Terps plan to show Memphis they're forget-me-nots

March 21, 2009|By RICK MAESE

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -Memo to the Memphis Tigers: The Maryland men's basketball team will be those guys wearing red, seated about 15 feet away from you at Sprint Center today. If you need any more help, just ask.

You think I'm joking, but if the Tigers were to bump into any Maryland players in downtown Kansas City, let's say at Chipotle, they wouldn't know the Terps from any of the 400 NAIA teams that are also in town this week.

It might seem a bit odd, but that's apparently by design. Memphis coach John Calipari hasn't shown his players any film of Maryland.

Dave Neal is referred to as "that big guy." Adrian Bowie is "that little guy." And Greivis Vasquez? Well, they call him just about anything other than what his momma named him.

"Vasqwez - is that his name?" Memphis senior Antonio Anderson asked.

The point here isn't to poke fun at the Tigers and their approach. Coaches have broken down film of Maryland, and they'll finally review a bit of it with their players this morning, as is their routine. (And, to be fair, Vasquez didn't exactly know the zodiac signs of all of the Tigers either. "I'm horrible with names," he said of Anderson, the pesky defender who will be mere inches from Vasquez at times today. "If I see his face, I will tell you.")

But it's impossible to miss the on-court contrast this afternoon in the second round of the NCAA tournament - in style, in talent, but mostly in personality.

We have two coaches who are pointed toward the Hall of Fame. One who has found success through recruiting and the other despite it.

We have a Maryland team that feels the world is against it and a Memphis squad that acts as if the world is late with the rent check.

A Terps group that has had to work for even the easiest of wins. And a Tigers team that steps on the court as if victory is preordained.

"We came out kind of expecting to win," Memphis senior Robert Dozier said of his team's first-round scare against Cal State Northridge. "We didn't take them lightly, but everybody just had it in their mind, 'We can win, lets get this over with.' "

Maryland is a team that has learned the hard way it can't take anything for granted, whereas Memphis is a program ensconced in entitlement. On Selection Sunday, the Terps were tossed into the bracket as a 10th seed. Eighteen thousand people at Comcast Center couldn't have produced more noise than the Terps' team-only celebration. Memphis was a No. 2 seed. Watching the Tigers' reaction - more disgust than disappointment - you would think someone just disrespected their mothers.

Maryland players are thrilled with the prospect of being one win away from the Sweet 16. Memphis players will be disappointed if they don't return to the national championship game.

"The standard in Memphis right now is 30 wins, and if you don't get to 30, something is wrong, putting 'For Sale' signs in my front yard. That's what the standard becomes, and I call it rarefied air," Memphis coach John Calipari said. "Some of the stuff we're doing the last four years has never been done in college basketball history. Our people, our fans think, 'Well, this is how it's supposed to be now.' "

I point out these differences because it helps us appreciate the unexpected twist that has preceded today's showdown: One day after their respective first-round victories, Maryland players were the ones buoyed by confidence, while Memphis seemed to be truly humbled.

The Tigers don't know Cliff Tucker from Chris Tucker, yet they were reverential toward their second-round opponent. The Terps were also respectful, but not nearly as guarded with their thoughts as they had been in recent weeks. Responding to reporters' questions, Vasquez was unable to resist the cheese in the trap. He essentially said Memphis would be a middle-of-the-pack team if they were to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

"They'd have a losing record in the league, probably win all of their games outside the league, losing record in the league," he said.

Just Greivis being Greivis, I guess.

Still, it is reason for brief pause. Today should be a stark contrast. The Terps need to remember who's who, and how exactly they got this far. (Hint: It wasn't by talking.)

After the nail-biter against Cal State Northridge, don't expect the Tigers to take the court today expecting an easy victory. Calipari's staff has warned them about the fiery guard who likes to yap - Vasqwez? - and the big man who can pop out and shoot the three and the streaky shooter who comes off the bench. They're expecting a press, some zone, some man-to-man.

This morning they'll review a bit of film, and this afternoon they'll meet Maryland in person for the first time. I know of at least one person who's eager to introduce himself.

"They will know my name," Vasquez promised. "They'll know who I am tomorrow on the court."

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