The University of Memphis, contrary to popular notion, has a long history with the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers' appearance in the 2009 Big Dance will mark the school's 21st appearance. Memphis State/U of M has compiled a 30-21 record all-time in 20 previous tourneys.
This includes four Sweet 16s, three Elite Eights, one Final Four, and two Championship Games. The school has yet to win a title, and it is John Calipari's solemn mission to fill in that blank in the school's pedigree as Memphis looks to be included in the discussion of the nation's elite basketball programs.
Then-Memphis State first appeared in the NCAA Tournament in 1955, when the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) was still the postseason invitation that teams coveted.
However, as the NCAA Tournament continued to add more automatic bids for conference champions, it gradually began to eclipse the NIT in prestige.
By the time Memphis State made the Championship Game in 1973 versus UCLA, the NIT had been almost completely relegated to second-tier status. Several other mechanisms to select a National Champion, which had competed for decades, were now all mostly abandoned and/or ignored.
Everybody wanted to compete in—and win—the NCAA Tournament.
The Tiger program, meanwhile, was struggling to build its own relevance. Managing a spot in the 1973 title game beside the legendary UCLA Bruins was a step in the right direction.
The "Walton Gang," as they were often called, was a juggernaut in every sense. Behind an otherwordly performance by center Bill Walton, 44 points on 21-of-22 shooting, John Wooden and the Bruins took an 87-66 victory.
There would be other brushes with greatness, such as in 1985, 1992, and the current run of dominance from 2006 to the present. Stars such as Keith Lee, Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, and Derrick Rose have lifted Memphis to the brink of a title.
Let's take a look at some of the highlights of 35 years worth of NCAA Tournament history.