to allow for moments like the one described above.

The one thing that Memphis probably would like most of all is to play again in two days - they're in a great groove and the five day lay-off may be the Tigers' worst enemy. But, as Antonio Anderson said after the game, "We'll enjoy this one for a little bit then get back to work."

F: Those Very Same "National Experts"
Shame on you all for doubting the Tigers and, more to the point, Calipari. The final straw might have been the national columnist who suggested that Calipari just rolls the ball out and lets his team play. Nothing could be further from the truth and one experience at a Tigers practice would confirm that. There's a lot of battles that Calipari takes on that just aren't worth the time or effort, but the one he took on this weekend to prove that he can coach was well worth the fight and helped earn the Tigers a Final Four berth.

C: Four No. 1 Seeds in San Antonio
The first time ever for all four No. 1s in the Final Four has our emotions mixed. Sure it validates the committee's process like nothing else could have. And yes, it will provide for two wonderful match-ups on Saturday for CBS (6:07 tip for UCLA and Memphis and 8:47 for Kansas and North Carolina), but we wouldn't have minded seeing Stephen Curry play another game or two and we would have valued the chance to have Davidson on the national stage for one more weekend.

A-plus: Stephen Curry
He was MOP of the region despite his team losing in the Regional Final. That's a statement in and of itself. But the way that Curry did it and the composure he showed throughout takes his story to another level.

Our only fear is that Curry's NBA stock will never be higher and we may be deprived of his return to Davidson next year. If that's the case, he provided a boatload of memories in just two years on campus.

A: Kevin Love and Tyler Hansbrough
The shame of the whole weekend in San Antonio would be if these two guys don't get to meet up on Monday night. It could very well happen, but as you'll see below, we don't think so and that's too bad.

C: Kansas
We're still of the belief that Kansas is the most talented team left but we now have our doubts after Davidson was able to control tempo and pace against the Jayhawks. A performance like Sunday's against North Carolina will not suffice.

The Professor's Prediction Time:
There's no doubting the fact that we're seeing things through blue-colored glasses after all this time with the Memphis Tigers this season and perhaps that's why we're picking Memphis to win on Saturday vs. UCLA. But beyond the Kevin Love match-up, we see a lot of battles where Memphis has the edge including with Derrick Rose and CDR. (Historical note: The Tigers and Bruins met in a regional final two years ago and in the 1973 title game. They lost both, the 1973 game to Bill Walton.)

Despite what we said about Kansas, we're going to lean to the Jayhawks and believe that they will re-group and that their depth and athleticism will slightly edge out the depth and athleticism of UNC.

As for Monday night in the Final? Well, we've been riding the Tigers all season so there's no reason to stop in the final week. Rose is unstoppable right now and Memphis was so dominant this weekend that we can't help but think that play will carry over.

. . . The Professor gets to San Anotnio on Thursday and we'll begin blogging when we touch down. We'll have a full crew of CSTV.commers and those crazy, kooky road-trippers as well so be sure to join us.

Posted by David Scott at 11:03 PM on March 30, 2008

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