141. 135 down, six to go.
For University of Memphis seniors Antonio Anderson, Robert Dozier, and Chance McGrady, already the winningest four-year players in NCAA Division I history, that is the magic number that would surpass all of the other accolades and awards bestowed on them thus far.
After last year's heartbreaking overtime loss to Kansas in the title game, this year's Tigers have been on a mission since November, racking up 25 straight wins and a fourth straight Conference USA title in the process.
Pardon the expression, but this squad, although in most circles deemed less talented than last year's, has the proverbial "Eye of the Tiger."
"I don't really think about that unless people ask," Anderson told USA Today this week. "But I think about getting back there."
Water coolers and message boards all across the land have harbored discussions as to whether these two are, indeed, the best pair of Tigers ever.
While it is true that they might lack the sheer individual star power and statistical resume of an Elliot Perry, Anfernee Hardaway, or Derrick Rose, their longevity and win total alone puts them in the hallowed pantheons of Keith Lee/Andre Turner and Larry Finch/Ronnie Robinson.
All things considered, this group has in fact accomplished more, regardless of the outcome of the impending tournament: 135 wins over four years is not only a school record, but an all-time NCAA one as well.
From 1981 to 1986, the Tigers ran up an impressive 132-30 record to go with one Final Four appearance in 1985. Incidentally, that year was not unlike this one in terms of Big East dominance, with Memphis being the only team not in that conference in the Final Four.
After Memphis' C-USA title game victory of Tulsa, a banner was unveiled celebrating Dozier, Anderson, and McGrady's win column achievement.
"Most Wins in NCAA History" is the phrase that accommodates the players' retired jersey numbers.
However, the win total is left blank. Call it the unspoken "and counting."
Coach John Calipari, seemingly none-too-pleased with his team's No. 2 seeding, embraces his role as the master motivator, predictably playing the "no respect" card well enough to make Rodney Dangerfield and Bill Belichick blush.
"(The selection committee) must have thought that UConn was just a better team," he told the Memphis Commercial Appeal earlier this week. "And that's how they felt and how they voted. I bet you it was close, though."
In this era of "one and done" for the super-talented freshman, four year players' accomplishments are often overlooked. Long ago, your Patrick Ewings, Isaiah Thomases, Ralph Sampsons, and Pete Maraviches actually stuck around for three or four years.
These days, if you have the goods, $10 million is hard to turn down—NCAA lore be damned. That's why Dozier and Anderson are special.
They're good enough to have decent NBA careers, no doubt, yet they stuck around for all of their eligibility, racking up win after win, and achieving what both of the previous "glory era" Tigers squads did: a Final Four and championship game appearance.
And it is not done yet. Never one to overlook an opponent, Calipari will, rest-assured, be hounding his (proven) guys as if they were an entry-level Division I team. Just look at the UTEP game from a few weeks ago, where the audio inadvertently got a little more Cal than they bargained for.
"Saaaaalllllllllllllllieeeeeeeeeeeeeee! What are you doiiiiiiiiiiiiiing!?!?!?!," he screamed manically, wondering what his junior college-transfer guard Roburt Sallie was doing walking up the court during a key possession. It's a wonder he still has a voice.
After looking over the pundits' and president's blurbs and video samples, the ultimate result of all the storylines and predictions is still up in the air.
Regardless of what happens, it's hard to argue against what these two have accomplished, which says a lot given the hallowed records that permeate this sport.
From lightly regarded Cal State Northridge to the much-hyped (and theoretical at this point) UConn matchup, this much remains true: Legend after not-straight-to-the-NBA legend will look up to Anderson and Dozier as the owners of the best and most important statistic—wins.
No one has more.
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