The last time Memphis was ranked No. 1 in the country, it didn’t stay there very long.
The Tigers will be trying to hang on to their top ranking a little longer this time around as they visit Tulsa on Wednesday.
Memphis (17-0, 4-0 Conference USA) is one of just two undefeated teams, along with No. 2 Kansas, left in the country after North Carolina lost 82-80 to Maryland on Saturday. The Tigers replaced the Tar Heels as the No. 1 team in the nation, moving atop the rankings for just the second time and first since Jan. 10, 1983.
However, Memphis’ first No. 1 ranking didn’t last very long - the Tigers lost at Virginia Tech the same night they earned the top spot and fell to No. 6 the following week.
“We’ve got one extra day than the last time,” coach John Calipari said. “That team went to No. 1 on a Monday and lost that night. We get to enjoy Monday and Tuesday and until we play at Tulsa on Wednesday night.”
While Memphis doesn’t have much experience at the top of the rankings, Calipari had his teams at Massachusetts ranked No. 1 for a total of 14 weeks over the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons.
“It’ll matter to these guys,” Calipari said. “I’ve coached at UMass and here and at those kind of places, non-BCS schools, most of those guys were not silver-spooned, not McDonald’s All-Americans and they take pride in it because it’s a notch in their belt to be able to say ‘You guys didn’t think I was that good.’”
A relatively weak Conference USA could allow Memphis to stay atop the top 25 for a while this time. The Tigers have won 27 straight conference games and have won their first four this season by an average of nearly 32 points.
Chris Douglas-Roberts, who leads the team with 16.4 points per game, had 19 points in Saturday’s 83-47 win over Southern Mississippi. Calipari even obliged a home crowd chanting “We’re No. 1” with a hip-shake dance as his team built its lead to 39 points with about 3 minutes left.
The Tigers held Southern Miss to 26 percent shooting for the game, including 0-for-14 on 3-pointers, while shooting 52 percent and turning the ball over just five times.
“That was one of our best efforts this year,” Calipari said. “Maybe one of the best efforts since I’ve been here, when you talk about the pace the game was played, the way we defended and contested shots and only had five turnovers.
“At that speed, that’s incredible.”
Memphis has won four straight against Tulsa (9-6, 1-2) over the last two seasons, but the Golden Hurricane don’t figure to be a pushover. They have won seven of nine and bounced back from consecutive losses on Saturday, beating SMU 72-71 on Brett McDade’s jumper with no time remaining.
“It’s such a fine line between winning and losing,” coach Doug Wojcik told Tulsa’s official Web site. “Brett McDade made a great play at the end.”
Reserve Glenn Andrews, coming off a 20-point performance in last Wednesday’s loss to Tulane, had 24 points and was named C-USA’s player of the week. The freshman guard ranks second on the team with 11.5 points per game, behind Ben Uzoh’s 16.0-point average.
Tulsa is hosting the No. 1 team for the first time since Dec. 1993, when it lost 93-91 in overtime against Arkansas.