It’s the “Heartbreak Hotel” all over again.The Memphis Tigers dreamed of a national championship, but they will have to keep dreaming about that championship. The 2008 NCAA championship is on its way north to the trophy halls of Lawrence, Kan., instead Memphis, Tenn. Memphis and its fans have not cried this hard since Elvis left the building.
The Tigers finished their season 38-2. The Tigers lived up to all their preseason expectations. The Tigers were led by fantastic freshman point guard Derrick Rose (14.9 points per game, 4.5 rebounds per game, 4.7 assists per game), senior forward Joey Dorsey (6.9 ppg and 9.5 rpg) and junior small forward Chris Douglas-Roberts (18.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.8 apg). The team averaged a little over 81 points a game and shot 47 percent from the field.
This season the Tigers were a perfect 16-0 in Conference USA. The Tigers were so good that of their 40 games, only seven games were decided by 10 points or less.
This was a team that had very few weakness. However, they had only one glaring weakness: free-throw shooting. The Memphis Tigers shot 61 percent from the free throw line the entire season. On this season’s roster, there were only two Memphis players who shot over 70 percent for the charity line.
In Memphis’ two defeats this season (against Tennessee and Kansas), they shot a combined 20-36 from the free throw line and lost both games by a mere 11 points. In Monday’s game against Kansas, even though the Tigers lost 75-68, if Rose had made a single free throw, the game would have been 64-60 and the Tigers would have gone home national champs.
If Memphis somehow was able to knock down free throws, not only would they be national champions but they would have joined the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers as the only teams to go undefeated in a college basketball season.
All is not lost for the Memphis Tigers. Coach John Calipari is a great coach. In his eight years at Memphis, he is an astounding 219-65 and is an excellent 101-24 against Conference USA opponents. The good news for Tigers is Chris Douglas-Roberts most likely will be back.
But the bad news is that most likely you will be looking for another point guard. Rose is a consensus top three pick in the NBA draft.
Memphis will be back next year and more focused than ever. So look for the Tigers to be an improved and hungrier team next season.