Just before the Madness began last week, I laid out a lengthy list
of reasons why Missouri would fail in the first few rounds of the tournament, pointing out a few of the Tigers' most glaring weaknesses and the dangers of each potential early round match-up.
|Just pretend this is a tiger next to eight cowboy hats and a huge number 8, ready to devour John Calipari and his Memphis Tigers.|
Now Mizzou has reached the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2002 and they're one very difficult win away from proving my original prediction wrong. But like Kim English coming off the bench to swish a pair of game-winning free throws, I'm not one to easily admit defeat.
I'm hedging my bets and laying out eight reasons Mizzou could pull the upset of the tournament, defeating that other team of Tigers and advancing to the Elite 8 to face UConn or Purdue.
1. Mike Anderson has John Calipari's number
Memphis has a 61-game winning streak against Conference USA opponents. Their last loss? To an Anderson-coached UAB team in 2006. Granted, Calipari has a 5-2 overall record against Anderson, but Memphis has always had more talent in its program and the 2006 squad had half a dozen future NBA players on the roster. The fact that Anderson could even beat Memphis once shows he has the wits that are going to be necessary in order to break Memphis current 27-game winning streak.
2. Memphis hasn't played a team as good as Mizzou in months.
Winning 27 D-I college basketball games in a row is impressive no matter what conference a team plays in but the fact remains: Memphis has only beat two quality opponents, Gonzaga and Xavier Tennessee. When the team faced quality, power-conference opponents early in the season, Memphis came up short every time.
3. Leo Lyons is on fire.
Several Tigers have continued the stellar play that steered them to the Big 12 tournament title, but Lyons in particular has impressed me thus far. Out-sized by Cornell's seven-foot center, he used his agility to create space and bank in a few tough looks, finishing with 23 points and 10 rebounds. MU will need that and more from their post star in order to beat Memphis. Their best bet is Lyons attacking the Memphis bigs Dozier and Taggart and getting to the free-throw line -- resulting in points for Mizzou and foul trouble for Memphis. How likely is that scenario? During the regular season, Lyons led the nation in fouls drawn
, with 8.2 per 40 minutes of play, numbers that narrowly edge out All-Americans Tyler Hansborough and Blake Griffin.