In the NBA, it's known as the Texas Triangle. Twenty-seven teams dread a road trip through Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio, a slump-starter that can turn the fortunes of a season.
Having lost in Dallas (to SMU), Houston (to Rice), and now El Paso, the 2010-11 Tigers have shaped their fortune with their own Texas Triangle. Dangling on the edge of consideration for an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament next month, Memphis will have three losses in the Lone Star State as its primary blemish come selection Sunday.
The Tigers scored their fewest points of the season, and lost by the largest margin. (The defeat was the Tigers' most lopsided since losing by 27 to UAB on February 16, 2000. You have to go back to March 5, 1998, for an uglier loss: a 28-point drubbing by Southern Miss.) They shot 33 percent from the floor and made only one of 18 three-point attempts. The C-USA leader in turnovers, Memphis held to form with 22 miscues. Will Barton led the U of M with 10 points, the last two coming on a meaningless dunk as time expired. Memphis native Randy Culpepper led the Miners with 20 points. UTEP shot 49 percent from the floor.
The Tigers remain congested among five other teams atop the Conference USA standings. Only four will receive byes into the C-USA tournament quarterfinals. With a record now of 21-8, the Tigers' best chance for a ticket to the Big Dance may well be winning that tournament. It begins March 9th, in El Paso, (wait for it) Texas.
Memphis travels to East Carolina next Wednesday, then wraps up the regular season on March 5th at FedExForum against Tulane.