On Second Thought, Memphis Was Definition of Overrated
But they were overrated. They were a 2-seed. The 3-seeds were Villanova, Kansas, Syracuse and Missouri. Having watched the tournament so far, can you really believe Memphis was better than any of those teams? I might even have seeded 4-seed Xavier ahead of them, having watched the Musketeers nearly take out Pitt last night. So the point is, while the Tigers were one of the top 15 teams in the country heading into the tournament, they weren't one of the top eight. Hence, overrated. According to the actual meaning of the word.
As long as it can continue to replace it star freshman every year (does anybody really think Tyreke Evans is going to stay?), Memphis should keep finding itself in this position. Rolling into the tournament on a winning streak no one really knows how to evaluate. It wasn't just that Conference USA was weak this year. Memphis did what it could, scheduling Big East teams in December and teams like Tennessee and Gonzaga in the middle of their cotton-candy conference schedule. They did what they thought they had to do to toughen up and project legitimacy as an elite team.
But they weren't challenged, and therein lay the problem. Missouri answered the opening bell last night by punching Memphis in the mouth and knocking them down. And the Tigers, to whom such a thing had not happened since December, if all year, didn't know how to handle it.
Conversely, look at what Pitt did last night. They got beaten up in the first half by Xavier, went into the locker room and were able to say, "OK. They beat us up. We're behind. But we've been here before. We know what we need to do to come back." When Memphis got to the halftime locker room, the Tigers were in a position with which they were wholly unfamiliar. They didn't have anything in their playbook or memory banks that was going to help them come back from 13 down against the champions of the Big 12 tournament. (Even if those champions were going to play a rotten second half, miss all their free throws and do everything but engrave an invitation for Memphis to get back into the game.)
Nobody ever wins this tournament without overcoming something -- without playing at least one game that tests toughness. Memphis failed that test last night, and it's because nothing they did this year prepared them to handle it. All Memphis' schedule did was inflate its record artificially and push it into a two-seed when the Tigers really should have been a three or four.
That is the very definition of overrated.