The Washington Times - December 13, 2008, 06:36PM

If I offered up a team that owned victories over Fairfield, Massachusetts, Chattanooga, Seton Hall and Marist and losses to Xavier (neutral) and Georgetown (road), you’d probably shrug at that profile.

As well you should. It’s completely bland, UMass’ defeat of Kansas notwithstanding.

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It’s also Memphis‘ resume to date, and it certainly isn’t the end of the world. The Tigers still have games against Syracuse, Gonzaga and Tennessee, so there’s chances for quality victories still lurking on the schedule.

But if the Tigers were to not collect a few decent nonconference wins, it might actually matter how they fare in Conference USA.

John Calipari’s team is still the favorite in that league, and the Tigers’ overall talent is simply in the stratosphere compared to the rest of C-USA. Granted, UAB’s decent. But it would still be surprising if Memphis loses more than a single game in conference play.

It’s not like the Tigers were completely wretched today at Verizon Center while losing 79-70 in overtime; Georgetown’s better, but not necessarily by much.

At the same time, this isn’t an Elite Eight team, either. Certainly not now, maybe not at all this season. The loss of Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts predictably hurts, but the Tigers also miss Joey Dorsey’s ruggedness.

Memphis will be an interesting team to track going forward. It’s a little reminiscent of Calipari’s 2003 and 2004 teams, which poked into the rankings late in the year and were bottom-of-the-top-25 squads that did little damage in the postseason.

It’s far too early to count out Memphis, especially with Tyreke Evans learning on the fly. But the Tigers aren’t as good as last year, and anyone who expects a continuation of recent seasons probably needs to adjust their outlook now that there’s evidence to the contrary.

Patrick Stevens