Championship Redux

News and notes on KU's battle with Memphis tonight at 9:00 (CT) at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis in a rematch of the 2008 national championship game, while wondering how many hyperboles ESPN announcer Dick Vitale will spew to describe super Kansas freshman Xavier Henry's game.

The Jayhawks-Tigers game will anchor ESPN's College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon. KU's game is one of 12 live games in 24 consecutive hours on ESPN on Tuesday. The contest is the centerpiece and second-half of the doubleheader of the Basketball Hall of Fame Showcase, an annual benefit for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. Louisville and Arkansas will tip off at 6:30 p.m. (CT) in the opening game in St. Louis.

More than a dozen of Hall of Famers, including Rick Barry, Lenny Wilkens and Bob Pettit are scheduled to attend the games, while nearly NBA team is sending scouts.

This game will also be a prized ticket for more than 6,000 KU alums in the St. Louis area. Kansas sold out its ticket allotment in less than a week in September, and quickly requested more.

ONCE A TIGER, NOW A JAYHAWK

This game marks a reunion of sorts for C.J. Henry, the KU freshman guard who redshirted last season with Memphis due to an injury. His brother, Xavier, also initially signed with Memphis before opting out and coming to Kansas this fall after head coach John Calipari left Memphis for Kentucky.

Sophomore twin forwards Markieff and Marcus Morris also originally committed to Memphis out of Philadelphia Prep Charter High in 2006, but later reneged and signed with Kansas.

Xavier said the Memphis game doesn't hold any extra significance.

"(It's the) same as any other team," he said. "I don't really have any different type of feelings for anybody or anything like that. I'm just going to prepare the same way I always do, and just play the game."

SCOUTING MEMPHIS

Memphis, under first-year head coach Josh Pastner, returns just one starter (senior guard Doneal Mack) and six letterwinners from last year's 33-4, Sweet 16 team. The Tigers are picked to finish between second and fourth in Conference USA in most preseason polls. Memphis is coming off an 82-53 victory over Jackson State in its season opener at home on Nov. 13.

Sophomore guard Elliott Williams led Memphis with 19 points, while junior forward Will Coleman added 16 points and 10 boards in a reserve role. Other starters were sophomore forward Wesley Witherspoon (13 points), senior forward Pierre Henderson-Niles (five points), junior guard Roburt Sallie (seven points, seven rebounds) and senior guard Willie Kemp (four points). Mack chipped in eight points off the bench.

Pastner came to Memphis as an assistant coach under Calipari in May 2008 after previously serving at Arizona from 1996-2008 as a player, administrator, and assistant coach. He went 4-4 against KU during his time with the Wildcats. On a side note, Pastner stepped in for then Arizona head coach Lute Olson in 2005 and beat KU head coach Bill Self in a free-throw contest at the Maui Invitational.

At age 32, Pastner is the youngest coach in NCAA Division I and a rising star in his profession. He's coached 12 NBA Draft lottery picks as an assistant at Memphis and Arizona.

Pastner was packing up his office to join Calipari's staff at Kentucky last April when Memphis athletics director R.C. Johnson called him to his home.

"When he offered me the job, I thought I was on one of two television shows – either Candid Camera or MTV's Punk'd," Pastner said. "I didn't believe him at first, but when I realized he wasn't joking, I quickly accepted the job offer."  

LOOK WHO'S BACK

The Jayhawks feature two players (Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins) who played in the 2008 national championship game vs. Memphis, while the Tigers have three players represented in Kemp, Henderson-Niles, and Mack. Collins had 11 points, six assists and three steals in 34 minutes that magical night, while Aldrich finished with zero points in four minutes. Kemp recorded one steal while going scoreless in four minutes; Henderson-Niles (one minute) and Mack (two minutes) also failed to score.

SERIES NOTES

This game marks the seventh meeting between KU and Memphis with Kansas leading the series 4-2. All five meetings prior to the 2008 NCAA title game came in the 1980s. Kansas won the first meeting, 59-49, at Memphis in 1981 and then the last two — a 64-62 win in the ECAC Holiday Festival in New York, N.Y., during the 1987-88 NCAA championship season and then the 75-68 (OT) national title game victory in 2008. The Tigers' wins came in Lawrence on Dec. 18, 1982 (64-58) and on Jan. 4, 1986 in Memphis (83-80, OT). KU went to the Final Four that dream 1985-86 season, finishing at 35-4, the most victories (at the time) in school history.

FEASTING ON THE TIGERS
    
KU is aiming to go 6-0 all time in games played on Nov. 17 with a victory over the Memphis Tigers. Exactly 20 years ago on Nov. 17, 1989, unranked KU pulled off a shocking 89-83 win over the No. 2 LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge, La.  The Tigers featured Shaquille O'Neal, Stanley Roberts, and Chris Jackson, while the Jayhawks were led by Kevin Pritchard, Rick Calloway, Jeff Gueldner, Mark Randall, Pekka Markkanen.
    
Randall led six KU players in double figures with 26 points, while Gueldner added 18. Jackson was game-high scorer with 32 points. KU limited O'Neal to just 10 points and eight rebounds. The Jayhawks shot a scorching 57.4 percent from the field and went 8-of-15 from three-point land, including 4-5 from reserve guard Terry Brown.
    
KU advanced to the NIT Final Four in New York, winning the tournament with victories against No. 1 UNLV and No. 25 St. John's. Randall was named tournament MVP as the Jayhawks jumped to No. 4 in the country en route to a magical 30-5 season.            
    
"I've been around basketball for many years and I can't remember a team that played up to its potential the way (that) team did," then KU coach Roy Williams said at the beginning of the next 1990-91 season. "It was fun group to watch. You had to admire how unselfish we played." 

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