Posted on: February 6, 2009 4:47 pm
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Posted on: February 6, 2009 2:30 pm

Dear Gary (on Gonzaga-Memphis)

Here's Friday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: Gonzaga vs. Memphis on Saturday. Who you got?

-- Josh

I was asked, on the radio a minute ago, to breakdown the match-ups by position, and though that doesn't always mean anything I found it interesting that I basically gave the Zags the individual advantage at every spot except for the spot belonging to Memphis' Tyreke Evans (and even that is debatable if you're matching Evans against Jeremy Pargo). Thus, I think it's safe to assume Gonzaga has the better starting line-up in terms of individual talent, but I'm not sure that translates into the better team, because Memphis has better depth and is better defensively.

Both schools won at Tennessee.

Both schools are cruising in their leagues.

Bottom line, I actually think the Tigers and Zags are pretty similar in terms of how they stack-up nationally, which is why I'll use homecourt advantage as the deciding factor here. There's a reason why Gonzaga will be favored, and that's because the game will be played in Spokane. So if I have to pick a winner, I'll pick Gonzaga in a close game based on nothing more than homecourt advantage (if the game was at FedExForum, I'd pick Memphis), though I won't be surprised in the least if the Tigers go there and win, because defensively they're good enough to hang around and let Evans try to steal one late.

Either way, should be a fun game.

It's probably the most interesting game of the weekend.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: December 22, 2008 2:45 pm

Dear Gary (on Boeheim's comment to Calipari)

Here's Monday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary:  Rather than telling an opposing coach you just beat that his team basically stinks, you think a coach of (Jim) Boeheim's caliber might offer some more encouraging words, like "keep your chin up" or "keep working with them, they'll get better". Just seems like a classier thing to say after you just beat a team. 

-- Q

Obviously, you're talking about the Jim Boeheim-John Calipari postgame handshake from Saturday, where Boeheim told Calipari he might have the "worst shooting team" he's ever seen. I suppose that could read as a classless thing to say, but I can tell you with a degree of certainty that Boeheim was joking with Calipari, and that Calipari took it that way.

Those two have known each other a long time.

If Boeheim didn't think it was appropriate given their relationship, he wouldn't have said it. And if Calipari didn't think it was appropriate given their relationship, he wouldn't have laughed about it. But he did laugh. Because it was funny. And I, for one, thought it was hilarious, because Boeheim merely said what everybody in the building was thinking, and that Calipari had the sense of humor to laugh about it was pretty good, too.

Bottom line, it was a great moment.

And I got a column out of it, so I was happy.

Posted on: December 14, 2008 2:29 am

Update: Memphis still without PG, shooters

I'm not sure what's more amazing -- that John Calipari has taken two different and otherwise pedestrian basketball programs (UMass and Memphis) to the Final Four, or that one of the sport's best recruiters has somehow ended up with a roster featuring exactly zero good point guards and zero good shooters.

I mean, how does that happen?

The man secures one Top 10 recruiting class after another, and yet here he is, in the year after coming this close to a national title, trying to run his celebrated dribble-drive motion offense with no point guard, no shooter and no help in sight. That's the lesson from Saturday's loss to Georgetown, that even though Memphis did well to take the Hoyas to overtime, Calipari's team is fatally flawed because the roster has huge holes.

There are no team-runners.

There are no shot-makers.

Consequently, Memphis is shooting 29.1 percent from 3-point range and trying to get by with Wesley Witherspoon at the point, which is bad for a number of reasons, among them the fact that Witherspoon is not a point guard. In fact, the freshman has never really played point guard, and to anybody who thinks this is going to work, let me ask one question: How often do high school wings become good college point guards?

Answer: Almost never.

So that's why this problem will likely linger, and the worst part for Memphis is that it could linger into next season unless Calipari secures a commitment from John Wall. You see, the Tigers didn't sign any point guards in the early period, which means they will either get Wall late and next season have arguably the nation's best point guard, or not get Wall late and next season again have zero good point guards. There is almost no in-between; Memphis will either be great or terrible at the position, and it pretty much comes down to Wall.

But that's another post for another day.

For now, let's stick to the present, which is that Memphis should still win Conference USA, still win 25-plus games and still comfortably make the NCAA tournament. Don't get it twisted; the team is talented enough to do all that. But a fourth consecutive Elite Eight seems unlikely, another Final Four improbable, because though John Calipari has recruited one elite athlete after another, he's now stuck with a fatally flawed roster featuring zero good point guards and zero good shooters, which is like having a shiny car with no good tires and no good steering wheel.

It looks nice and all.

But sooner or later, it's bound to crash.

Posted on: November 26, 2008 6:08 pm

More on C-USA, specifically recruiting

Beyond UAB's huge opportunity tonight when it plays Oklahoma at Madison Square Garden, there are other reasons for C-USA fans to be excited about the future of their league because things do seem to be trending upward. To be clear, it'll never be what it was, because that's not possible with Louisville, Marquette and Cincinnati gone. But what it can be is much better, and it seems it will be based on the way recruiting has gone and is going.

Consider: Two of the nation's top six prospects -- Xavier Henry and DeMarcus Cousins -- have committed to play in C-USA next season (at Memphis and at UAB), and no other league has two of the top 10. Does that mean C-USA is on the verge of leapfrogging the ACC? Of course not. But it's a start, and when you combine that with Marshall's signing of Hassan Whiteside (13th-ranked center), Rice's signing of Arsalan Kazemi (30th-ranked power forward) and UCF's signing of Keith Clanton (MVP of last summer's AAU National Tournament) it's pretty clear C-USA is in for a talent upgrade over the next year.

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.

Tonight, the focus will be on UAB and Robert Vaden and a match-up with OU's Blake Griffin.

"Griffin is one of the best players in the country," said UAB coach Mike Davis. "But we think (Vaden) is one of the best in the country, too."

Posted on: November 18, 2008 8:48 am
Edited on: November 18, 2008 9:36 pm

Nation's top shooting guard commits to Memphis

John Calipari became Memphis' all-time winningest coach early Tuesday.

Few hours after that, he won again.

"Next year I'm going to take my game to Memphis," Xavier Henry said at a morning press conference that was broadcast live on national television.

Henry is the nation's top-ranked shooting guard, a 6-foot-6 specimen who chose Memphis over Kansas to end a lengthy recruiting battle between the two schools that played for the national title last season. His pledge gives the Tigers a centerpiece to what is now a four-man recruiting class, and it'll allow Calipari to turn all of his attention towards John Wall (nation's top-ranked point guard) and Dominic Cheek (nation's third-ranked small forward), both of whom visited Memphis this past weekend and left many close to the program with the feeling that the Tigers might be on the verge of securing a class that could rank as the nation's best.

Here's an updated look at Scout.com's top 20 from the Class of 2009:

1. Derrick Favors (uncommitted)

2. John Wall (uncommitted)

3. John Henson (committed to North Carolina)

4. Xavier Henry (committed to Memphis)

5. Renardo Sidney (uncommitted)

6. DeMarcus Cousins (committed to UAB)

7. Lance Stephenson (uncommitted)

8. Kenny Boynton (committed to Florida)

9. Abdul Gaddy (committed to Washington)

10. Avery Bradley (committed to Texas)

11. Ryan Kelly (committed to Duke)

12. Daniel Orton (committed to Kentucky)

13. Jordan Hamilton (committed to Texas)

14. Alex Oriakhi (committed to Connecticut)

15. Dominic Cheek (uncommitted)

16. Wally Judge (committed to Kansas State)

17. Dante Taylor (committed to Pittsburgh)

18. Dexter Strickland (committed to North Carolina)

19. Mason Plumlee (committed to Duke)

20. Thomas Robinson (committed to Kansas)

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: November 4, 2008 12:46 pm
Edited on: November 4, 2008 12:49 pm

Memphis wounded heading into exhibition

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- I walked into the Finch center Monday, told John Calipari I was there to see his team.

"You won't see much," Calipari said.

And then the wounded began to take their positions.

There was Antonio Anderson, hanging out under a basket, a device attached to his lower leg designed to help with shin splints. To his left was Tyreke Evans and Angel Garcia, both on the sideline watching, Evans with a sprained ankle, Garcia with a sprained knee. And then there was C.J. Henry still recovering from a broken foot.

Combined, that's two starters (Anderson and Evans) and two key reserves (Garcia and Henry) that the Tigers won't have Tuesday night when they play Christian Brothers University in an exhibition. So yeah, Calipari is frustrated because it was going to be hard enough to replace Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Joey Dorsey even if everything went perfectly. But anybody waiting for the world-is-out-to-get-us quote from Calipari will have to keep waiting because the man who has managed to again sell every season ticket in the 18,000-seat FedExForum isn't openly complaining or feeling sorry for himself.

"I'm not saying anything because we had none last year," Calipari said. "Stuff happens."

Indeed, Rose, Douglas-Roberts and Anderson each played all 40 games last season, and Dorsey played the final 38. Robert Dozier only missed three games (two early because of a small injury, one later for discipline), meaning the usual starters who led Memphis to a 38-2 record combined to play 195 of a possible 200 games.

"We went through a whole season with a couple of nicks, bumps and that's it," Calipari said. "So this happens."

The healing process looks like this: Anderson should return to practice late this week, Evans could be back by the Nov. 15 opener against Fairfield and Garcia and Henry are both probably out until mid-December. The Tigers' first real test will come either Nov. 17 against UMass or Nov. 21 in a likely game with Southern California in Puerto Rico.
Posted on: October 22, 2008 8:26 pm
Edited on: October 22, 2008 9:08 pm

Elite recruit hospitalized after car accident

Xavier Henry, a top five national prospect  in the Class of 2009, was involved in a car accident Wednesday and will remain hospitalized overnight, his father Carl Henry told CBSSports.com by phone.

Carl said his son "was feeling OK" but added that the 6-foot-6 shooting guard from Oklahoma City did suffer a fractured cheek bone that will keep him sidelined for at least two weeks. According to Carl, Xavier -- who is expected to sign with either Kansas or Memphis -- will have surgery on his face when the swelling goes down and then be fitted for a protective mask.

"He will have to play with the face mask," Carl said.

Meantime, Dan Wolken of The Commercial Appeal is reporting that Xavier's brother, Memphis freshman C.J. Henry, left practice "in a hurry" Wednesday and is now headed back to Oklahoma City. C.J. has been sidelined the past couple of weeks with a broken foot.

Category: NCAAB
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com