Dear Coach Cal: A Memphis Fan's Letter to John Calipari

Paul McGuillicuddyAnalyst IMarch 18, 2008

Dear Coach Calipari:

Congratulations on a great season. Your team’s record (33-1) speaks for itself. You must be really proud of earning a number one seed – your second such seeding in the last three years.

I like how you got that whole mid-major / Conference-USA thing working. America loves the little guy, the underdog, and your team fits that description.

It’s great that you have stayed at a place like Memphis. Gotta love Beale St., Elvis, Graceland, and everything about Memphis. What a town.

That school has a great hoops tradition. Not many people remember Keith Lee and the Tigers from the early 80’s. That team was in the sweet sixteen so often they might as well have been domino sugar.

And who can forget how Gene Bartow led the Tigers to the National title game in ’73 - great memories.

Too bad some people don’t give this year’s Tigers more credit. They forget that earlier this year you beat a bunch of teams that are now in the dance: Oklahoma, UConn, USC, Georgetown, Arizona, and Gonzaga.

Your team has amassed some gaudy numbers: scored 79.7 points per game (18th in the nation) and held opponents to 60.6 (20th) - which calculates to a 19.1 scoring margin (2nd).

All that sounds great, but something just doesn’t seem right.

Understandably your team had to feel slighted when UNC jumped past you in the rankings.

Do you think the voters know something?

A bunch of those wins were early in the season when your press bothered your opponents. That’s probably not gonna happen in the tournament. You might want to make some adjustments.

Your Tigers should have no problem with Texas-Arlington. You’re the 1 seed; they’re the 16 seed. Yeah, it’s never gonna happen.

You might wanna consider adjusting your game plan a little. Get your guys to run some half-court offense. Your five-out set was all the rage early this year, but nothing has come of it. Your guys gotta learn how to posses the ball. Making the Mavericks defend you in the first round could pay dividends later.

But if the Tigers don’t adjust, you might regret it in the second round.

You don’t want to get into a track meet with the Oregon Ducks. Remember how the Ducks played Florida in last year’s elite eight? That was a one possession game with five minutes remaining. Malik Hairston, Maarty Leunen, and Tajuan Porter all played major minutes on that team. Don’t be fooled by their performance in the Pac-10. That conference has become all about defense – Ben Howland, Tony Bennett, Tim Floyd. Those guys make you earn your points. They’ve had Oregon in lock down all year; the Ducks are jus waitin’ to bust out.

You also gotta worry about Mississippi State. They probably don’t belong in the tournament, but that’s the thing. They have nothing to lose. And Jamont Gordon? Yo! He’s just waiting to go off. He loves the spotlight. Think he would enjoy taking down a number one seed?

If you manage to get through the second round, that next weekend is brutal: Michigan State, Temple, Pittsburgh, and Oral Roberts?


Pick your friggin’ poison.

Izzo’s got that whole war drill thing. And Dunphy’s kids at Temple defend every dribble, every pass, every shot. So many people are gonna call this game ugly. Don’t listen to ‘em. The Spartans and the Owls take care of business.

Oral Roberts would be a great Cinderella story. They’ve made the dance the last two years and are starting to get comfortable with the surroundings, but they drew Pittsburgh in the first round.

The Panthers are for real Coach Cal. When Levance Fields and Mike Cook went down with injury, everyone thought the Panthers were dead.

But it’s kinda like when Carlos Boozer went down with the foot injury in ’01. No one thought Duke could handle it. Then they redefined themselves, and Boozer recovered quicker than everyone expected.

Since Fields has been out guys like Keith Benjamin, Ronald Ramon, and Gilbert Brown have figured out their roles.

Now Fields is back and looked like one of the best point guards in the country last weekend.

Coach if your Tigers get through all that you have to concern yourself with the other side of the bracket.

Sure Cornell will drop out soon. Their game against Stanford might go down as the most boring game in the history of the tournament.

Kentucky? Oh my! Billy G. must be singin’ Dylan ‘cause he sure is ‘Tangled Up In Blue’. I can understand him being upset about the no-charge, but man, blocking a free throw? What was he thinking? He needs a vacation before the Wildcat fans hang him in effigy.

Marquette could make a run. They have ten guys who average double digit minutes including Jerel McNeal, Dominic James, Lazar Hayward, and Wesley Matthews who all average at least eleven points per game.

St. Mary’s and Miami should be a great matchup. The Gaels average over seventy-six points game in the West Coast Conference with Patrick Mills (14.5), Diamon Simpson (13.6), and Omar Samhan (10.6) leading the way.

Leonard Hamilton’s Hurricanes can battle with the best. Don’t forget they beat Duke.

Picking Austin Peay sounds cool, but the Governors stand little chance against DJ Augustin and the Longhorns. Rick Barnes’s crew has a great mix with AJ Abrams dropping sixteen a game, and Damion James averaging a double-double.

Hopes this letter helps. All the best.

Your friend,