GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP)—Missouri and Memphis have much more in common than a nickname.
Energy, intensity and speed will be on display in this Tiger vs. Tiger semifinal at the NCAA West Regional Thursday night.
“You will see some things that you marvel at,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said. “You will probably see some things like ‘Wow, did he do that?”’
Anderson needs everybody to keep up with the deep, talented Conference USA champions, and he got a scare Wednesday when one of his most relentless players DeMarre Carroll twisted his left ankle in practice and limped off the court. Carroll downplayed the incident.
“Trying to make a move and I tweaked my ankle a little bit,” he said. “But at this point, it is the Sweet 16, I’m 100 percent.”
Missouri (30-6) and Memphis (33-3) are right where they were supposed to wind up after being tabbed the No. 3 and No. 2 seed in the region, respectively.
Anderson, a disciple of Nolan Richardson at Arkansas, coached the Tigers to the Big 12 tournament championship in just his third season at Missouri. And he knows how to beat Memphis.
The last time Memphis lost a Conference USA contest—to UAB 62 games ago— Anderson was the opposing coach.
“We saw each other in the hallway out there and I said ‘It is going to be another boxing match, I can just see it coming,”’ John Calipari said after the teams worked out at University of Phoenix Stadium. “And he laughed, because we have had wars.”
Missouri’s Leo Lyons said that when Anderson first arrived in Columbia, one of the first things the new coach did was show the videotape of that UAB-Memphis game.
“And we watched that UAB tape, watched how they pushed the ball,” Lyons said. “We had a major goal watching that trying to come from where we’re, not knowing anything about his system, to where we are now. I think we are pretty close to where he wants us to be. We are still trying to get better every single day.”
Anderson gives Calipari and Memphis the edge in pure talent, though.
“He has probably three or four guys that are going to the NBA,” the Missouri coach said. “I got some guys that are ‘hoping’ they get into the NBA.”
No program has won more games since the start of the 2005-06 season than Memphis’ 137.
Memphis carries a school-record 27-game winning streak into Thursday’s game, the team’s fourth consecutive appearance in the round of 16.
Tyreke Evans is the slick freshman at the controls, but the heart and soul is senior Antonio Anderson, the Conference USA defensive player of the year and the only player in school history with at least 1,000 career points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists.
While this team has, Calipari said, developed an identity separate from the one that nearly won the NCAA title a year ago, Anderson is a common denominator.
“He is a guy that comes out on our team and does everything on the court,” teammate Robert Dozier said. “You don’t have to pep him up, talk to him like ‘We need you’ in a game. He has been that since he has been a freshman.”
Anderson is concerned about rebounding with the athletic talent of the 6-6 Anderson, 6-9 Dozier and 6-10 Shawn Taggart. The Missouri coach remembers Dozier and Anderson from his days at UAB.
“One of the things they do is crush people on the boards,” he said. “Their best offense was to throw it up there and go get it. We can’t afford to let that happen.”
When told of Anderson’s comments, Memphis’ Taggart said, “he should be worried about it (rebounding). But there are other things he should be worried about, too.”
Missouri’s J.T. Tiller said that Memphis controls the game with its offense.
“With us it is more we try to control the game with our defense, control the pace with our defense,” Tiller said. “I think that’s the tale. It will be our defense against their offense, and try to keep them off the glass.”
And it all should be played at a fever pitch.
“One of the things I have always respected about his (Coach Anderson’s) teams is they play. They get after it,” Calipari said. “They feel unleashed, and that’s what I’m always trying to get my teams to be. I want them to have more fun than anybody in this tournament.”