Memphis remains suspect despite 24-game streak

Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Memphis' Chris Douglas-Roberts took a shot over Nevada's Denis Ikovlev, during the Tigers' second-round victory Sunday in the South Regional of the NCAA tournament in New Orleans. Douglas-Roberts, Memphis' leading scorer this season, injured an ankle late in the game and is questionable for Thursday's game against Texas A&M. (BILL HABER ~ Associated Press)

There are those who are skeptical of the Tigers' 32-3 record.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A 24-game winning streak hasn't convinced everyone that Memphis is a legitimate national championship contender.

After all, the second-seeded Tigers didn't get much of a challenge from their Conference USA rivals, none of which made the NCAA tournament. Counting North Texas and Nevada, the two teams Memphis beat to get to the South Regional semifinals, the Tigers have defeated five teams that made the NCAA's field of 65.

It's safe to say that Thursday's game in San Antonio against Texas A&M will be the Tigers' toughest test in months.

And Memphis could be without leading scorer Chris Douglas-Roberts, who is nursing a sprained left ankle. Coach John Calipari said he wasn't positive Douglas-Roberts would play.

"But I think he will," Calipari said after his weekly radio show Monday before a packed house of Tigers fans at a Memphis restaurant.

Decked out in blue T-shirts and caps, fans treated Calipari to a standing ovation as he arrived for the show held in a strip of taverns and restaurants just off the university campus.

Douglas-Roberts missed the last 8 minutes of Sunday's game, but the Tigers dominated down the stretch without him, shutting out Nevada for more than 6 minutes.

"Let's hope that Chris is healthy. If he's not, we'll figure it out and we'll play without him," Calipari said.

Memphis (32-3) is powered by its pressure defense and transition offense. Depth is also a strength. The Tigers have nine players who average at least 10 minutes per game and seven who are over 20. Douglas-Roberts averages 15.4 points per game, but Jeremy Hunt (13.6), Robert Dozier (9.8), Joey Dorsey (8.7) and Antonio Anderson (8.0) can all contribute offensively.

The Tigers ran roughshod over C-USA teams such as East Carolina, Marshall and Rice, on their way to regular season and conference tournament championships.

"They did what they were supposed to do, as far as playing against mediocre talent," said Memphis fan David Harp, one of the faithful out to salute Calipari. "They won big."

This is the second season since Conference USA bid farewell to powerful teams such as Louisville, Cincinnati and Marquette, all of which were scooped up by the Big East.

"Our league is stronger," Calipari said. "Maybe we're just better. Anybody think of that? Maybe we're better than we were a year ago. I don't know."

The Tigers' other big wins were against Kentucky and Gonzaga, neither of which survived the first weekend of the tournament.

Meanwhile, the Aggies (27-6) went 13-3 in the Big 12 conference, with signature wins over Kansas and Texas. They're the No. 3 seed, but the odds makers have made them a three-point favorite.

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