Is there anything worse for college basketball than the band of renegades known as the Memphis Tigers being 25-0 and ranked #1 in the country? Are these really the “student-athletes” the NCAA would select as their representatives?
Saturday night’s win in Birmingham was another example of the classlessness that this Tiger team has, though with John Calipari as a coach, who can be surprised? No doubt he wins a lot of games, but between his recruiting tactics, his arrogance, and his utter refusal to discipline players, only those lemmings who have ingested a full serving of the Calipari kool-aid can have even a shred of respect for the man.
While the UAB students are certainly not blameless here – they were hurling pom poms and 4-letter words at the Tigers as they attempted to leave the floor – many Tiger players took to jersey popping and jawing back, which only exacerbated an already hostile situation. In particular, Pierre Niles, Shawn Taggart, and Jeff Robinson jumped up off the bench and taunted the UAB fans.
(As an aside, what is it with the University of Memphis? This just a few months after football coach Tommy West hurled F-Bombs at Ole Miss fans?)
But Saturday night’s near melee is just another in a growing string of grievances decent society has with the Tigers.
Taggart and Robinson already been arrested this season – along with Joey Dorsey – for inciting a riot outside a nightclub in Memphis. Robert Dozier – who, by the way, is still starting despite hitting his ex-girlfriend a few weeks ago – is seen in the middle of the fracas as well. But given Calipari’s history, this is nothing new. In 2003, he suspended 2 players for a game, then ended up moving that suspension twice so they would miss a lesser opponent. In his most blatant display of ineptitude, in 2005, he suspended Jeremy Hunt all of 2 games for hitting his girlfriend before permanently suspending him from the team. And by permanently, I mean for the season. Hunt came back and played last season. The list goes on and on.
(As another aside, kudos to the security guard standing directly beneath Pierre Niles smacking the Larry the Cable Guy wannabe. The fans and players must feel infinitely more secure knowing that – while she may be diminutive – at least she’s not paying attention.)
So this is what we’re left with. A mid-major team full of arrestees sitting atop college basketball's rankings. The good news is there’s no chance this team cuts the nets down in March. Zip. Zero. Nada. They can’t hit FTs (58.3%, 340th in nation) or 3s (34%, 219th). Their March story will be the same it has been the last 2 seasons – dominate the 16- and 8-/9-seeds on pure athleticism, get by the Sweet 16, then get embarrassed by a well-coach, disciplined team in the Elite 8. They’ll not only lose, they’ll look bad doing it.
***UPDATE 2/19: Great article by Jeff Goodman on Fox Sports and Pat Forde on ESPN about this same subject...***