- The Washington Times - Monday, March 31, 2008

HOUSTON (AP) — The freshman from Chicago who wears No. 23 and soars all over the court just finished getting Memphis into the Final Four when fans began chanting “One more year!”

Then Derrick Rose picked up his South Region most outstanding player award, clipped a piece of the net and called his mom to share the moment. He kept it brief, though, because he didn’t want his teammates to see him cry.

It might be the only thing they have never seen him do.

Driving, dishing and dunking, going above the rim for rebounds and flying around to block shots, Rose led Memphis past Texas 85-67 yesterday for its first trip to the Final Four since 1985.

“I’m just living the dream right now,” said Rose, who finished with 21 points, nine assists and six rebounds. “Everybody back home happy for me and our fans back in Memphis are happy, so we’re just living it up.”

They should.

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 have been first, second or third in the poll all season. And to all the people who keep saying they would be the first No. 1 seed to lose, leading scorer Chris Douglas-Roberts can say, “See you in San Antonio.”

“I’m not sure if we’ll get the respect we deserve, but if we don’t, it doesn’t matter,” Douglas-Roberts said. “It’s four teams left now.”

Memphis will play UCLA and its freshman phenom, Kevin Love. 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 been back to the Final Four only once, 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.

This March, Memphis has treated the NCAA field like it a continuation of Conference USA play. This 18-point finish was the second-closest final margin.

“We just try to go out there and prove everyone wrong,” said bruising big man Joey Dorsey, who had 11 points and 12 rebounds.

The Tigers were a win away from the final weekend of the NCAA tournament each of the last two years but couldn’t get over the hump. Then again, Dean Smith never won a title at North Carolina until that other No. 23 came along, Michael Jordan.

Calipari even compared Rose to another icon of greatness, 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.”

Put it this way: The only time Texas (31-7) slowed Rose in the first half was when he got popped on the gash above his right eye and needed new tape and glue job.

Rose made his first four shots, and his fifth was a 3-pointer that went in, then spun out.

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