Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Memphis Tigers: The Diamond Mine in the Heart of the Third-World Conference USA

For today's geography lesson, we turn to the impoverished, eye-sore of a country... Angola.

Angola, a country in sub-Saharan Africa, is searching for an identity. Years of war and filthy politicians have led to a state of disarray for this country. The life expectancy is 45 years and 65% of the citizens live in poverty. I'm tiptoeing the line of utter heartlessness, but I can't help but think of the Conference USA when I read about Angola.

Wait for it. Wait for it. Yep. Going to the hot place. But let me explain...

The country of Angola has one thing that defies its dastardly state... There is one glorious characteristic that keeps the country of Angola near and dear to the hearts of some...

Oops. Naughty Google. Ok, Angola has two things going for it...
Diamonds! The entire country of Angola depends on the presence of diamonds! The diamond trade offers a valuable asset for the leaders of Angola to use to maintain their validity and quite possibly their very existence.

Now, if I could claim my spot back in the line for the River Styx Ride, Memphis basketball is the diamond mine of the poverty-stricken Conference USA. As far as winning is concerned (and what else matters), most of the C-USA members who had won basketball championships (Cincinnati '61, '62; Marquette '77; Loserville '80, '86) were hijacked for wealthier conferences. UTEP has one championship under its belt ('66). However, the CUSA wasn't established until 1995, meaning all the championships just mentioned were credited to other conferences, leaving a big, fat zero CUSA teams with a championship.

Conference USA has become a cesspool when it comes to basketball. From its inception in 1995 to its unholy ransack in 2005, CUSA had an average of 4 teams go to the NCAA Tournament per year, equaling 40 teams. Of those 40:
  • four appeared in the Sweet 16 (Memphis '95, Loserville '96, Cincy '01, UAB '04),
  • two in the Elite 8 (Cincy '96, Loserville '97) and
  • one team made it to a Final Four (Marquette '03).
In the four years since the Basketball Rapture of 2005, seven teams (an average of less than 2 per year) have made it to the NCAA Tournament, with the number declining each year. Yet, while most of the teams in Conference USA are trying to start fires with sticks, Memphis has matched or surpassed the greatest successes of ALL the other teams in LESS THAN HALF the time. In only 3 years, Memphis can boast:
  • two Elite 8 appearances
  • one National Championship appearance, aka The Game of Which We Will Not Speak.
Credit Coach Cal. Credit the University of Memphis for forking over the time and money to pat Cal on the head and tell him he's special. Credit the players for becoming a part of a growing legacy, even though Memphis may not have the same appeal that other schools do. Lastly, credit the fans for falling in love with the team, taking ownership of the school and the players, and living and dying for Tiger Basketball. It truly is the diamond mine of the Conference USA.

That being said, the coaches have made their choices for Preseason Conference USA Honors. Granted, this is like picking a prom date from the school's Honor Club... lots of uggos, but every now and then you find a gem.

Preseason Conference USA Favorite: UAB

Nah, I'm kidding. We hate those guys. In case you didn't read anything before this line, Memphis has been picked and will win the Conference USA this season.

Preseason Conference USA Player of the Year: Robert Vaden, UAB, G/F, 6-5, Sr., Indianapolis, Ind.

This guy is legit. He came close to running the Tigers out of Birmingham last year, scoring 27 points on 8-14 shooting, 4-9 on three-pointers and grabbed 5 boards. In the Conference tournament, Memphis filled its prescription for a healthy dose of Antonio Anderson to be applied forcefully to Vaden, keeping him to 13 points, 9 fewer than his season average. The guy is very good. The Tigers still own him and UAB.

Preseason All-Conference USA Team
Robert Dozier, Memphis, F, 6-9, Sr., Lithonia, GA, wears a headband, likes the Plush Club
Stefon Jackson, UTEP, G, 6-5, Sr., Philadelphia, PA, 23.6 points per game
Jerome Jordan, Tulsa, C, 7-0, Jr., Kingston, Jamaica, break-out year from this guy
Jermaine Taylor, UCF, G, 6-4, Sr., Tavares, FL, 20.8 points per game
Robert Vaden, UAB, G/F, 6-5, Sr., Indianapolis, IN, we own him, good against other teams

There you have it. The teams and players will be broken down more extensively soon. Go to Memphis Madness on Friday! Tiger Basketball: Live it, Love it.


Rob said...

Yeah the Tigers are stuck as the shining light in such a weak conference but CUSA has some improving teams with a few good coaches and a few scattered talented players. Like you said I think Jordan is going to be a beast this year for a pretty good Tulsa team and Jackson has some NBA ability for an improving UTEP team and then of course Vaden and UAB will be real tough. But it should still be a relatively easy walk through the conference yet again. I do think they will lose at least one and maybe two conference games this year though. But it won't mean anything.
Oh and leaving Tyreke Evans off the preseason All- Conference team is ridiculous. Didn't these same voting coaches learn this lesson last year when they didn't have Rose on the preseason team??

JBizzell said...

Preach. It was a little sad researching the history of the CUSA teams in the tournament... Each successive year got weaker and weaker it seemed.

I think UAB and Tulsa have a chance to compete. Games at their place will be tough. We'll play Gonzaga in February, so hopefully we won't overlook SMU the week before at their house.

Agreed. Evans needs to be on that list. These guys must not know how to use YouTube.

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