Even though everybody is a little gun shy about classifying Memphis vs. Tennessee as "The Game of the Century" (probably because it's still too early in this century to be making such classifications ... and maybe because UNC-Duke last month was the de facto "Game of the Year"), the entire nation is, at least, buzzin' 'bout tomorrow night's epic Number One / Number Two, 3-Ball, Free-For-All between Calimari's sharpshootin' assassins and the Black Pearl's band of cutthroats.
Since some of us simply cannot sit idly by and wait for Digger or Hubert or Jay to inform us that "the key to victory for Team X (Memphis or Tennessee) rests with hitting the outside shots to open up the inside game" or "the key to victory for Team Y (Memphis or Tennessee) is solid low-post play to open up the perimeter game," we can address the subtle nuances (and some of the subtitled annoyances) right here.
To be perfectly honest, just thinkin' 'bout a coaching matchup between No. 1-ranked CALIMARI and the No. 2-ranked BLACK PEARL gives one goose bumps ... especially when we rewind a little more than 10 years ago to when Calimari oversaw a (probably not very) squeaky-clean, No. 1-ranked program at UMess or when we dial it back 20 years to when the Black Pearl was an assistant at Stanford for that weird-looking, semi-man named Dr. Tom Davis and, upon orders from Dr. Tom, Pearl allegedly (according to one of the star players) distributed the per diem (read: meal money) based on players' performances (which is an NCAA rules violation, shhhhhhhh!).
Good stuff from total class acts, although some of us feel a little sheepish about the fact that we can name all five starters from Calimari's U-Mess team (Camby, Travieso, Padilla, Dingle, Bright), although we're chagrined that we can't remember Travieso's first name -- and we can't recall if it was Dana Dingle or Donta Bright who had those four kids by four different women.
It's all water under the bridge now ... that is, now that Calimari and the Black Pearl are at the top of the heap ... perhaps an unusual metaphor, given that "heap" oftentimes conjures up images of rubbish or compost.
To say that college b-ball is garbage (shhhhhhhh!) would be to ignore how Calimari and the Black Pearl have built these programs from the ground up, albeit Pearl is doing his building with several of Buzz Peterson's recruits.
Still, many of us remember the hurt (or the indifference) we felt last year when the '06-'07 season came crashing to an end for both Memphis and Tennessee in the same extended weekend ... in the Alamodome at the hands of Ohio State.
That UT loss to OSU lingered a little longer, considering the how the Vols blew that 20-point lead ... a meltdown which achieved finality when Ramar Smith grabbed Mike Conley, Jr.'s missed free throw with six seconds to play and, trailing by one point, decided to play hero by goin' coast to coast and rather than driving the lane and dishing to a teammate who'd drained four of five 3-balls (hint, hint: JaJuan Smith or Ryan Childress), Ramar had his potential game-winning layup blocked by Greg Oden's elbow.
Or Oden's tricep.
Or Oden's armpit (we can't remember which ... jeez, he was just standin' there and Ramar put a scoop shot into the big guy's body ... Al McGuire would've said it was foolish for the little PT boat to take on the big aircraft carrier, but, alas ...).
The expression on the face of the Black Pearl at the end of that game was not unlike the words which ended the suicide note left by Lt. Matthew Andrew Markinson when he wrote: "And, the truth is, your son is dead for only one reason. I wasn't strong enough to stop it."
The Black Pearl wasn't strong enough to prevent the death of the Vols, but tomorrow night represents a fresh start (for his team killed all over again ... life/death is kinda funny like that).
The tricky part about tomorrow night's blockbuster inside the FedEx Forum is that many of us aren't sure which teams we'll see.
Will it be the Vols who, four nights after hanging 100 points on the two-time defending national champion Florida Gators, squeaked past LSU, 47-45, in a game in which UT was 5 of 20 on 3-balls and 4 of 15 from the foul line? (That win was salvaged when JaJuan Smith made that layup in the final seconds after he stole the ball from five indecisive LSU players who were indecisively looking indecisive in hopes of indecisively goin' to an indecisive OT period)
On the flip side of the coin, a great many of us are wondering if we'll see the Memphis team which began this month by grinding out a 70-64 win over UTEP ... a contest in which the Tigers sank 1 of 17 3-balls and only 21 of 41 foul shots (in fairly-typical fashion ... which is why we're outraged when we hear/read about the Tigers' quest for "perfection" when, in fact, they are a very marginal team which just so happens to be undefeated ... in fact, the '73 Tigers -- back when we used to call it "Memphis State" -- or the '85 Tigers were a lot more perfect than the '08 Tigers ... ).
For the record, Memphis has spent this month shooting 28 percent from 3-point range and 58 percent from the line.
"The truth is ... no one is strong enough to stop it."
Just ask SMU's Senegalese Sensations -- Papa Dia and Bamba Fall.
Lord knows they tried, but they weren't strong enough in a 77-49 loss.
The truth is, Joey Dorsey -- and the intricate quilt-pattern of braidwork on Joey Dorsey's head -- are too much for teams which don't have Papa Dia and Bamba Fall.
Against Papa Dia and Bamba Fall, Joey Dorsey's intricate quilt-pattern braidwork had 14 points and 10 rebounds -- which many people view as a better all-around effort than what J.D. did against Tulsa (19 rebounds, 2 pts.) and vs. Houston (22 rebounds, 6 pts.).
Joey Dorsey has the Ben Wallace/Dennis Rodman mad-skillz-set (meaning: the funky 'doo, the ability to grab 30 rebounds and score zero points), but will it be enough?
Like Memphis, UT's most-recognizable star is the guy who, like Dorsey, has no forseeable NBA future -- howyadoin', Chris Lofton!
"The truth is," .... Lofton is "SOFT"ton ... he's a semi-legit, 3-ball maker (although, at 6-foot-1, check out how many times he shoots the fallaway 3), but he's obviously too small or too timid to develop more of a game or else he'd be slashing to the basketball or cutting off a screen to shake a defender.
Softie is a career 83 percent free-throw shooter, yet he hardly ever shoots more than two per game.
Hmmmm ... if only he had a coach who could teach him the value of getting his 83 percent foul-shootin' ass to the line (wait a sec! There IS a b-ball coach on campus who CAN impart that wisdom upon a young ballplayer ... alas, her name is "Coach Summitt" and she is the Alpha Coach in Knoxville ... and that's the way it's always gonna be, which is why a script "SUMMITT" appears in huge letters on the court inside Thompson-Boling Arena -- which means that the big gym will never be called "the PearlDome" or "The Oyster" ... y'know, as in "inside an oyster, there's a pearl," ha ha ... ).
It's this simple: Unless Softie tops last year's effort against Memphis (34 pts.) by goin' off for 40 or 42, this matchup might very well end up resembling the last time America had a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showcase showdown.
Yup ... we have to dial it all the wayyyyyy back to Feb. 25, 2007 when the Blackeyes of Ohio State tangled with the Badgered of Wuss-con-sucks in that controversial matchup (controversial in the sense that Ohio State was No. 1 and Wussconsucks was No. 2 in the ESPN/USA Today poll while, in the AP poll, Wussconsucks was No. 1 and OSU was No. 2 ... ).
America had better keep its fingers crossed that what transpires in the FedEx Forum is half as good as what we saw in Value City Arena ... when OSU-Columbus and UW-Madison combined to shoot 38 percent from the floor (39 of 102), 29 percent from beyond the arc (9 of 31) and 53 percent from the line (10 of 19).
Approximately 93.8 percent of America puked after that one.
Which is EXACTLY why America needs to glam up these trivial Mem-Tenn showcases which give us nuthin' more than Chris Douglas-Roberts vs. Tyler Smith (ugh ... sigh ...).
Most of us are hankerin' for something more along the lines of an alumni 2-on-2 whereby the Tigers' Larry Kenon and Larry Finch (heroes of the '73 national finalist team) will take on the Vols' Bernard King and Ernie Grunfeld (the last set of teammates in NCAA Div. I history to average 25 PPG in the same season).
Sounds delicious ... Larry & Larry vs. the Ernie & Bernie Show.
That was always the thing about Larry Kenon ... always overshadowed. Even though he had 34 points and 20 rebounds in the '73 Midwest semi win over the South Carolina team which featured Alex English, Brian Winters, Mike Dunleavy's old man and Kevin Joyce -- and even though Larry Kenon had 28 points and 22 boards in the Final Four victory over the Providence team which featured Ernie DiGregorio, Kevin Stacom and Marvin Barnes, it seems as though Larry Kenon was always second fiddle to Larry Finch at Memphis and to Dr. J when the two led the Nets to the ABA title in '74 and then to San Antonio teammates Artis Gilmore, George Gervin and James Silas during those ABA-to-NBA days ...
Damn straight. Gettin' caught up in a daydream about the b-ball stylings of a Larry Kenon from 30 years ago always takes precedence over the reality that two, possibly three, current Tigers probably couldn't beat the 55-year-old Larry Kenon in a game of H-O-R-S-E.
Five shots ... and it's "Goodbye, Joey Dorsey ... and good luck to you and your intricate quilt-pattern braidwork ..."