Thursday, February 21, 2008

What a state for college hoops

To get to the capital of the college basketball world, you have to visit a certain Southern state.

That state has:
- A nickname referring to pre-1900 war heroes.
- The Great Smoky Mountains running from north to south along its border.
- A struggling NBA team in its most populated city.

That would be the Volunteer state, with the Great Smokies in the East and the Memphis Grizzlies cutting payroll in a city that will be the site of the biggest game of the regular season in college basketball Saturday.

No. 1 Memphis plays host to No. 2 Tennessee at 9 p.m. Eastern Time on Saturday as our neighbors to the west have swiped the national spotlight that usually shines on North Carolina.

Known primarily for the blues, country music and the checkerboard end zone at Neyland Stadium, Tennessee might rival North Carolina as a college basketball hotbed for more than just one season.

After turning down the N.C. State job two years ago, John Calipari has Memphis (26-0) poised to become the first team since Nevada-Las Vegas in 1991 to finish the regular season undefeated – if the Tigers can win today.

Calipari has a well-established reputation as a strong recruiter and is among the pioneers of an offense called “Dribble-Drive Motion” that’s rapidly growing in popularity because it frees the lane for dribble penetration.

Bruce Pearl at Tennessee has lost some recent recruiting battles to North Carolina schools (J.J. Hickson to N.C. State, Elliot Williams to Duke). But he plays an uptempo style that’s attractive to recruits and coaches with an enthusiasm best demonstrated by the day he went shirtless and painted his chest orange to attend a Tennessee women’s game.

Calipari and Pearl still can’t grab headlines with merely a few choice words the way Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina’s Roy Williams did earlier this week. But they’re smart and charismatic enough to build on the national recognition they will receive this weekend. – Ken Tysiac


Anonymous said...

Hold on Tysiac. Tennessee can never compare to North Carolina in basketball. Neither Tennessee or Memphis have a NCAA championship. North Carolina has Carolina with 5, Duke-3, and State with 2 championships. When Tennessee or Memphis wins one then they can claim a great year, but still no comparison to North Carolina.

Anonymous said...

Amen Anonymous. What a lazy, lame-brain piece of what-have-you-done-for-me-lately "journalism".

Anonymous said...

Is anyone delusional enough to believe Memphis would be undefeated if they'd had to play UNC and *uke (sorry, as a Heels fan I just can't bring myself to type the word) twice each this year ??? Please. College basketball isn't about a great year or two, it's about great programs, and nowhere are there four of the caliber we have here. TN will deserve the 'best state' moniker only if they can keep it up for the next 25 years (and if those here at home don't ... a much less likely scenario).

Anonymous said...

For the first time ever I agree with the UNC fans. TN cant hold a candle to the NC teams, and being that we (NCSU) are the only team in the nation that plays Duke and UNC twice this year ive seen first hand how tough the state of NC is.