memphis dominated C-USA for several years after the other power teams bolted when Calipari was brought in because he couldn’t cut it in the pros. He still resorted to cheating while recruiting. The conference championships and tournament championships should be vacated and the NCAA should finally nail le tigres with a massive penalty for using a coach known to skirt the line as close as possible in recruiting, only when he was not actually violating it. Without the recruits gained by cheating, Memphis’s current ranking and record is just a few points from being a joke. They lost to Tulsa, a loss than should have been rated a bad loss. They almost lost to pathetic Rice, winning by one. Just barely beat UCF which was graded a quality win! Lost to Utep. Lost to East Carolina, a team Tulsa blew away on 2.16 by about 20. Again, not ranked as a bad loss. While still the studs of the league, Memphis without Calipari’s cheating is primed to lose. With the tournament at UTEP this year, don’t be surprised to see an early exit by Memphis. Without its cheating, one wonders how the team feels to be mortal. And their mortality is catching up to them. If they make the NCAA I predict an early exit, probably after one game. And Calipari should be banned from coaching Kentucky or any other college team. Send him to Coastal Carolina where Buzz Peterson, the all-time Judas of Tulsa’s excellent program in 2001, left for Tennessee in the middle of recruiting, resulting in the coach who followed him being fired in two years since Peterson lost an entire class of recruits, and the next coach-replacement, Doug Wojcik, an excellent player and improvisor, has struggled for six years against the cheating of Memphis and the loss of an entire recruiting class when Peterson fracked Tulsa after winning the NIT following Bill Self’s coaching wonder of taking Tulsa to within a few points against North Carolina and a berth in the Final Four. Peterson, with the same players, can’t get to the NCAA the next year but did win the NIT, only to destroy the program’s building continuity by bolting for Tennessee, which put up with him a few years before firing him and letting Coastal Carolina inherit a coach with no loyalty or ethics except to himself. On the other hand, Wojcik has managed to restore Tulsa to shouting distance of its former prestige. Compare Gonzaga, where Mark Few resisted the dollars and stayed with the Zags, making them yearly NCAA participants and the darling of ‘small colleges,’ although only TU has just 4000 students yet has a great football program, soccer and tennis programs, girls’ softball and soccer, and consistently wins championships in those sports. If Self or Peterson (I hoe) had stayed to continue building on Self’s unreal time as coach, TU would be the Gonzaga of the Midwest in basketball. But the revolving door of coaches, especially with Peterson crippling the program by leaving without recruiting a single player that year, followed by Philips, a good coach who could not recruit, as he recently stated in the World, took its toll on the program that North Carolina with the help of referees instructed to make sure the better television draw—not TU but N.C.--got past the Elite Eight into the Final Four. A year without a recruiting class is like getting the death penalty like SMU did with Eric Dickerson’s illegal recruitment—SMU football has never recovered the way it could play and recruit back then.
The losses this year have been by one to three points, for the most part. Some, like SMU’s last second three that won the game for them, were just freakish. The weakness of the conference, especially when dominated by a school like Memphis that should have but did not leave with Marquette, Louisville, and the other power schools that left that the conference, and one like the Tigers that cheats, cripples respect for the conference when teams are chosen to go to the NCAA, so only one school, the tournament winner unless somehow Memphis doesn’t win it, which rarely happens particularly when it hosted the tournament four years in a row until the BOK center held it last year. And gee, talk about a town with a winner but which whined like a baby when Tulsa got the tournament for one year last year. The reaction of that city and university to losing the cash cow of hosting the tournament as well as the automatic home court advantage for its professional college team was simply embarrassing to the conference and every other team in it.
Tulsa’s schedule this year is very tough, the strongest in the conference. And TU beat Memphis but lost to San Diego State, whose RPI is 3rd in the nation, I believe, at their own tournament. The quiet Tulsa crowd needs to come back to the seats, pretend it has a basketball spirit like a major power such as KU, and watch Justin Hurrt blindly fire 25 foot three pointers with three seconds left to tie a game Tulsa had led most of the way until missing almost 50% of its free throws. But the extra five minutes let the team recall how it opened a 15-0 lead to begin, and it dominated overtime. The season has had some losses, but nearly every game, win or lose, has been decided by three points or less, with only a few lost by more and few blow outs like the last game against East Carolina. Losing one NBA player and one to Europe is quite a blow, in addition to losing your point guard to another knee injury. The brilliant move of letting Pope run the point has given him back the life that made him the Tulsa World Player of the Year when we recruited him. And the potential of Clarkson seems limitless. Richard keys the defense that often limits teams to shooting percentages in the low thirties. And Idlet’s post play defensively and offensively is greatly improved not playing in Jordan’s shadow. All the elements from Haralson to Maigley to Tim Peete are there when the team plays solid defense and the shooters can establish Idlet inside then go to work with their jumpers. Each loss kills me like it does Wojcik and the players, but I believe with some luck we could win the conference tournament and make an NCAA run, if the seeding committee doesn’t make us run the gauntlet we had to in 2000 with a 29-5 record but given a seventh seed, one of the worst. It would be nice to have referees who have done games beyond the junior high level, but that doesn’t seem to be our fate. No matter, the team adjusts to the bizarre calls and is usually in a position to win. The team and the coach deserve a crowd on its feet screaming the entire game—not the seat warmers closest to the floor who are too old to stand or yell. The marketing staff needs to remember in our last few games how well letting the crowd above the rain fill in the lower level at the twelve minute mark of the first half worked last year. Those of us who sit high but yell constant encouragement need to be where the players can see us and the opponent can hear and be intimidated. Start this back up and try to actually have a home court advantage. We won the CBE because the crowd in the lower level was from the dedicated upper section-dwellers who stood in line to get the better seats. Players enjoy having spectators who recognize their defensive efforts and offensive plays. They do not like and probably do not understand how TU has priced the lower section so that only corporations, law firms, and the Tulsa wealthy can get close to the action. This has rambled from Memphis being a perennial cheater to the brighter side of our record and the potential in the future, but I hope there are those who agree with me and who will join me in expressing similar sentiments to the lame staff that plans how to put the crowd to sleep each game rather than rouse it to a house of pain for the opponent. Good job this year Doug; Justin we will never forget you and how you took on the role of team leader and game winner; juniors and other lower classmates, keep playing hard, buy the system and believe this year and next you will be exacting revenge for the close losses and the games stolen by referees. Anyway, Go TU. Some of us still believe, and always will.