Memphis has a 61-game winning streak against Conference USA opponents. Their last loss? To an Anderson-coached UAB team in 2006. Granted, Calipari has a 5-2 overall record against Anderson, but Memphis has always had more talent in its program and the 2006 squad had half a dozen future NBA players on the roster. The fact that Anderson could even beat Memphis once shows he has the wits that are going to be necessary in order to break Memphis current 27-game winning streak.
Winning 27 D-I college basketball games in a row is impressive no matter what conference a team plays in but the fact remains: Memphis has only beat two quality opponents, Gonzaga and Xavier Tennessee. When the team faced quality, power-conference opponents early in the season, Memphis came up short every time.
Several Tigers have continued the stellar play that steered them to the Big 12 tournament title, but Lyons in particular has impressed me thus far. Out-sized by Cornell's seven-foot center, he used his agility to create space and bank in a few tough looks, finishing with 23 points and 10 rebounds. MU will need that and more from their post star in order to beat Memphis. Their best bet is Lyons attacking the Memphis bigs Dozier and Taggart and getting to the free-throw line -- resulting in points for Mizzou and foul trouble for Memphis. How likely is that scenario? During the regular season, Lyons led the nation in fouls drawn, with 8.2 per 40 minutes of play, numbers that narrowly edge out All-Americans Tyler Hansborough and Blake Griffin.
4. Mizzou might have the defensive advantage.
Memphis led the nation in defensive efficiency this season, according to the calculations of stat guru Ken Pomeroy, but Mizzou wasn't far behind, finishing twelfth in that category. Both teams rely on a fast pace and aggressiveness to create turnovers. But MU might have the edge in this game for one simple reason: Tyreke Evans, Memphis' otherwise outstanding freshman point guard, has turned the ball over 119 times this season. How his ball handling holds up against 40 Minutes of Hell will likely be the biggest factor in this game.
Carroll might not be as heralded as Evans, a third team All-American who averaged sixteen points and five rebounds per game, but he's a senior playing what might be his final game. Something tells me the junkyard dog won't go down without a fight.
And he's peaking at the perfect point in the season. If he can get hot against Memphis like he did in the first half against Marquette, this one should be a cinch.
Speculation abounds that with coaching offers on the table from Alabama and Georgia, this might be Mike Anderson's final season at Mizzou. While the coach has refused to comment on the rumors (why not just deny them completely?), they're still hanging around the locker room. Even beyond the family ties to their coach, the Tigers are no doubt loyal to their leader and the fact that this might be the last time he leads them into battle might provide that extra little motivation needed for an upset victory.
Memphis has adopted the slogan of "Refuse to Lose" as the season (and the winning streak) has stretched on. They even plastered the phrase on the team bus. They should know this slogan rightfully belongs to the 1995 Seattle Mariners, who came back from a thirteen-game deficit to win the AL West, defeated the Yankees in the division series, then lost to Cleveland in the ALCS. Karmic implications of stealing the phrase aside, consider this Memphis' version of the ALCS with Mizzou playing the Indians' role of spoiler.