Only in college basketball could a team that's 33-1, and situated at or near no. 1 for most of the season, still realize that it has everything to prove.
Such is the existence of the Memphis Tigers, who has taken to flattening Conference USA after stalwarts like Louisville, Marquette and DePaul fled for the Big East.
Under the steady hand of John Calipari, Memphis has climbed to the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight each of the last two seasons, only to get stuck there as UCLA (in 2006) and Ohio State (in 2007) shut the door on the Final Four.
So here are the Tigers again, a no. 1 seed in the South Regional, poised for greatness. It has able freshman Derrick Rose to run the show, Chris Douglas-Roberts to pour on the points in the paint, and Joey Dorsey to defend and rebound like few others in America. It's also quite battle-tested from a non-conference slate where it stood up quite well.
Yes, the free-throw shooting is horrendous (less than 60 percent), but in tough games that percentage has gone up. In any case, it won't matter in Little Rock on Friday when the Tigers meet and dismiss first-timer Texas-Arlington, the champions of the Southland Conference. Beyond that, though, it gets rougher.
Mississippi State ruled the SEC West with brute strength thanks to Charles Rhodes and Jarvis Varnado, who averages nearly five blocks a game. To counter that, Oregon will need to shoot well, something it didn't do with consistency in the Pac-10 despite four starters back from a team that got to the regional finals a season ago. The Ducks miss Aaron Brooks a lot.
Pittsburgh started like a national title contender, floundered in the middle after injuries took their toll, then roared back to life when Levance Fields came back in February from a broken foot. The Panthers won four games in four days to take the Big East tournament championship, just like Syracuse in 2006.