Sixteen-Step Program 

Charting the Tigers' course for the Final Four.

With the University of Memphis Tigers off to Oakland for their first Sweet 16 appearance since 1995 -- merely two wins shy of the program's third Final Four -- here are 16 factors that could contribute to a regional championship:

16) Come home, Rodney! If Jerome Bettis can end his NFL career by winning the Super Bowl in his hometown of Detroit, why can't Rodney Carney -- the Conference USA Player of the Year and the third-most prolific scorer in U of M history -- end his college career by cutting down a net in his hometown of Indianapolis?

15) Don't look ahead. Take this to heart, college hoops fans: There is no easy win in the NCAA tournament. Consider the odds you would have received back in November if you'd placed a bet on George Mason and Bradley knocking off North Carolina and Kansas.

14) Win this weekend's tournament. John Calipari views the NCAA tournament as a series of two-game tourneys. Win one, and you get to play another.

13) Gather, ye blue-clad faithful. With a pair of West Coast studs on hand, the Arena in Oakland will be filled with UCLA and Gonzaga loyalists. The Tiger booster club should belly up and fly the Blue Crew -- every last one of 'em -- to California before Thursday night's game with Bradley.

12) Remember Kansas City. The last time Memphis won a Sweet 16 game was on March 27, 1992, when the Penny Hardaway-led Tigers beat Georgia Tech in an overtime classic.

11) Forget Kansas City. The last time Memphis reached a regional final, they were drilled by Cincinnati on March 29, 1992. Hardaway led the Tigers with a meager 12 points. The Tigers were down by 10 at halftime and lost by 31.

10) Rewind the tape. Should the Tigers get by Bradley, they'll face a team they've already played (and beaten) this season. Back in November, Memphis topped UCLA, 88-80. Then, two days after Christmas, the U of M beat Gonzaga and its All-American, Adam Morrison. It's tough to beat a team twice in the same season. Study these blueprints.

9) Depth, times two. Much has been made this season of how deep Calipari can go on his bench. Well guess what. Bradley has a bench too. Lawrence Wright scored 14 off the pine against Pitt, and Will Franklin had 14 in the Braves' opener against Kansas. Whose subs will prevail?

8) Stay centered. Joey Dorsey had as many fouls as points (5) against Oral Roberts. He avoided foul trouble and was a force against Bucknell (12 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals).

7) Andre's Story -- Chapter Two. Every March we find "the story." A surprising star who rises to the occasion just as the arena lights get brightest. This was Andre Allen last week in Dallas. Eleven points in 19 minutes? The script is being written.

6) Shawne's game. Even with Morrison in town, the single most talented player in Oakland may be Tiger freshman Shawne Williams. My favorite number from a rather mediocre stat line against Bucknell was that only one of Williams' seven field-goal attempts came from beyond the arc.

5) Guards win championships. From Magic Johnson to Steve Alford, from Mike Bibby to Juan Dixon -- NCAA champions ride the play of their guards. So far, the Tiger guards have excelled. Darius Washington shot poorly against Bucknell, but Allen, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and Antonio Anderson combined for 30 points.

4) Keep the chip. Remember all the talk of Oral Roberts becoming the first 16-seed to beat a number one? In a world only Aretha Franklin could love, respect remains hard to come by for the 32-3 (!) Tigers. Use this as fuel.

3) Mark the date. Thursday night's game will be the 21st anniversary of one of the biggest NCAA tournament wins in Memphis history. On March 23, 1985, the Tigers beat Wayman Tisdale's Oklahoma Sooners to advance to the Final Four.

2) Anniversaries mean nothing. The Oakland regional final will be played on March 25th, the 23rd anniversary of Memphis losing to Hakeem Olajuwon's Houston Cougars in the 1983 Midwest regional semis.

1) Listen to your coach. "To have them play at their best every night is not possible. You can't have them climbing a mountain every day. ... The only way the ceiling of your team gets higher is for each of your players to get better. Now, your ceiling rises." -- John Calipari (January 26, 2006)

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