Where should Bobby Petrino coach next?

The regular season is over for most college football teams, which means coaches are getting fired and the hunt for a replacement is taking place.  Enter Bobby Petrino, the former head coach for the Arkansas Razorbacks, Atlanta Falcons, and Louisville Cardinals.  While Petrino is without a doubt one of the best coaching candidates available this year, his past indiscretions will make it difficult for a college football program to hire him.  He was fired fromArkansasafter crashing his motorcycle with his mistress on the back of it (and tried to cover it up), he left the Falcons 13 games into his first season as head coach to take theArkansasjob, and he took theAtlantajob shortly after signing a 10 year extension atLouisville.

He has shown a lack of loyalty and poor judgment at each of his past head coaching spots, so why would anybody hire him? It is a simple answer, Petrino wins games. And if you are a program looking to regain the glory and prestige of years past, winning is all that matters.  A 4-3 bowl record, combined with two BCS bowl appearances, a 75-26 head coaching record, and several top 10 finishes in his eight year college coaching tenure will make Petrino one of the most sought after coaches of the offseason.

So where should he coach next? Here is a list of schools Petrino should show interest in coaching.

Tennessee
The Volunteers are fresh off of their third straight losing season under former head coach Derek Dooley and are hungry for a return to national relevance.  Offensively the Vols are one of the most talented teams in the nation, ranking in the top 25 nationally in passing yards, points per game, and total offense.  If he can convince players like Justin Hunter and Cordarelle Patterson to forgo the NFL draft, then the Vols will bring back one of the most talented offensive units in the nation.  Something that should make the offensive minded Petrino happy.  His offenses have routinely been able to outscore opponents, so the transition atTennessee should be easier than another coaching position.

Auburn
Everyone knows that Petrino interviewed for theAuburn job a few years ago and did not get it.  Now, thanks to the recent dismissal of Gene Chizik,Auburn is looking for a coach and Petrino would be an excellent candidate.  True Chizik is just two years removed from a national title, but this season’s 0-8 SEC record along with the fact that he had a 15-17 conference record meant that a change had to be made.  The development of quarterbacks after Cam Newton left was one of the biggest issues that Chizik could not seem to figure out.  Petrino does a great job improving his quarterbacks (see Ryan Mallet and Tyler Wilson for example) and he will get the best out of Kiehl Frazier if he is hired as the head coach atAuburn.

North Carolina State
This is one of two programs looking for a head coach that has a winning record for the 2012 football season (Purdue is the other school).  Yet, the reason why N.C. State is a good fit is mainly because it is the best available job not in the SEC.  Which means an easier road to a BCS Bowl, and that means more money and possible opportunities for a coach who is known to jump ship at the sight of a better job.  There are only two ACC teams ranked in the BCS poll (Florida State and Clemson) and Petrino should be able to win games and compete for a conference championship sooner here than at any other location. 

California
A trip to the west coast might not be a bad idea either, especially at a program likeCal.  The Golden Bears are hungry for a winning season and might be willing to overlook Petrino’s past mishaps.  It is not necessarily a rebuilding job inBerkeley, although this year’s 3-9 record indicates otherwise.  Thanks to the job that formerCal coach Jeff Tedford did in his 11 year tenure, the Golden Bears are now a respectable program and a good coaching fit for Petrino’s offensive genius.  Fans are yearning for the glory days when Aaron Rodgers was the quarterback and the Golden Bears had one of the most potent offenses in the nation, and if there is one thing Petrino can do it is coach a high powered offensive attack.

Arkansas
Sure they fired him, but now the Razorbacks faithful know how much they need Petrino.  The Razorbacks administration should amend his firing to a one year suspension and bring him back.  After all, everyone deserves a second chance.  Just make sure to put a motorcycle clause in his contract.

CJ Hurt covers college football for MemphiSport.  Follow him @churtj09 for live tweets from different college football games throughout the Mid-South.

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Week 13 TAM Rankings: New No. 1 thanks to Ole Miss defeating Mississippi State

There is a new number one TAM team this week for the fourth time this season, and nobody saw this coming at the start of the year.  Vanderbilt now sits alone at the top of the TAM rankings thanks to an impressive 8-4 record and a win by Ole Miss over former No. 1 Mississippi State.  The Bulldogs drop one spot after their embarrassing loss to the arch rival Rebels, who jump both Sun Belt teams to secure No. 3 in the rankings.  Speaking of the Sun Belt Conference, MTSU and Arkansas State  square off on Saturday to determine the conference champion. Tennessee started a new win streak against Kentucky to end the year with a win. Memphis also ended their year on a good note with their third straight win.  Arkansas finished one of the most disappointing seasons in TAM history with a hard-fought loss to LSU, while Southern Mississippi could not find a way to muster up any wins on the year. 

The Mid-South is full of fans with allegiances to different area college football programs. Which FBS program in the three states surrounding the Memphis area is the best? To help end some arguments and start others, every week MemphiSport ranks all the college football teams in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. We call it the TAM Rankings.

1.  Vanderbilt (8-4): Last week No. 2
Last Game: 
W 55-21 vs. Wake Forest @ Groves Stadium
Next Game: 
Best Win:  41-18 Tennessee @ Vanderbilt Stadium
Worst Loss: 48-3 Georgia @ Sanford Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: 2 (Ole Miss and Tennessee)
Losses Against TAM Teams: N/A

2. Mississippi State (8-4): Last week No. 1
Last Game:
L 41-24 vs. Ole Miss @ Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium
Next Game: 
Best Win: 28-10 vs. Auburn @ Davis Wade Stadium
Worst Loss:  38-13 Texas A&M @ Davis Wade Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: 3 (Tennessee, MTSU, and Arkansas)
Losses Against TAM Teams: 1 (Ole Miss)

3.  Ole Miss (6-6): Last week No. 5
Last Game: 
W 41-24 vs. Mississippi State @ Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium
Next Game:
Best Win:  41-24 vs. Mississippi State @ Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium
Worst Loss:  66-31 Texas @ Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: 2 (Arkansas and Mississippi State)
Losses Against TAM Teams: 1 (Vanderbilt)

4.  Arkansas State (8-3): Last week No. 3
Last Game: 
W 41-34 vs. Troy @ Movie Gallery Veterans Stadium
Next Game:  vs. MTSU @ Liberty Bank Stadium
Best Win:  45-23 vs. Louisiana-Monroe @ Liberty Bank Stadium
Worst Loss: 26-13 vs. Western Kentucky @ Liberty Bank Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: 1 (Memphis)
Losses Against TAM Teams: N/A

5.  MTSU (8-3): Last week No. 4
Last Game: 
W 24-21 vs. Troy @ Floyd Stadium
Next Game:  vs. Arkansas State @ Liberty Bank
Best Win: 49-28 vs. Georgia Tech @ Bobby Dodd Stadium
Worst Loss:  27-21 vs. McNeese State @ Floyd Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: 1 (Memphis)
Losses Against TAM Teams: 1 (Mississippi State)

6.  Tennessee (5-7): Last week No. 6
Last Game: 
W 37-17 vs. Kentucky @ Neyland Stadium
Next Game: 
Best Win: 35-21 vs. North Carolina State @ Georgia Dome
Worst Loss:  41-18 vs. Vanderbilt @ Vanderbilt Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: N/A
Losses Against TAM Teams: 2 (MississippiState and Vanderbilt)

7.  Memphis (4-8): Last week No. 8
Last Game:  W 42-24 vs. So. Miss @ Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
Next Game:
Best Win: 46-9 vs. UAB @ Legion Field
Worst Loss:  20-17 vs. UT-Martin @ Liberty Bowl
Wins Against TAM Teams: 1 (Southern Mississippi)
Losses Against TAM Teams:  2 (Arkansas State and MTSU)

8.  Arkansas (4-8): Last week No. 6
Last Game:
L 20-13 vs. LSU @ Razorback Stadium
Next Game: 
Best Win: 
24-7 vs. Auburn @ Jordan-Hare Stadium
Worst Loss:  52-0 vs. Alabama @ Razorback Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: N/A
Losses Against TAM Teams: 2 (Ole Miss and Mississippi State)

9.  Southern Mississippi (0-12):  Last week No. 9
Last Game: 
L 42-24 Memphis @ Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
Next Game: 
Best Win:  N/A
Worst Loss:  40-14 Boise State @ M.M. Roberts Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: N/A
Losses Against TAM Teams: 1 (Memphis)

 

CJ Hurt covers college football for MemphiSport. Follow him @churtj09 for live tweets from games.

 

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NFL Picks Week 13: Nov 29 – Dec 23

Photo courtesy of the Houston Texans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Week’s record 8-8, 114-63 year to date record

 Team and Location                                 Line                  Who will win

New Orleans at Atlanta

-3.5

Saints will win 31-27

Seattle at Chicago

-3.5

Bears will win 21-20

Minnesota at Green Bay

-8.0

Packers will win 27-17

San Francisco at St. Louis

+7.0

49’ers will win 24-10

Arizona at NY Jets

-4.5

Jets will win 14-10

Carolina at Kansas City

+3.0

Panthers will win 21-13

Indianapolis at Detroit

-4.5

Lions will win 24-21

Jacksonville at Buffalo

-6.0

Bills will win 17-14

New England at Miami

-7.5

Patriots will win 24-21

Houston at Tennessee

+5.5

      Texans will win 27-14

Tampa Bay at  Denver

-7.0

Broncos will win 31-21

Pittsburgh at Baltimore

-7.5

Ravens will win 21-10

Cleveland at Oakland      PK

Raiders will win 17-14

Cincinnati at San Diego

+2.0

Chargers will win 14-10

Philadelphia at Dallas

-10.0

Cowboys will win 34-21

NY Giants at Washington

+2.5

Redskins will win 27-24

 

Terry Davis covers the Tennessee Titans for MemphiSport. Follow him @Terryd515.

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MSL: Thanksgiving Weekend 2012

HOUR 1:

(Segment 1) Kevin Cerrito and Marcus Hunter talk about whether or Tiger fans should push the “Panic Button” after losing to VCU and Minnesota at the Battle for Atlantis.
(Segment 2) Hang Up & Listen

MemphiSport Live

HOUR 2:

(Segment 1) Cerrito tells everyone why Memphians should cheer for Ole Miss in the 2012 Egg Bowl and Marcus Hunter disagrees during SEC Shout Outs
(Segment 2) TV/film critic and Oscarologist Greg Akers joins Kevin Cerrito and Marcus Hunter to talk about Justin Timberlake during his regular Last Saturday of the Month segment.
(Segment 3)  Woohoos and Boos.

MemphiSport Live

Click here for more MSL interviews.

Kevin Cerrito and Marcus Hunter host MemphiSport Live (MSL) on Sports 56 & 87.7 FM every Saturday from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm. MSL was voted 3rd Best Sports Radio Show in the 2010, 2011 & 2012 Memphis Flyer Best of Memphis poll.

Follow the MSL hosts on Twitter @cerrito @marcus_hunter

Justin Timberlake’s FedExForum debut as Grizzlies owner causes brouhaha

Use #GrizzNation or #gotigersgo on all your Grizzlies and Tigers tweets and instagrams to increase your odds of being included in our social media stories at MemphiSport.com.

New Grizzlies minority owner Justin Timberlake makes surprise appearance at team’s shoot around

Renowned singer, actor, and businessman Justin Timberlake recently joined new Grizzlies majority owner Robert Pera’s minority owner group. Timberlake, a Memphis native, made a surprise appearance at the Grizzlies’ shoot around Friday morning as they prepared to host the Lakers.

Memphis Grizzlies reserve shooting guard Wayne Ellington is accustomed to hearing trash talk while out on the court.

Just not from his boss.

Such was the case Friday morning during the team’s shoot around in FedExForum. As the Grizzlies (8-2) were wrapping up their one-hour light practice in preparation for Friday night’s Western Conference showdown versus the Los Angeles Lakers (6-6), Ellington and fellow teammates Quincy Pondexter and Josh Selby had the luxury of working out briefly with renown singer and actor Justin Timberlake.

Timberlake, 31, a Memphis native, in September agreed to join new Grizzlies billionaire majority owner Robert Pera’s ownership group, joining rapper Jay-Z (Brooklyn Nets) and actor Will Smith (Philadelphia 76ers) as the NBA’s only famous minority owners.

During the Grizzlies’ shoot around Friday, Timberlake strolled out on the court wearing sweat pants, a T-shirt, and winter hat, then immediately went after a loose ball and began talking jump shots just inside of the free throw line.

For a while, Ellington sensed his famous boss was sending hints that he was up for a game of H-O-R-S-E.

“He was talking a little trash,” Ellington jokingly said of Timberlake, who headed toward the Grizzlies’ locker room after his brief impromptu workout. “He was asking us can we shoot and did we have a little money with us.”

Timberlake, who did not speak to reporters Friday, has built a good reputation as a businessman in recent years, something that, along with his strong ties to the area, were appealing to Pera. Pera, a former Apple engineer, left the company in 2005 to start Ubiquiti Networks, a San Jose, Calif.-based communications technology company that makes WiFi networking equipment. He agreed in June to purchase the Grizzlies from ex-owner Michael Heisley in June for a reported $350 million.

(Click here to read ‘Does Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel’s marriage move the Grizzlies to the top of celebrity owned sports franchises?‘)

That Timberlake has become a minority owner for the Grizzlies has added more star power to a franchise whose ownership team also includes current Denver Broncos quarterback and Super Bowl 41 MVP Peyton Manning and former four-time NBA All-Star and fellow Memphian Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway.

Timberlake’s brief appearance Friday at the Grizzlies’ shoot around even prompted players such as Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, and Marc Gasol to return to the arena after the team’s walk-through to get a glimpse of arguably the most prominent personality within the Grizzlies organization.

“I think he’s pretty cool,” Ellington said of Timberlake. “That was my first time meeting him. For me to see him in movies and stuff like that then out on the court as one of our owners, that’s pretty cool. It’s great for our team. It’s great for our organization. It’s great for our city.”

Andre Johnson covers the Grizzlies for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Game Preview: Rebels host Bulldogs in annual Egg Bowl

The Egg Bowl is one of the most anticipated games of the year in Mississippi.  The Ole Miss Rebels will host the annual game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs.  The Bulldogs (8-3, 4-3 SEC) has already secured a post season bowl game.  While the Rebels need to win this game in order to qualify for a bowl game.  The Rebels (5-6, 2-5 SEC) are coming off of a two win season last year and has been one of the surprises of this season for the SEC.  First year head coach Hugh Freeze has sold a new mind set to the Rebels and they have bought into his philosophy.  The Rebels leads the series 6-42-6 and has an advantage in Egg Bowl games 54-25-5.  The rivalry is tied for the eighth-longest uninterrupted series, as the NCAA considers Saturday’s game the 98th consecutive year that the two schools have faced each other.

Keys to Ole Miss defeating Mississippi State:

Ole Miss and Miss State will battle in the Annual Egg Bow. Photo courtesy of the University of Mississippi

Eliminate mistakes.  The Rebels have lost three games this season Texas A&M, LSU and Vandy that they should have won.  The reason they lost all three of these is simple the turned the football over in critical situations.  Mistakes are not limited to just turnovers, but making sure everyone does their assignment.  Players can’t afford to have unforced penalties or unnecessary personal fouls.

Play hard the entire game.  The Rebels have lost three games in the final minutes of the game.  The Rebels have lost the last two games by a total of 7 points.  Ole Miss has jumped out to big leads and has not been able to hold those leads.   The Rebels will look back onto to this season with should’ve, could’ve and would’ve thoughts.

Have a better balance on offense.  The running game has left the Rebel late in the season.  Jeff Scott has not been as productive in the last few games.  Scott has to run for a hundred yards to give the Rebels a better chance to win.  Bo Wallace threw for 403 yards last week against LSU.  Defensive back Johnathan Banks will be one of the best players that Wallace will face this season and has to be careful when challenging him.  Donte Moncrief will have to play smart against Banks also.

Control the emotions.  Senior and Homecoming games are two of the most emotional games to play for home teams.  Saturday is also senior night for the Rebels, 22 members of the Ole Miss team will play their last home game.  The Rebels have been through an emotional rollercoaster this season and this game could begin to put the program back on the map with a win.

Control the line of scrimmage.  Bulldogs quarterback Tyler Russell has 2, 522 passing yards and Chad Bumphis has 758 receiving yards.  Gabe Jackson is one of the best offensive linemen in the country and he will be protecting Russell.  The Rebels defense will need to continue to bend but don’t break during the game.

Terry Davis covers Ole Miss football for MemphiSport. Follow him @Terryd515.

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Week 12 TAM Rankings: Vanderbilt is challenging Mississippi State for No. 1

This week was full of big wins, crushing losses, and a coaching change for the TAM teams.  Mississippi State remained perfect against TAM teams after defeating Arkansas in convincing fashion.  The Rebels are the only thing that stands between the Bulldogs and an undefeated TAM record.  Ole Miss needs to beat Mississippi State to become bowl eligible, so there is a lot on the line for this year’s Egg Bowl.  Vanderbilt beat Tennessee so bad that the Vols decided to fire their coach.  If Vanderbilt beats Wake Forest, and Mississippi State loses, the Commodores will end the year as the No. 1 TAM team.  Arkansas State has a late bye week to get ready for their Sun Belt showdown against MTSU, and if the Blue Raiders beat Troy  on Saturday, these two TAM teams will be playing in a defacto conference championship game.  Memphis is on a two game win streak after pummeling UAB, and the Tigers have a chance to finish with a winning conference record.  All they have to do is beat the winless Golden Eagles in this year’s Black and Blue Bowl.

The Mid-South is full of fans with allegiances to different area college football programs. Which FBS program in the three states surrounding the Memphis area is the best? To help end some arguments and start others, every week MemphiSport ranks all the college football teams in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. We call it the TAM Rankings.

1.  Mississippi State (8-3): Last week No. 1
Last Game:
W 45-14 Arkansas @ Davis Wade Stadium
Next Game:  vs. Ole Miss @ Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium
Best Win: 28-10 vs. Auburn @ Davis Wade Stadium
Worst Loss:  38-13 Texas A&M @ Davis Wade Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: 3 (Tennessee, MTSU, and Arkansas)
Losses Against TAM Teams: N/A

2.  Vanderbilt (7-4): Last week No. 2
Last Game: W 41-18  Tennessee @ Vanderbilt Stadium
Next Game:  vs Wake Forest @ Groves Stadium
Best Win:  41-18  Tennessee @ Vanderbilt Stadium
Worst Loss: 48-3 Georgia @ Sanford Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: 2 (Ole Miss and Tennessee)
Losses Against TAM Teams: N/A

3.  Arkansas State (8-3): Last week No. 3
Last Game:  W 41-34 vs. Troy @ Movie Gallery Veterans Stadium
Next Game:  vs. MTSU @ Liberty Bank Stadium
Best Win:  45-23 vs. Louisiana-Monroe @ Liberty Bank Stadium
Worst Loss: 26-13 vs. Western Kentucky @ Liberty Bank Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: 1 (Memphis)
Losses Against TAM Teams: N/A

4.  MTSU (7-3): Last week No. 4
Last Game:  W 20-12 vs. South Alabama @ Ladd-Pebbles Stadium
Next Game:  vs. Arkansas State @ Liberty Bank
Best Win: 49-28 vs. Georgia Tech @ Bobby Dodd Stadium
Worst Loss:  27-21 vs. McNeese State @ Floyd Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: 1 (Memphis)
Losses Against TAM Teams: 1 (Mississippi State)

5.  Ole Miss (5-6): Last week No. 5
Last Game:  L 41-35 vs. LSU @ Tiger Stadium
Next Game: vs. Mississippi State @ Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium
Best Win:  30-27 vs. Arkansas @ Razorback Stadium
Worst Loss:  66-31 Texas @ Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: 1 (Arkansas)
Losses Against TAM Teams: 1 (Vanderbilt)

T6.  Tennessee (4-7): Last week No. 6
Last Game:  L 41-18  vs. Vanderbilt @ Vanderbilt Stadium
Next Game:  vs. Kentucky @ Neyland Stadium
Best Win: 35-21 vs. North Carolina State @ Georgia Dome
Worst Loss:  41-18  vs. Vanderbilt @ Vanderbilt Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: N/A
Losses Against TAM Teams: 2 (Mississippi State and Vanderbilt)

T6.  Arkansas (4-7): Last week No. 7
Last Game: L 45-14 vs. Mississippi State @ Davis Wade Stadium
Next Game:  vs. LSU @ Razorback Stadium
Best Win:  24-7 vs. Auburn @ Jordan-Hare Stadium
Worst Loss:  52-0 vs. Alabama @ Razorback Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: N/A
Losses Against TAM Teams: 1 (Ole Miss)

8.  Memphis (3-8): Last week No. 8
Last Game:  W 46-9 vs. UAB @ Legion Field
Next Game: vs. Southern Mississippi @ Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
Best Win: 46-9 vs. UAB @ Legion Field
Worst Loss:  20-17 vs. UT-Martin @ Liberty Bowl
Wins Against TAM Teams: N/A
Losses Against TAM Teams:  2 (Arkansas State and MTSU)

9.  Southern Mississippi (0-11):  Last week No. 9
Last Game:  L 34-33 UTEP @ M.M. Roberts Stadium
Next Game:  vs. Memphis @ Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
Best Win:  N/A
Worst Loss:  40-14 Boise State @ M.M. Roberts Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: N/A
Losses Against TAM Teams: N/A

 

CJ Hurt covers college football for MemphiSport. Follow him @churtj09 for live tweets from games.

 

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To Be or Not to Be? Can Pastner’s Tigers Finally Beat a Top 25 Opponent?

-Photo by Justin Ford

To be or not to be? That is question. Okay, so the debate over whether Memphis can finally defeat a Top 25 team under Josh Pastner’s regime many not exactly rival Shakespearean drama, but it is definitely in the minds of both his most fervent supporters and his most vehement detractors. Right or not, it seems that as far as followers of the University of Memphis basketball program are concerned, Pastner is either revered or reviled. Just like any situation involving Tiger basketball, it seems that fans and media alike seem to take an extreme position.

So to silence his critics (at least temporarily), Pastner’s Tigers desperately need to beat a high caliber opponent, and the sooner the better. But what are the odds that it happens this season? The truth is, there simply might not be many opportunities. At this exact moment, only one team on the schedule is currently considered by the AP or USA Today/ESPN pollsters to be on the top 25 programs in the country. Their first opponent in the Bahamas, VCU, started the season just outside the top 25, but a loss in their opener quickly dropped the Rams from consideration. Of course if Memphis manages to beat Virginia Commonwealth, they likely have a meeting in store with a consensus top 10 program in Duke, but beating the Blue Devils might be a bit much to ask of the overmatched Tigers. And no one, including fans or pollsters, would be too shocked if Memphis comes up a bit short there.

So jump ahead to mid-December, and Louisville pops up on the schedule. The Cardinals will definitely still be in the rankings, but it will take a stellar effort from the Tigers to upset Rick Pitino’s team, even though Memphis gets them at home. Several publications have picked the Cards to cut down the nets in March, and it may take a Herculean effort just for Memphis to keep the game close.

And after that, the chances to knock off a ranked team drop off even further. Tennessee is on the radar in both polls, but it’s difficult to predict whether the Vols will crack the top 25 at some point this year, and what are the odds that UT will be ranked on January 4 when they face the Tigers? Add to that the fact that the game is on the road, and even though Memphis defeated Tennessee twice last year, that was prior to Jarnell Stokes’ being eligible. And you can rest assured that he will be looking to play his best against his hometown team.

It’s unlikely that a C-USA foe will be ranked at any point this year. Even if one of those teams gets hot and piles up an impressive record, the putrid reputation of the conference may be enough to keep them off of the voters’ radar.
The eye test will tell you that this team may not have what it takes to make the kind of push needed to post a trademark win. Early showings for this Tigers squad may not be a good sign either. So far Memphis has displayed: a lackluster narrow win over an undersized CBU, an uninspired second half against North Florida and a team that simply failed to show up against Samford. And the team showed that the same problems that have plagued them in recent seasons continue to fester. The players seem to be unable to get up for games against supposedly inferior opponents, although one would think that lack of motivation would no longer be an issue for a mostly veteran laden team. They seem to lack that killer instinct that big time programs seem to develop. And that is not the recipe for beating ranked opponents.

That’s not to say that the Tigers can’t have a remarkable record this season, but odds are this simply won’t be the year where Pastner gets his first victory over a top 25 opponent. At least in the regular season. What does it say about the current Memphis head coach? Honestly, not much. The guy is a recruiter beyond compare at this point in his career, and the Tigers are lucky that he chooses to be here. So though affinity for the man seems to wax and wane among Memphis fans, he is the no doubt the best option for this team. The bigger question is, is this the right core group of players?

The bonus here is, if Memphis does somehow pull out a couple of top 25 victories this year, it may just mean that something very special is brewing. So let the drama unfold. Even if it’s not quite Shakespeare.

Michael Jones covers Tiger basketball for MemphiSport. Follow him @MemphisMichaelJ.

Grizzlies star Zach Randolph providing holiday assists off the court to local communities

Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph, who leads the NBA in double-doubles, has become a fixture in the Memphis community in recent years, providing assistance to hundreds of poverty-stricken families since he joined the franchise three years ago. (Photo by Chris Evans)

Tameka Kimble stood in line for nearly 90 minutes Tuesday afternoon at Booker T. Washington  High to receive one of the 500 Thanksgiving food baskets purchased by Memphis Grizzlies star Zach Randolph.

She didn’t even think of complaining during what seemed to be a long wait, considering her prayers for the holiday were about to be answered.

“It felt like an hour,” Kimble, who has two children who attend Washington, said with a big smile. “It was worth it. I feel like they didn’t have to do it, but they did.”

Hundreds of South Memphis residents turned out in BTW’s gymnasium to receive food baskets as part of the Grizzlies’ Season of Giving, which began Nov. 15 and runs through the week leading to Christmas. For Randolph, Tuesday marked the third time in less than a week the 12-year veteran power forward has reached out to poverty-stricken communities for the holidays.

A week ago, Randolph purchased food baskets for families of 450 students at Carver High, which is in close proximity of BTW. Then, on Sunday, hours after the Grizzlies’ road game against the Charlotte Bobcats, Randolph visited his native hometown of Marion, Ind., where he gave away 500 more baskets. Tuesday was more of the same as 500 baskets were removed from a 54-foot trailer outside the school and covered about a third of the floor in BTW’s gym.

One by one, students and local residents were given baskets that included a turkey, ham, chicken, macaroni and cheese, stuffing, green beans, and brownie mix, among other things.

“This community has embraced me and I have embraced this community back,” said Randolph who, in between handing out baskets, posed for photos and signed autographs with fans. “I mean, it’s a perfect fit. I don’t do it for the cameras and the attention. I do it from the heart.”

Randolph, in fact, said his latest acts of benevolence overshadowed what he has been a somewhat challenging week for the Grizzlies’ second-leading scorer and the NBA’s leader in double-doubles.

Earlier on Monday, league officials fined Randolph $25,000 for confronting Oklahoma City’s Kendrick Perkins in the locker room area at Chesapeake Arena following their ejections in the closing minutes of the Grizzlies versus Thunder game Nov. 14. Later that evening, Memphis witnessed its eight-game undefeated streak end in a 97-92 loss to the Denver Nuggets in FedExForum.

“It’s basketball and emotions fly and it’s a part of the game,” Randolph said of the fine. “Hopefully, I can try and get some of my money back. But you live and you learn.”

Still, Randolph deemed it an obligation to provide help to the less-fortunate in a Memphis-area neighborhood that is reminiscent of his hometown, largely because he knows what it’s like to be raised in an impoverished household.

“I was in situations where I didn’t have a lot coming up in a single parent home,” said Randolph who, in April 2011, signed a four-year extension with the Grizzlies worth $71 million ($61 million guaranteed). “So I can relate to these people and they can relate to me. So it’s an understanding.”

Randolph, who, two years ago, received the NBA Cares Community Assist Award, has become a fixture for providing assistance to downtrodden communities throughout the Bluff City.

Randolph, posing for a photo with his family, distributed Holiday food baskets as part of the Grizzlies’ Season of Giving Tuesday at Booker T. Washington High School in South Memphis. (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

In March, Randolph donated $20,000 for the second consecutive year to Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA) to cover utility expenses for as many as 100 homes throughout the Memphis. Last year, he was presented with the “Community Hero” award during a banquet by Memphis Light Gas And Water President and chief executive officer Jerry R. Collins, Jr.

Washington principal Alisha Kiner, whose school made national headlines in May 2011 when President Obama spoke to its graduating seniors after the school won the White House’s Race to the Top Commencement Challenge, was ecstatic that Randolph offered to aid her 500-plus students for the holidays.

“He just said he wanted to choose BTW (to distribute baskets) and we accepted,” Kiner said. “Some the kids, their parents weren’t able to furnish a huge meal. (Randolph) did it for Carver and that’s great being we are in a high needs area.”

Like Randolph, other Grizzlies also have made holiday rounds throughout the city to offer help to the less fortunate.

Rudy Gay, Memphis’ franchise player, on Wednesday distributed food baskets to approximately 400 Frayser-area families of Frayser High students. Also, on Sunday, Grizzlies forward Quincy Pondexter gave away 400 baskets to a number of his Twitter followers and families of Power Life Academy at New Direction Christian Church during his community giveaway called “Random Acts of Q-Ness.”

“It’s a good thing,” Kimble said as she exited BTW’s gym, barely able to hold her basket filled with food. “I’m glad they didn’t forget where they came from and gave back.”

Even if it meant standing in line for nearly 90 minutes to have her prayers answered.

Andre Johnson covers the Grizzlies for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.