HOUSTON (AP) — John Calipari was sitting at a table alongside his players, savoring the joy on their faces as they talked about making the Final Four. Then he noticed a television next to the podium and the images going out from this news conference.
Realizing that Chris Douglas-Roberts was wearing his South Regional champion hat backward, Calipari went over and told him to turn the cap around. Derrick Rose noticed and did the same.
Now that his guys have finally broken through, Calipari doesn't want to give critics anything else to use against them.
"I get disappointed when these young people are judged by how they wear a hat, they are judged by a tattoo," Calipari said. "These young men that I'm coaching have unbelievable hearts, they are so unselfish. … They are intelligent and they are great kids."
Darn good basketball players, too.
With Rose giving plenty of highlight-reel fodder and Douglas-Roberts leading in scoring as usual, the Tigers routed the Texas Longhorns 85-67 Sunday in a game that was rarely even that close.
Mighty Memphis' size, speed and athleticism overwhelmed Texas so much that Longhorns swingman Damion James said, "That was an NBA lineup."
The rout extended into the stands as the few thousand blue-clad folks cheering for the Tigers managed to drown out the 25,000 or so in burnt orange. They managed a noticeable wail of "Final Four!" and later chanted "One more year!" when Rose was selected the regional MVP.
There's a lot more to holler about, too.
The Tigers tied the NCAA Division I record for wins in a season, with their only loss coming to a team ranked No. 2 at the time. They've been first, second or third in the poll all season.
Note to UCLA, which will play Memphis on Saturday: The Tigers have run over the NCAA field with as much ease as they did the Conference USA crowd. They led wire-to-wire in two of the four games and have yet to trail in a second half. They're winning by an average of 15.75 points.
They even seem to have cured their free-throw woes. After making 75 percent against Michigan State, Memphis nailed 83 percent against Texas.
"I'm not sure if we'll get the respect we deserve, but if we don't, it doesn't matter," Douglas-Robert said. "It's four teams left now."
The Tigers and Bruins have a nice little history, having met in a regional final two years ago and in the 1973 title game.
Memphis has only been to the Final Four once previously, with Keith Lee leading the way in 1985. But that trip was vacated according to the NCAA record book because of rules violations. Ditto for the only other time John Calipari coached a team to the Final Four, UMass in 1996.
The Tigers have been close to getting back, losing in the regional finals the past two years. The difference this year is Rose.
The kid from Chicago who wears No. 23 even plays with a Michael Jordanesque flair — driving, dishing and dunking, going above the rim for rebounds and flying around to block shots. And that was just in the first half. The only time Texas (31-7) slowed Rose was when he got popped on the gash above his right eye and needed new tape and glue job.
"I'm just living the dream right now," said Rose, who finished with 21 points, nine assists and six rebounds. "Everybody back home is happy for me and our fans back in Memphis are happy, so we're just living it up."
Calipari even compared Rose to Tiger Woods. Actually, Calipari brought it up last weekend, when he passed along an article about Woods to Rose, telling him, "This is who I believe you can be, physically, skill-wise."
"He's got to improve, got to get on the range a little bit and get that stroke right, but he also has the mental capacity and the mental toughness and the intelligence to be unique and special. And it sets him apart," Calipari said.
"He's been that way since we got him, so it's nothing I've done with him. He just has a will to win. It may be with a defensive stop. It may be with a rebound that he nicked his head on the rim as he went to get it. It may be outrunning the entire field when he started behind everybody. It may be a steal, a dive, a tip out of nowhere, and then again it may be a drive, baseline and dunk on their team."
In this game, the Longhorns sure could've used Kevin Durant, last year's national player of the year. But for the season, they did awfully well without him — and without any hotshot freshmen.
Led by sophomore point guard D.J. Augustin, Texas won the most games in school history and two more tournament games than they did with Durant. And if Augustin doesn't turn pro, the Longhorns could have all five starters back next year.
"You know, we didn't want our road to end right here," guard Justin Mason said, "but we're going to work hard like we did last summer and we'll be back and get ready for next year."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.