2007-08 Tiger Basketball Summer Preview
July 18, 2007
It's nearing the dog days of summer, but if one hears the rumblings coming out of Tiger Nation, all the talk is about (drum roll, please)... Memphis is No. 1!!!
OK, so it's only the summer polls and nothing really matters until March 2008 starts. But, many college basketball experts agree that the Tigers are one of the top contenders to claim the 2008 NCAA title next April in San Antonio.
And all that talk has Tiger fans buzzing about 2007-08 as quite possibly the most-anticipated season of Memphis basketball in the program's history. Sure, the truest of Memphis fans look forward to each and every year, but the 2007-08 season could be -- in the words of head coach John Calipari -- something really special.
How special do Tiger fans think 2007-08 can be?
Consider that so many season ticket packages have been (or anticipated being) bought that there will be no single-game tickets available for any game at the 18,400 FedExForum. For those fans waiting for single-game seats this year, good luck -- or wait to purchase 2008-09 season tickets.
Consider that fans, in the middle of the summer, have a countdown to Memphis Madness, which is scheduled for Oct. 12.
Consider that, according to grapevine chatter, some Memphis fans have already purchased NCAA Tournament first and second round tickets for both Little Rock, Ark., and Birmingham, Ala., hoping the Tigers begin their postseason run at either site.
It's going to be another exciting year, so as Calipari said the past two seasons: "Jump on board, sit back and enjoy the ride!"
Well, this summer, the Tigers didn't lose anyone early to the professional ranks, and they return 76 percent of the team's scoring, 77 percent of rebounding, 87 percent of assists, 86 percent of blocked shots and 82 percent of steals. No wonder everyone is excited about the 2007-08 campaign starting.
Leading the charge of returnees is junior Chris Douglas-Roberts, who nearly doubled his scoring average from his freshman year (8.3 ppg) to sophomore season (15.4 ppg). The 6-foot-6 guard is one of the country's best finishers around the rim and will be strongly considered for 2008 All-America honors. On the other wing is junior Antonio Anderson. The 6-foot-6 guard is "Mr. Do-It-All" for the Tigers and wears many hats on the squad. The 2006-07 collegeinsider.com Defensive All-America pick usually draws the assignment of defending the opponent's top perimeter player, and can also run the point when called upon to do so. Doneal Mack also returns and is expected to see most of his time backing up Douglas-Roberts and Anderson. The Charlotte, N.C., native probably made the biggest jump of any Tiger from the start to the end of last season. Mack is the Tigers' top three-point threat for 2007-08, and also uses his explosiveness to get to the basket. Junior Chance McGrady is a third-year player that provides depth and experience in the backcourt.
The frontcourt begins with the tandem of Joey Dorsey and Robert Dozier. Dorsey, the 2006-07 Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year, has shown how he can dominate the glass, and in 2007-08, the hopes are the 6-foot-9 man-child can perform consistently in both practices and games. One of the nation's top defensive players, Dorsey can block shots in the paint, but also showed his versatility last year with solid perimeter defense.
After a year of adjustment from reserve to starter, Dozier -- the coaches hope -- has taken his preparation level up a notch for 2007-08. Sure, Dozier made his presence known (7-foot-3 wingspan) on the floor last season, but it was when the 6-foot-9 forward wasn't in games that his importance was accentuated. In the EA Sports Maui Invitational, Dozier got in early foul trouble versus Georgia Tech, and after digging an early hole, the Yellow Jackets used Dozier's absence (he eventually fouled out) to dominate the glass en route to the win. In the NCAA Tournament, Dozier picked up two first-half fouls versus Texas A&M, and the Aggies' big men took advantage. However, Dozier returned in the second half, and his defense and rebounding helped lead Memphis to Sweet 16 victory.
The returnees that are battling for time in the frontcourt are sophomores Hashim Bailey and Pierre Niles. Both players, who saw limited time as freshmen, need to drop some weight and improve their conditioning to be factors in 2007-08.
The deepest and most experienced position for the Tigers is at point guard. In addition to Anderson, Memphis returns sophomore Willie Kemp and senior Andre Allen. Kemp, who started 36 games a year ago, is the consummate team player and proved to Tiger Nation what the coaching staff already knew -- that he is a winner. Allen may be the nation's best back-up point guard. The 5-foot-10 Memphis native brings great energy to the floor when he enters games, and he has picked his time to really shine in the Tigers' last two NCAA Tournament Elite Eight runs.
Another player that has impressed in the summer is sophomore Shawn Taggart, who had to sit out last year as a transfer. The 6-foot-10 forward also tore his right ACL prior to last year and was cleared to play pick-up games this summer. Taggart gives the Tigers another mobile big man to work in the frontcourt rotation with Dorsey and Dozier.
Jeff Robinson, who enrolled in second summer school session at the university, is a player that Tiger Nation can't wait to see on the court. A pure athlete, the 6-foot-5 wing expanded his game as a high school senior, and Memphis fans took notice. His explosiveness will thrive in the Tiger offensive system, and fans will love his quickness on the defensive end.
News & Notes
The Tigers enter 2007-08 with the nation's longest homecourt win streak at 32 straight. Memphis posted a perfect 19-0 record at home in 2006-07. The last time the Tigers dropped a home game was Jan. 2, 2006, when they fell to Texas. Memphis has 18 regular season home dates in 2007-08, including games versus Arizona, Georgetown, Gonzaga and Tennessee.
Memphis won a school-record 25-straight games in 2006-07. The win streak was the nation's longest last season.
Senior Joey Dorsey accepted an invitation to try out for Team USA that will participate in the 2007 Pan American Games. The Tigers' 6-foot-9 forward made the final 12-man cut July 17 and will represent Team USA in the Pan Am Games July 25-29 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Memphis is the nation's second-winningest program over the last two years (2005-06, 2006-07) with 66 victories. The Tigers only trail Florida's 68 wins the last two seasons. Since 2002-03 (last five years), Memphis is tied for fifth in the nation for most wins with 133. Duke tops that list with 138 wins since 2002-03.
Although John Calipari enters his 16th season as a collegiate head coach in 2007-08, his name already appears on the NCAA list for most victories by a head coach in his first 16 years. With his 370 wins, he is already in the No. 8 spot on that list. On his average of 25.9 wins per season at Memphis, Calipari could move into the No. 2 spot on that chart by the end of the 2007-08 campaign.
Chris Douglas-Roberts and Joey Dorsey could become the 43rd and 44th 1,000-point scorers in Memphis hoops history in 2007-08. If both reach the milestone this year, it would be the third time that two players scored their 1000th point in the same season in the John Calipari era (Rice and Carney in 2004-05; Wise and Moody in 2000-01).
Joey Dorsey has the opportunity to become the winningest senior class in Tiger basketball history in 2007-08. Since Dorsey arrived in 2004-05, Memphis has a combined record of 88-24. The winningest senior class in Memphis history is the 1987 one that posted 111 wins (111-25 record) from 1983-87.