Arizona has one of the toughest schedules in the nation. In fact, several of the computer polls have rated it as the toughest in college basketball so far this season. That being said, Memphis is the first ranked teams that the Cats will play.
Taking A Hit
Despite losing three of their top players from a year ago, the Tigers are 8-2 and ranked 18th in the nation. Rodney Carney and Shawne Williams were drafted 16th and 17th overall in the NBA Draft, while Darius Washington turned pro and is currently playing in Greece.
The Wildcats and Tigers don't go head to head too often for recruits, but have had common interest in a few players. They went head-to-head twice in the 2005 class, with each school winning one player. The Cats made a serious push for Tiger PG Chris Douglas-Roberts. He never visited Tucson, but had the Cats in his final three. The Cats did land Memphis native J.P. Prince. Prince had the Tigers in his final five, but he was down to the Cats and Vanderbilt at the end.
Not Very Hospitable
Memphis is just 1-5 in the State of Arizona, but have only played two games in Tucson. The Tigers are 1-1 in Tucson and have lost four games in the Valley. They were 0-2 at the 1975 Sun Devil Classic. They lost to ASU in the 1993 7-Up Shootout at the Coliseum. They also lost a 1976 NCAA Tournament game in Tempe to Pepperdine.
At 6-9, 260 Memphis PF Joey Dorsey would be the biggest player on the Arizona roster, but he isn't even one of the three biggest players on his own team. Pierre Niles is listed at 6-8, 285. Kareen Cooper and Hashim Bailey are listed at 6-11 and 6-10 respectively and both tip the scales at 290 pounds.
Kirk Walters is listed as the Wildcats tallest and heaviest player. He is 6-11 and is listed at 254 pounds on the official roster, but is probably lighter after his recent bout with mono. No other Wildcat is listed above 250 pounds.
Fiesta Bowl Classic
After 21 years the event is abandoning its four-team format, deciding on a one-game showcase, but featuring a better opponent.
In the last five events the Cats have faced Sam Houston State, Western Kentucky, Eastern Washington, Liberty, Louisiana-Lafayette, Richmond, Davidson, Boston U., Pepperdine and Valparaiso. They have not faced a major conference team in the tournament since Losing to Mississippi State in 2000. Florida State was upset by Boston U. in 2002. The last ranked opponent the Cats faced in the event was Michigan in 1993.
All told the Cats are 41-1 in the event.
J.P. Prince knows most of the Tigers' players. He has played pick-up basketball with most of them over the past few summers. Five current Tigers played their high school basketball in Memphis, Prince's hometown.
Wildcat freshman Jordan Hill attended prep school with Tigers players Hashim Bailey and Pierre Niles. The three were 34-4 last year at The Patterson School.
Several of the players have been counselors at various camps together.
This And That
Prince was back in uniform for the Wildcats last week against Houston but did not play. The sophomore has been battling the effects of a virus, while also appearing to be in Lute Olson's doghouse.
Marcus Williams injured both wrists last week. He had x-rays after the Houston game but they were negative. He will play against the Tigers.
Kirk Walters was in uniform the past two games. He played one minute against San Diego State but did not see the floor against Houston. He has had a rocky season. He missed most of the preseason after suffering a concussion and missed all but two games after coming down with mononucleosis.
With a start against Memphis, Mustafa Shakur will be within one of tying Craig McMillan for sixth place in school history. Assuming he starts every game this season, the senior is guaranteed to pass Anthony Cook for third place. If the Cats make a run in the Pac-10 and NCAA Tournaments Shakur has a shot at first place. If the Cats were to advance to the finals of both the Pac-10 AND NCAA Tournaments, then Shakur would take sole possession of the school record for starts. Currently Jason Gardner holds the mark with 135. If the Cats got the nine postseason games, Shakur would have started 136.