Every time a team takes the field, it has to be ready to play. Plenty of great teams have been beaten by lesser opponents because they overlooked their competition.
The University of Memphis Tigers are by no means a "great" football team, so it is even more essential to come into every game ready to give all. Headed into their game this past Saturday (Nov. 30) against the Temple Owls, the Tigers were actually a 10-point favorite.
Perhaps that line got to Memphis' head because the Tigers certainly didn't live up to that projection. It was Senior Day at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium and unfortunately it wasn't the send-off that the upperclassmen would have imagined.
The last time the University of Memphis's basketball team met the Oklahoma State University Cowboys, OSU's sophomore guard Marcus Smart had a career day scoring 39 points, more than all four of Memphis' senior guards combined. At one point in the first half of that game, Smart was outscoring the Tigers by himself.
So it was easy to see that containing Smart would be the focal point of the rematch in Orlando on Sunday evening (Dec. 1). During the first half, Memphis was able to do just that but still trailed by 10 (42-32) at halftime and it looked like the Tigers might be setting themselves up for a big disappointment.
Then it happened. The Tigers rallied in the second half Memphis outscored OSU 41-26 and defeated the No. 5 Cowboys 73-68 to win the Old Spice Classic.
"We have been through situations similar to this," said Memphis center Marc Gasol, fielding questions from the media before the Grizzlies faced the Houston Rockets at FedExForum on Monday night (Nov. 25).
Gasol was referring to the fact that he will be out for the next few weeks recovering from a left knee injury he sustained in the loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Memphis on Friday (Nov. 22). An MRI revealed a left MCL sprain, putting the All-Star center out indefinitely.
"It's going to be a little different," said Gasol. "Roles are going to change a little bit, but I'm confident the team is going to play the way they are supposed to."
After getting run out of the gym by Oklahoma State's Cowboys, the Memphis Tigers looked to rebound this past Saturday (Nov. 23) against the Nicholls State Colonels. Regardless of the embarrassing loss, the True Blue Nation showed its unwavering support, packing the FedExforum.
And, the fans got what they came to see. The Tigers drummed the Colonels to the tune of a 98-59 victory. It was quite clear from the onset that Nicholls was outmanned.
With the OSU loss fresh on their minds, no one should have been surprised that Memphis came out hungry and dominated the game.
The Central Warriors (8-5) were playing their first quarterfinal game in school history against the White Station Spartans (9-4) at Crump stadium in a Class 6A matchup Friday night. A second-half thriller ended with Central on the short end of a 31-28 battle.
The stands at Crump stadium were filled with supporters from both schools at kickoff, with many still in line to be a part of a game that was stamped with a playoff atmosphere. The first half lacked offensive explosion and felt like it was going to be a dogfight, with a 7-3 halftime score.
The Spartans brought injured quarterback Cedric Wilson off the bench and he threw four touchdown passes in the second half, including a 5-yard pass to Terry Wright for the winner with 57 seconds left. Wilson finished 18 of 21 passing for 209 yards.
When the game is over and your team's players and coach are saying things like the other team is smart, they stick to their system and they hit some tough shots, well, that sounds like a loss.
And it was: San Antonio 102, Memphis 86. The Spurs won both halves, going into the locker room at halftime with a 14-point lead that grew by two points by game's end.
Despite those point gaps, the Grizzlies were not pushovers. Absorbing the loss of center Marc Gasol, who left with a strained left knee in the second quarter, Memphis battled back to tie the game in the second half.
As the No. 11-ranked University of Memphis Tigers headed into Stillwater, Okla. to take on the No. 7 Oklahoma State Cowboys, the spread on the game opened with Memphis a 6.5 point underdog.
Vegas is usually pretty close on their predictions, but the spread grew to 9.5 before tip-off. When a spread jumps by three points, it's usually a good indication that the gamblers are all betting one way and in this case it was on the Cowboys.
With that information in mind, no realistic True Blue fan should have had expected a win from the Tigers on Tuesday night. The real question would be how Memphis would respond to its first real test of the season against a top-ranked opponent.