KANSAS CITY, Mo. —- If there is something truly predictable about Greivis Vasquez, it’s that he’ll create a stir when introduced into a new environment.
If you’re around it long enough, you grow immune to it.
If you’re a reporter with a proclivity to adapt Wee Willie Keeler‘s adage (“Hit ‘em where they ain’t”) to covering a team —- that is, to not bother fighting the largest scrums and to try to talk to people when no one else is around —- you wind up missing out on some of Vasquez’s greatest hits.
That’s OK, since it’s an understood part of the gamble on my part.
Obviously, Vasquez made a lot of reporters’ days by ripping into Conference USA for being “pretty much questionable” (that was on the press conference transcript) and later declaring to apparently a rather large gathering of other writers that Memphis would have a losing record in the ACC.
Well, 1-for-2 isn’t bad.
The reality is Memphis played 10 games (out of 19) against conference foes who had RPIs below 150. After the Big East absorbed five league members and Conference USA went searching for more, the reality is the conference isn’t as good.
Let’s break down this year’s bunch into tiers.
No explanation needed.
Tulsa and UAB. These are two teams with the ability to beat NCAA tournament teams (Tulsa got Texas A&M, UAB got Arizona) that probably would have been perfectly respectable No. 12 seeds if they had upended Memphis and, in the case of Tulsa, avoided a silly loss or two along the way. It’d be fun to match them up against Virginia Tech and Miami.
Houston and UTEP. Here’s a couple top-100 teams, which means something. Virginia wasn’t a top-100 team. Neither was Georgia Tech. So these are a couple N.C. State-like groups (though the Wolfpack also wasn’t a top-100 team).
TIER JERMAINE TAYLOR
Central Florida. The Golden Knights had a superlative scorer, and that makes them more interesting than the rest of the remaining teams.
Marshall, Tulane, East Carolina, Southern Mississippi, Rice and Southern Methodist. Losing overall records. Losing conference records. Considering that combo and a residence in the No. 10 league in the RPI, it’s fair to say these teams are “pretty much questionable.”
And as for the contention Memphis couldn’t put together a winning record in the ACC? That’s highly unlikely. The Tigers wouldn’t run the table, of course, and probably would have wound up 11-5 or so. But here’s guessing Memphis will put on a display today against a team that actually went through the ACC with a losing record that might change Vasquez’s mind.
—- Patrick Stevens