Memphis coach John Calipari insists his team isn’t benefiting from a home-court advantage in the Conference USA tournament.
Tulane would probably beg to differ.
For the third time in four years, the No. 4 Tigers will open the Conference USA tournament against the Green Wave, who they’ve defeated 16 consecutive times.
This is fifth straight year the Conference USA tournament is being held at FedEx Forum. Memphis (28-3) has been to the title game all four previous times, and has won the last three championships.
Tulane (14-16) knows how difficult it can be playing against the Tigers during the tournament. Memphis has beaten the Green Wave en route to all three of its tournament titles, winning by an average of 20 points. Two of those three victories came in the opening round, including a 75-56 win last season.
Calipari, however, doesn’t feel there’s any extra advantage playing at home during the tournament, even though his team is 31-0 at the FedEx Forum against conference opponents during the regular season and 9-0 in the tournament since 2006.
“Our advantage is our players,” he said. “We just have really good players. That’s our advantage, and they play really hard, and they’re really long. I like that advantage more that the building we’re in.”
Memphis is 24-2 overall at home against Tulane, including 13 straight wins. The Green Wave have never won at FedEx Forum.
That continued last Saturday, when Calipari and the Tigers closed the regular season by routing Tulane 74-47. It was their 58th consecutive conference victory and 22nd straight win overall, the longest streak in the nation.
Freshman guard Tyreke Evans, leading Memphis with 16.9 points and 5.5 assists, recorded his second career double-double, finishing with 17 points and 10 rebounds. He also had six assists and four steals.
Tulane coach Dave Dickerson said afterward that it’s hard to defend a Memphis club with so many potent scoring options. Five Tigers average 8.9 points or more.
“The problems that Memphis presents to everyone in our conference is that we’re not used to playing against two guys being 6-9 (Robert Dozier) and 6-10 (Shawn Taggart) with long arms,” he said. “Evans is probably the best player in our conference.”
Saturday’s loss was the only defeat in the last five games for Dickerson’s team, which beat East Carolina 69-59 in Wednesday’s opening round.
Kevin Sims matched his career high with 23 points and six assists. The junior guard was the only Tulane player to finish in double figures, going 7 of 11 from the field including 5-for-7 from 3-point range.
Sims had 14 points against the Tigers last weekend.
With Wednesday’s win, the Green Wave improved to 6-13 all-time in the C-USA tournament. They’ve advanced to the semifinals twice, including in 2007 when they lost to Memphis.
“This is March Madness,” Dickerson said. “And if you look at conference tournaments around the country, you see this happening. We’re excited about playing a team as good as Memphis.”
Tulane’s last win over Memphis was a 64-63 victory in 2000.
The winner of this game advances to play either UTEP or Houston in Friday’s semifinals.