Ironically - It's Memphis

Of all the teams, of all the possible opponents in the first round of the NCAA tournament - the Gamecocks drew Memphis. Memphis 'State' if you are an old timer. Good old Memphis State from the good old Metro Conference. Memphis, 'that team' that beat the Gamecocks two years ago in New York in the finals of the NIT. It's a good draw for the Gamecocks ...

The University of South Carolina could not have received a better seventh-seed pairing for their tenth-seed draw than Memphis University. Or is it the University of Memphis? Not long ago it was Memphis State, but the insecurities in Memphis shone threw and the decision makers in the Mid South decided to get rid of the 'state' part of the name. They wanted to be more inline with SEC teams Vanderbilt and Tennessee ... instate names without 'state' bringing up their rears.

Memphis State has always wanted to be in the SEC, but much like their demands to host an NFL team, they never will. Another Carolina and another Tennessee city beat them out for that honor as well - Charlotte and Nashville.

Memphis reeks insecurity that's why. A big name little town with a Blues background going nowhere. Elvis lived there, in a reside sort of way, for less than one fifth of his lifetime. Oh sure, he owned Graceland and he made his bones in a little recording studio named Sun Records somewhere near Lamar, Poplar and Union - but Elvis spent more time in Las Vegas and Tupelo than Memphis. He remains their claim to fame ironically.

In Memphis there is Beale Street and Memphis in May where they claim the best BBQ in the world. That's a farce. And the Mississippi River - but towns like Saint Louis, New Orleans and Louisville have more of a karmic connection with the Big Ditch than Memphis. And Beale Street is way way waaaaay overrated.

Memphis, the town named after an outskirt of Cairo, Egypt. So they built a pyramid in Memphis, USA. But you know that recent list of Top Ten drawing arenas in the country? The one the Gamecocks' own Colonial Center managed to rate highly? The Memphis Pyramid was nowhere to be seen on that list. Shhh. Don't say anything about that around Memphis fans. Things like that upset them. They live in another world this time of year.

They do love their basketball in Memphis. We found that out in the old Metro days. Of course those were the days of Keith Lee and Dana Kirk who was jailed for breaking too many rules to mention here. Larry Finch played and coached there, and even as a favorite son who had his jersey retired - he was fired for not producing as a head coach. Elliot Perry and Anfernee Hardaway played there too. Memphis has a little bit of basketball history and tradition, but so does South Carolina. Which brings me to my point.

Something I learned two years ago in the Big Apple rubbing elbows with Memphis fans. They honestly, truly believe that South Carolina is a inferior all-around program to theirs. I am not talking just basketball either. I am talking baseball and football and anything else some of us happened to bring up to some of their fans during that NIT tournament. They argued that they should have gotten in the SEC before South Carolina. They argued that in terms of fan support, Memphis or Memphis State or whatever they might be calling themselves this year, they are better. Their town, their school, their athletes. They even argued that the women are better looking in Memphis. (We know better) And they hired the perfect coach to fit their collective personalities. John Calipari is emotional, firey, hot-headed and egotistical just like their fans. A dead ringer perfect match made in heaven if ever there was one. Even their most famous fan at the time in attendance in New York - remember that really obnoxious 'dude' guy that was Dell's spokesbrat for awhile? Yeah - he is a Memphis State fan. One of the largest collection of obnxiously fun group of egos we have ever witnessed in one place at one time. They were everywhere. Some of them had their fingernails painted black. What was that all about anyway? Oh well.

Therein lies Memphis' Achilles' heel. They will never know what hit them. They are always too busy telling everyone how great they are.

South Carolina should play on Memphis' insecurities. Their star freshman guard will have a senior in his face by the name of Michael Boynton who is the antithesis of what Memphis is all about. And their coach ... there could not be two more diametrically opposed coaching styles than the run-and-gun let'em loose all-offensive philosophy of Calipari compared to the controlled pass-for-the-good-shot, play big-time defensive style of Dave Odom.

Ironically it is Memphis.

The Gamecocks have never won a game on the road against Memphis. Not at their place, not on a neutral court. The odds are it has got to happen sooner than later. And USC (careful, because in New York two years ago Memphis fans were quick to tell us that we were not 'the real USC') has not lost to a team with a tiger for a mascot this season. Ironically South Carolina has the opportunity to beat their fifth team of tigers when they travel to Kansas City.

Ironically as well, this will not be the first time this season that the Gamecocks have played on that court in Kansas City. Remember? Their season began to roll on that same court when they won the Guardians Classic there on November 25th of last year. Few Gamecock fans remember those SC wins because ironically that happened to be the same weekend that Lou Holtz was cleaning house and firing coaches right and left in the football offices.

If the South Carolina Gamecocks will go into this game against Memphis with the attitude that they are supposed to be there, that nothing there impresses them - no hoopla awe, no fear of the unknown - they can beat anyone on any given day and they will. Memphis will fluster under a good South Carolina defense if it is played to the Gamecocks' potential. Their fans will melt too, because they expect a first round rout of a team and program that they feel they are better than, and always have been. This group of overachieving Gamecock basketball players can set the record straight once and for all. Because this is when it matters. Forget the 4-15 overall record against Memphis. Forget the loss in the NIT finals. None of that matters. The Gamecocks will once again be dancing the Big Dance as the underdog and this is when it counts. It just so happens that the basketball gods were smiling on South Carolina this time, and ironically they get Memphis in the first round. SC fans should be very happy. Very happy indeed.

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