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Snowflakes: Conference USA's Mediocrity is True Source of Calipari's Frustration

Posted: Mar 12, 2008

Memphis has their sights set on the Big Dance and the Final Four as they cruise through another C-USA Tournament at home. When the Tigers beat UAB, John Calipari became the only coach besides Adolph Rupp to win at least 30 games in three straight seasons, but you really don’t hear much about it on the national front. Things may stay under-publicized in Memphis as long as Conference USA stays a 1-bid league. It’s probably going to be the second year in a row (unless there’s a major upset in the C-USA Tourney) that the league only gets Memphis to the Field of 65. The West Coast and Sun Belt conferences will get multiple bids this season, but not the bigger C-USA. Consequently, Calipari will have to get used to his program being forgotten during January and February until the league improves, or Memphis goes elsewhere like the Louisville’s and Cincinnati’s of the world.

That fact makes me wonder why Calipari has been critical of Tennessee and other regional SEC matchups when it comes to scheduling. He bashed the SEC schools in an article before the Gonzaga game earlier this year. On the subject of the Memphis schedule, Calipari said the following "I don't want to play SEC schools. If they want to play us, they should put us in the league. I'd rather play Syracuse and Illinois and Gonzaga. It doesn't mean those aren't great schools. But they don't want you in the league, they just want to use you." Huh? Calipari should be thanking the Vols for scheduling his squad in February while the Tigers are in the middle of another ho-hum C-USA run. His team needs a big image game in January or February to stay in the national news. In fact, the Tennessee/Memphis showdown in February was ESPN’s highest rated college basketball game ever at the time (UNC/Duke surpassed it last Saturday).

And why does Calipari need the national hype? Because of the 13 players on the Memphis roster, 2 are from the Bluff City and 1 is from nearby Bolivar. That’s it. None of their starters are from Memphis, so it sounds to me like they need national attention to keep getting great recruits like Derrick Rose (Chicago), Joey Dorsey (Baltimore), and Chris Douglas-Roberts (Detroit). Believe me Coach, those players didn’t notice Memphis watching your team play C-USA opponents. Calipari says SEC teams want to “use them”, but I think he’ll take that the 5 million viewers the Tennessee game brought as he recruits his next big player from somewhere far away. Memphis needs the Tennessee game as badly as Tennessee needs to recruit in the city of Memphis.

- Patrick Snow


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