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October 10, 2007Bob McClellan's interview with John Calipari | Top 64 Countdown: No. 2 Memphis
You want high expectations? Talk to Memphis small forward Chris Douglas-Roberts.
"If we're not playing in the last game, it's a disappointing year," Douglas-Roberts told Rivals.com.
He doesn't mean the Conference USA championship game, either. He fully expects the Tigers to fill half of the bill in San Antonio on April 7, i.e., the NCAA final.
"I don't think it's any added pressure to say that," Douglas-Roberts said. "We've been to the Elite Eight the last two years and that was so close, but close is not good enough this year. Whatever expectations there are, ours are higher. ? We have to be in that last game."
Publicly, Tigers coach John Calipari isn't as emphatic as Douglas-Roberts. But Calipari knows he has a special group.
"We've played our best basketball every year in March," said Calipari, whose Tigers have gone 33-4 and reached the Elite Eight in each of the past two seasons. "That's what it's all about. Let's make sure we're gearing everything toward March, toward being in the picture for the national title and competing for that.
"At the end of the day, there are six to eight teams, maybe less, that in their minds right now think that they can win the national title. There's a bunch, maybe another 20, maybe 30, that think they can reach the Final Four. But to win it all, there's five or six teams. I think we're one of those teams."
If Memphis is, in fact, in the last game, it will be in large part because of the player the Tigers call "CDR." Douglas-Roberts, a 6-foot-6 junior, led the Tigers in scoring (15.4 ppg) last season and finished fourth in C-USA in field-goal percentage (54.3 percent). Not bad for a guy who's not a big threat from 3-point range (only 19 of 58) nor in the low post.
Simply put, Douglas-Roberts is a scorer. He's crafty with the ball and has excellent body control, and his long arms allow him to shoot over most small forwards.
He isn't ready to rest on his laurels. He says Calipari told him he needed to add strength and range on his jump shot. Douglas-Roberts has responded by shooting daily, and he says he also has packed on 12 pounds of muscle since the end of last season.
"I'm in the gym every night shooting, mid-range to 3-pointers," Douglas-Roberts said. "My jumper has gotten better."
Calipari believes Douglas-Roberts is ready to take his game up a notch. "He's up over 200 pounds and I think is as confident as I've ever seen him," Calipari said.
So what will it take to push beyond the Elite Eight? The knock on Memphis is that C-USA holds it back. The lack of credible competition (the Tigers are a combined 29-1 in conference play the past two seasons, including 16-0 last season) doesn't prepare a team for March. But Calipari and Douglas-Roberts believe the league is much improved. Even if it's not, the coach has loaded the nonconference schedule with such teams as Georgetown, Arizona, Tennessee, USC and Gonzaga.
"When we get into conference play, the media starts getting on us about how we don't play anybody," Douglas-Roberts said. "We schedule the top teams in the country and that won't be an excuse come tournament time. We'll play anybody. They can't say we didn't play anybody. Plus that makes us that much better."
Give the people the bottom line, CDR.
"Coach told us you don't have to be the best team in the country every night, just the best team on the floor," Douglas-Roberts said. "As long as we're that, we can be in that last game."
Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.