Monday, April 02, 2007

Greg Oden Almost Killed Jeff Green

I talked about this dunk attempt this morning...had this gone in, it would have been a top 10 all-time college dunk. This is scary.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

San Antonio, Part 4

Ohio State 92 Memphis 76

And this is where it ends. Ohio State played its best game of the season, Memphis played merely average, and that was the difference. There are a number of talking points to go through after this one, but before I do that, I have to give a lot of credit to the Memphis fans for being very loud and being really supportive. There's no doubt the fans made a positive difference for the Tigers.

First things first. I said at the end of the last post that Joey Dorsey would have a chance to back up his big mouth with a big performance against Greg Oden today. He had that chance - and he blew it badly. It was obvious from the very beginning of the game that Dorsey's body language was off. He looked intimidated. He got into an argument or two with John Calipari on the bench. And, most obviously, he just isn't as good as Greg Oden. Oden scored the first basket of the game on Dorsey and that set the tone. Oden grabbed boards, affected shots, and scored on several low-post moves and big dunks. Dorsey fouled people and that was it. The Tigers got nothing from Dorsey or Kareem Cooper, and that made it almost impossible to beat Ohio State. Speaking of Cooper, it's time to be real - he needs to get in better shape and he needs to work a lot harder. He is a huge liability when he comes into the ballgame, and he hurt the team in this tournament.

Would Oden and the Buckeyes have been that good without Joey Dorsey making the comments he made yesterday? Maybe. I know it fired up the entire Ohio State team, though, and they played a fantastic overall game. They shot 51% from the field for the game and took care of the basketball. They dictated the tempo and got penetration whenever they wanted. This was their breakout game - the one that showed everyone why they're a number one seed.

To Dorsey's credit, he spoke with me and the rest of the media in the locker room after the game. Listen to the interview by clicking here. He's quite candid about how much better Oden is that he thought he would be, how tired he got covering Oden, and how he feels he let the team down. It is a positive sign for next year that Dorsey appears contrite and somewhat apologetic about what happened tonight. It doesn't change the domination.

Oden is incredible. Today, he played with passion and no little skill. He changes everything when he's in the game - he makes up for so many defensive errors because he can block any shot near the basket. His footwork is outstanding, and he's faster than you might think. He blocked a Willie Kemp layup attempt (should have been goaltending) when the ball was at least 12 feet off the ground. I am on record as favoring Durant over Oden should the Grizzlies get the first pick, but I have no doubt that Oden is going to be very much like his idol, David Robinson. He is a genuinely nice young man who seems very grounded despite the obvious fame he's achieved. I wouldn't mind seeing him win a national title.

Oden was involved in the game's pivotal play. There was a loose ball at midcourt with the Tigers up 60-57...Kareem Cooper was the closest to the ball, but Ron Lewis of Ohio State beat him to it, and passed in underneath to Oden for what appeared to be an easy dunk. CDR was down low with Oden and grabbed him around the waist, trying to prevent him from shooting. Oden made the basket and CDR was called for an intentional foul, his 4th foul of the game. Oden made one of two from the line, then OSU got the ball back, and that possession led to two Jamar Butler free throws. Overall, it was a five point swing. The game was never the same after that.

Mike Conley, Jr. was named the South Region's Most Outstanding Player, and it was a well-deserved honor. He was fantastic. It's hard to believe he's a freshamn - he got penetration whenever he wanted, and the Tigers were unable to stop him from doing much of anything. He dominated the game. John Calipari said after the game that the Tigers couldn't force their tempo on the game because Conley and Jamar Butler handle the ball too well and are too tough - that was another factor in OSU's favor.

Major credit goes to Jeremy Hunt, who immediately bailed the Tigers out of an early slump by hitting an early three. He played without fear, with reckless abandon, with desperation. It was to be his final game as a Tiger, and he played like it. Without him, the Tigers would have lost by a lot more than 16. He was never the most talented Tiger, but he might have been the toughest - and next season, the Tigers will miss that.

Willie Kemp, CDR, and Antonio Anderson all played pretty well, too. Fouls limited CDR a bit, and WIllie made a few freshman mistakes, but they were positives for the Tigers today.

Check out for a bunch of postgame audio, including interviews with Jeremy Hunt, Joey Dorsey, Chris Douglas-Roberts, John Calipari, and R.C. Johnson. Incidentally, R.C. told me that no one has contacted him regarding John Calipari's job status. Good news for Tiger fans.

I've enjoyed bringing you these road reports, and I hope you've enjoyed reading them and listening to the audio on I'm headed back to Memphis tomorrow - a long day of driving awaits. Congratulations to Ohio State, but congratulations also to the Tigers for a tremendous tournament run and a great season. Next year should be even better.

Friday, March 23, 2007

San Antonio, Part 3

Joey Dorsey Is Confident

Joey Dorsey is a confident player. Always has been, always will be. There was a time when this confidence was almost entirely misplaced, when Joey was just as prone to doing something dumb on the court as something productive. That has changed. His confidence level has not. As a result, he opened his mouth today during the media sessions at the Alamodome and controversy of a sort has ensued. There is a column by the generally inflammatory CBS Sportsline columnist Gregg Doyel making waves here in San Antonio. It sums up much of what Joey said.

Before I continue, you should know how the press conference situation works here in San Antonio. There is a session of about 30 minutes with the head coach and five selected "student-athletes" (the NCAA forbids officials from calling them players, lest we forget just how studious most of the student-athletes are), then the players go to individual "breakout rooms", where they meet with the media in more informal settings. It was in one of these breakout rooms where Dorsey made his comments. I heard some of them; some of them were made before I arrived at his room (I was talking with Dozier and Kemp before I talked to Joey). You can hear what I heard in the breakout room on

Here's what Joey said...let's think about each statement.

"I think (scouts) really will be watching this game tomorrow night because it's two great big men going up against each other. I'm an underrated big man and he's a lot overrated as a big man."

I didn't hear this one in person. But it was a remarkably dumb comment at this time. No point whatsoever in calling Greg Oden overrated - he's played half the season with one hand...his bad hand, for crying out loud.

"I outrebounded (Oden) on the season. I'm the No. 6 rebounder in the nation, and I'm trying to move up to No. 1 after this game."

He did outrebound Oden in total rebounds, but Dorsey has played in more games. But he's not the number six rebounder in the nation. This one doesn't really call Oden out, it's just evidence of extreme confidence.

"I'm going to have a 20-rebound night"

He's never done that in his entire career. Inexplicably dumb.

"I'm Goliath. He's the little man."

This doesn't even make sense. Dorsey's wider, but Oden is taller and heavier. Plus, Oden is far more well-known nationally.

"He doesn't want to stay in the paint. He just wants to post up. I watched a couple games. He's not really playing in the paint. He likes to help-side (defend) and block shots. I haven't seen him against a great player play great defense."

Not sure who he considers to be a "great player", but Oden has certainly played great defense throughout the year. This comment is unnecessary.

Doyel didn't mention a few other quotes, including one in which Dorsey said that Oden gets "very tired" during games and tends to jog the court when he isn't involved in the offense (click here to listen to the quote). Dorsey said it was something he had noticed. Dorsey has put himself in a difficult position here. Oden has been playing somewhat tentatively throughout the tournament, and really hasn't broken out yet. Does Dorsey want to be the one responsible for that? Like it or not, he will be given "credit" for that if Oden goes off.

Dorsey has increased the pressure on himself immensely. He simply must perform tomorrow. There's no excuse. I don't think comments like this are smart at all, but if Dorsey can back it up, then more power to him. No sense in waking a sleeping giant, but that's apparently what Joey Dorsey wanted to do. We will find out just how good Joey Dorsey truly is tomorrow.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

San Antonio, Part 2

Memphis 65 Texas A&M 64
Ohio State 85 Tennessee 84

Just got back from the Alamodome after an incredible night of basketball. I can't imagine a more intense, crazier night of hoops anywhere. I wish I was a better writer, because it's hard for me to properly sum it up with my meager ability. But I will try.

I'll start with the Tigers. I cannot believe they won that game in the face of all the obstacles that presented themselves. The big storyline coming into this game revolved around two things: the crowd and CDR's ankle. The crowd was every bit as loud as imagined - 90% or more maroon...and they were really loud. It was an intense atmosphere, without question. My ears were ringing for minutes after I left the floor. As for the second part of the storyline, Chris Douglas-Roberts started the game and played an extraordinary game when his team needed it. He may not have been at his best, but he was close enough, and that's exactly what the Tigers needed.

Talking with him after the game (you can hear the audio at, he said he spent 24 hours a day working on rehabbing his ankle, and it showed. One of the trainers, coincidentally also named Chris, spent every waking hour with CDR, working on rehabbing the ankle, and that commitment to the rehab paid off in huge style. CDR was able to cut and drive enough to cause a few problems for Texas A&M. I have a lot of respect for his ability to get healthy. He deserves praise.

The Tigers managed to survive despite massive foul trouble, especially in the first half. Robert Dozier managed to pick up two quick fouls early and that forced the Tigers to go small, which allowed the Texas A&M bigs to get some very easy baskets. That was a major reason the Tigers went into the half down 5, and that was a major reason Texas A&M shot 58% in the first half. Joey Dorsey also picked up foul trouble, starting with his 2nd late in the first half. John Calipari tried to go with Kareem Cooper, but Kareem is just too slow and not good enough on defense to be trusted. He gave up a bunch of easy baskets, forcing Cal to go to Pierre Niles at one point. Niles was worse than Cooper. Yet, despite all that, the Tigers were still hanging around.

Great performance by Willie Kemp. He answered a lot of his critics with a big performance tonight, a performance made even bigger by the fact that Andre Allen did not play very well. Allen was just too short to be effective running out and guarding the Texas A&M shooters.

I also liked the gameplan tonight - I had talked about how Texas A&M doesn't guard dribble penetration well, and they didn't do it tonight - that was also a reason why Memphis shot so many more free throws than Texas A&M. It was a smart plan and it worked.

I thought the play of the game came when Jeremy Hunt answered an Acie Law IV three-pointer that had tied the game at 55 late in the second half. Law's three was the kind of shot that can change the entire momentum of the game, and for Hunt to nail a three right on top of Law was enormous. He showed real character.

And the end of the game was just crazy - huge offensive rebounds by Antonio Anderson led to two huge free throws. Make 0, Texas A&M likely wins; make 1, it's tied, make 2, the Tigers likely win. He made 2. I guess John Calipari was right - when they needed the free throws, they got them. Then, the controversial out of bounds play happened. The officials got this one right - the clock is supposed to start when a player touches the ball, and it doesn't stop until the ball TOUCHES SOMETHING OUT OF BOUNDS. Remember that when you hear people complaining about this call. If the ball goes out of bounds and stays in the air, the clock keeps going. That is the reason an extra 1.1 seconds were taken off the clock.

After that extraordinary win, the Tigers will face Ohio State, who won in their own extraordinary fashion. This one hurts for Tennessee and Volunteer fans. Tennessee played perhaps their best half of basketball all year in the first half of this one - they were up 49-32 at the break. Greg Oden had 3 fouls, and all was right. But the Vols got a little too lax. Ohio State jumped all over Tennessee at the beginning of the second half and tightened the game in a hurry.

Greg Oden was not a huge factor, but the Buckeye guards were. The Vols could not guard Mike Conley, Jr. off the dribble, and Ron Lewis continued to show why he is fast becoming known as the most clutch Buckeye. He had 25 and Conley had 17, offsetting a meager 9 and 3 from Oden. Bruce Pearl tried everything he possibly could to inspire his team, but nothing worked. Chris Lofton and Ryan Childress hit big threes, but in the end, Ohio State just edged it out to move into the Elite Eight.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

San Antonio, Part 1

First of all, it is a long-ass drive from Memphis to San Antonio. There's just no getting around that. I drove way too fast, but because of a couple of traffic problems along the way, it still took me almost 11 hours of driving to get here. That's a long way to go. And since it is a huge drive, and since the plane tickets are stupidly expensive from Memphis to San Antonio, I can completely understand why there won't be too many Tiger fans here for tomorrow night's game. I would even venture to bet that there will be more Tennessee fans because I suspect it is cheaper to fly from Knoxville or Chattanooga than it is from Memphis.

Make no mistake, though, there will be a jillion Texas A&M fans. There are already tons all around every part of Texas - one person described Aggie fans to me today as being "a little bit frightening". They are rabid for sure. And they have weird hand gestures and sounds they make as part of their Aggie fandom. Good folks so far, but very serious about the Aggies.

They also don't know much about Memphis. I asked one family what they knew about Memphis, and the mom said, "I know they wear orange!". So, not the most knowledgeable about Memphis, then. They know Cal and they know that CDR is hurt. Not much else.

The Alamodome is enormous, and it will be unique territory for the Tigers. I don't think any of them - and I don't think any Tiger team, ever - will have played in a structure this big. Maybe an early Tiger team played Tulane in the Superdome a long time ago...we were debating that over at the Dome. But I can't imagine any of these players ever being in an arena like this. It is a little disconcerting - they've basically split the dome in half, with one side being the court and stands, with some seats rolled in to close out the rectangular court. On the other side of the curtain is all the media areas - interview rooms, dining area, satellite uplink, etc. It is gigantic. Everything is indeed bigger in Texas.

Today was open practice/press conference day. I don't really care much for it, as it really doesn't tell you much about the teams - the interviews can sometimes be revealing (and in the case of A&M coach Billy Gillispie, introductory - at least for Memphis media), but there's a lot of pomp and circumstance that signifies little.

Chris Douglas-Roberts was not seen at the Alamodome today. He did not practice, nor did I see him even with the team. He is getting constant treatment, and the general thought around here is that he will play, but he will not be 100%. He is a tough kid, and I have a strong suspicion he will give it a go, but I just don't know how effective he will be. This is going to be a brutal game - very physical and very intense - and if he isn't going all out, I just don't know if he will do much good. We will see. He's a calming influence, and the Tigers will need him for that reason, if none other.

I was impressed with Joey Dorsey's interview today - go listen to him and Jeremy Hunt via the link on He was candid, funny, and revealing. He's normally not much of a talker, but he's really come out of his shell as of late. He is also going to be massively important for the Tigers tomorrow night; A&M aren't deep in the frontcourt and Joey can do damage if he plays well.

The Tigers were very sluggish throughout their open workout today. A lot, and I mean A LOT, of missed shots were thrown up by the Tigers. I don't know if they were tired from their earlier closed practice, or just going through the motions, but it wasn't impressive at all. Again, these open practices don't mean much, so I'll just let John Calipari's words to his team sum it up: "Better get all these misses out of your system today!"

Tennessee looked relaxed and calm as they prepared for Ohio State. They did more drills than the Tigers did (relatively speaking, of course, since very few teams actually do any serious practicing at these things). Bruce Pearl was as funny as ever on the podium - he was asked about John Calipari's proposal for Tennessee fans to cheer for Memphis tomorrow night (and vice versa), and he chuckled. He laughed harder when he was told that John had promised to wear an orange T-shirt for the game. Pearl said that if Cal did that, he would wear a blue blazer.

More telling was his comment that he didn't see any way that most Memphis fans would cheer for Tennessee. That is probably very true.

Finally, I saw Greg Oden is person for the first time. HUGE. The guy is large. And he looks as old as you would expect, since he already looks like Robert Parish's cousin. He was very fluid for a big man, and he certainly moves well. I am very interested in watching him play live tomorrow night.

San Antonio is a cool city - very laid-back and low-key. I could definitely see myself taking a little vacation here. I thought the Riverwalk would be overrated, as so many of these tourist destinations tend to be, but it's actually very pretty, and there's a lot of great food and drink to be found along it. I'm staying in one of the two Marriotts on the Riverwalk. For some reason, San Antonio has two separate Marriott hotels literally 200 feet apart. Both are huge. It's a bit strange. And of course I went to the wrong one as I tried to check in.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

New Orleans, Part 3

Memphis 78 Nevada 62

A very interesting game, and undoubtedly a huge win for the Tiger program. Looking at the larger picture, there can be no doubt that two straight Sweet 16 appearances is a major coup for John Calipari. There aren't many schools that can say that. The Tigers will now face Texas A&M in San Antonio for the right to play in the Elite Eight.

Going into the matchup with Nevada, it was obvious that the big concerns for the Tigers would be Nick Fazekas and Marcelus Kemp. Fazekas you probably knew a bit about - he is an All-American, after all - but Kemp was a bit more unknown. It was Kemp who was far more dangerous throughout the game. Kemp hit several big shots, made several key plays, and was a handful for Tiger defenders all day long.

Today's game confirmed my opinion on Nick Fazekas - overrated. Way overrated. Against the elite athletes of Memphis, he was largely overmatched. I cannot believe that he is rated as a first round draft prospect as of right now on several draft sites. He will get killed in the NBA. He made some nice plays, but he's just not very quick or very strong - he finishes very weakly around the basket for a guy of his size. Kemp will be a better NBA player.

Starting out, and throughout the entire game, the Tigers were shaky around the basket. They must have missed at least 10 layups throughout the game. The conversation between me and some of the Memphis media folks at halftime centered around just how in the world the Tigers were only up by 4 while dominating the game in huge stretches. There's no question that the Tigers should have been up by at least 10 - missed layups, missed 3's, defensive lapses cost them.

All of that could have cost the Tigers dearly. What could have cost them even more today, and what may cost them on Thursday, is the injury to Chris Douglas-Roberts. CDR landed hard on his ankle with about 8 minutes or so to play - it looked nasty. The Tigers had to play the final minutes without him, and may be without him in San Antonio. The early word is that it's a mild to moderate ankle sprain, which is actually good news. It could have been a torn ligament. Without CDR, things got a little dicey at first - Doneal Mack and Willie Kemp were asked to play key roles and they were clearly very nervous. Calipari had to take them out to make sure the game didn't get out of hand.

Robert Dozier was fantastic throughout the game, but he came up huge late - he made play after play, including a sequence where he grabbed two massive rebounds. He outmuscled Nick Fazekas for a board late in the ballgame...that summed up the difference in the teams. Fazekas, an All-American, had never faced opposition as athletic as the Tigers, and he was beaten to the spot by largely unheralded Robert Dozier. If Dozier can continue to play like this, the Tigers will be hard to beat.

Andre Allen was big yet again - he is the most clutch player the Tigers have. Jeremy Hunt was frustrating for large stretches of play, but ultimately did a lot of very important things for the Tigers. For him, it must be especially thrilling to actually be a part of a Sweet 16 team after looking on last year from the outside.

Very loud Tiger crowd here in New Orleans. The Tigers had the largest contingent of fans here in town, and they were the rowdiest as well. John Calipari repeatedly spoke of just how important the fans were to the team's performance in the first two rounds of the tournament. On the other hand, the Nevada fans were more numerous than you might have thought, especially given just how far they had to travel. I think it should also be noted that one of the members of their Pep Band had his head completely shaved expect for a giant "N" of hair. Very disturbing.

Random Larry King tourney thoughts...Tennessee against Memphis in the Elite 8? Only two wins away...speaking of Tennessee, very impressive effort against Virginia, especially JaJuan Smith and Ryan Childress...Florida has a cakewalk into the Final Four, but they'll have to play better than they did today...Seeing them both in person has cemented the fact for me that Al Horford is going to be a much better NBA player than Joakim Noah...I don't know if Tubby saved his job with the Wildcats' tourney performance...USC is apparently much better than people gave them credit for; next stop for Kevin Durant? Memphis?...fantastic action yesterday in the tourney...Ohio State should certainly have lost; Ron Lewis has serious guts; Tennessee could cause them trouble...Wisconsin had the worst tournament of any team out there...My Final Four is unchanged.

Be sure to go to and check out the sound from New Orleans. And keep it here on my blog as I head to San Antonio in a couple of days.

Friday, March 16, 2007

New Orleans, Part 2

Memphis 73, North Texas 58

That was a lot closer than Memphis wanted it to be. There's no question that Memphis can play a hell of a lot better than they did today in New Orleans, and you can bet they'll have to on Sunday if they want to make it to the Sweet 16 in San Antonio.

For some reason, the Tigers came out very, very flat. No intensity at all throughout the first 7 or 8 minutes, and it showed on the scoreboard - North Texas jumped out to an early lead, one they held for the first 12 minutes of the game. In the midst of North Texas' hot start, the Tigers did find a spark of intensity, but it was misdirected. Chris Douglas-Roberts, normally a very cool customer, lost his head in a big way after committing his second personal foul. He exchanged words in a minor skirmish with Kendrick Davis of North Texas, and picked up a technical foul in the process. Despite finishing as the game's high scorer, CDR was well below par, as was his backcourt partner Antonio Anderson.

Anderson turned the ball over 3 times without dishing a single assist. That's not good enough - but to be fair to the young man, he did play good man defense against the dangerous UNT guard Calvin Watson. UNT had several dangerous players, including post presence Keith Wooden (anyone named Wooden has to be dangerous in March). Wooden abused Joey Dorsey early in the ballgame, and forced Dorsey to significantly pick up his defense as the game progressed. Dorssey admitted as much in the postgame press conference, which you can hear in its entirety on Dorsey improved, though, and was a monster on the boards. He finished with 15 for the game.

Robert Dozier was superb in the first half, picking up 4 blocks and several big rebounds. His offense still needs work, but he was a contributor today. But for me, the player of the game was Andre Allen, who played a career-high 36 minutes because he was just so effective. He picked up the energy for the Tigers as soon as he hit the court, and made himself a nuisance defensively while hitting big shots offensively. Once again, in the NCAA Tournament, he showed he is a baller.

The Tigers will play Nevada in the second round on Sunday afternoon, after Nevada beat Creighton in overtime 77-71. It was a really good game, with neither team able to secure a lead above 7 the entire game. Nick Fazekas gets all the hype when people talk about Nevada, and he had a pretty good game, but Nevada was led by a huge effort from guard/forward Marcelus Kemp. He finished with 27 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists, and was so aggressive in getting to the basket and making plays. He will be a handful for the Tigers.

Nevada's not terribly athletic, from what I saw, but they've got skilled bigs who can shoot - they're quite tall and long, and all of them (especially Fazekas) can nail the 3. They turned it over a bit much, though, and the Tigers can certainly take advantage of that weakness. Fazekas actually reminds me a lot of Pau Gasol in many ways. He plays with the same languid style - it doesn't always look like he's trying that hard. He can shoot better than Pau, but isn't nearly the inside threat Pau is. And I'm sure you hate him even more now that I said that.

Nevada's coach also has a bit of an anger control problem. According to humorously-named New Mexico State University Police Officer Quent Pirtle, Coach Mark Fox had a slight problem with the officials in Nevada's WAC Tournament loss to Utah State, and let them know it.

"As Mr. Fox continued to curse and be abusive toward the officials, he continued to close distance," Pirtle wrote. "I placed my hand on the back of the last official and tried to hurry him up the ramp."

Pirtle said at that point Fox was about 2 feet away.

"I slowed down and put my hand across his chest to prevent him from getting any closer to the official," Pirtle said.

The officer said Fox told him, "Don't put your [expletive] hands on me."

"I told Mr. Fox to back off and again pushed against him to keep him from the officials," Pirtle said.

He got pissed again today at a no-call. This guy is seriously going to flip out one day and go Bobby Knight on someone. He's a bit high-strung. Oh yeah, one other thing - the Creighton cheerleaders are way, way, WAY more attractive than you would expect a bunch of Omaha girls to be.

The crowd wasn't huge (13,000 or so), but it was very loud and active for both games. I would estimate the Tigers had more fans than any other team in the first session, but Nevada traveled very well considering how far Reno is from New Orleans. Former Tiger DB (and former Saint) Mike McKenzie was in the house, looking very much like Lil' Jon. I mean, I fully expected him to drink from a jeweled cup and yell, "YEAAAAUUUUHHHHHHH!!!!!"

Finally, some notes, Larry bracket is a shambles. I somehow managed to pick George Washington. That didn't turn out well...DUKE IS OUT OF THE TOURNAMENT IN THE FIRST ROUND! Oh, it was awesome to see Eric Maynor just abuse Greg Paulus, take him way out of his game mentally, then drain a huge jumper to win the game. Sorry, Coach K, your team sucks far more than your commercials...How about Tennessee putting up 121 on Snoop, Dre, and Long Beach State? When did Bo Kimble become a Vol?...Wisconsin is very boring and I had hoped beyond hope that Texas A&M-Corpus Christi would beat them. They didn't...I was impressed with Virginia's guards; Sunday's UVA/Tenn matchup will be a fun one to watch...Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery are really good guys...hope tonight's games are good, because so far, this has been a boring tournament.

Off to Bourbon for a little relaxation. More Sunday or Monday.