Originally created 03/16/04

Memphis has young starters

Memphis coach John Calipari said Monday he'd likely start two freshmen, a sophomore, a junior and a senior for Friday's first-round NCAA Tournament game vs. South Carolina.

And he's not sure how such a youthful squad will respond to the pressure.

"We've got young kids," said Calipari, who will face the Gamecocks at 12:30 p.m. in Kansas City, Mo. "And you just don't know how they're going to respond. What you hope is that you've trained them all year, and they won't crack under pressure."

According to Calipari, that shouldn't be a problem for 6-foot-8 freshman forward Sean Banks, who led the team with 18.0 points and 6.9 rebounds per game and was Conference USA's Freshman of the Year.

He was also among the conference's leaders in 3-point shooting (39.2 percent) and is the only Memphis basketball player ever to hit at least six 3s in a game on four different occasions.

But his game has nose-dived a bit lately, and Calipari's looking to reverse that trend.

"He's performed all year," Calipari said. "He's wanted to take the game-winners. He's made the shots all year. My issue is that I have to get him to rebound like he was earlier in the year. He was averaging double-digit rebounds earlier in the year against good teams. He's gotten one rebound per game the last five games. We have to get back to getting him to go in and mix it up and get balls."

DIFFERENT RESPONSIBILITIES: Florida's Billy Donovan has been to the NCAA Tournament as a player and a coach. The mentality he brings as the head of the Gators program is just a little different than when he performed for Rick Pitino at Providence.

"The big thing as a player is understanding there's a very limited amount of time between games," Donovan said. "Sometimes, teams get a little bit tighter. Everybody realizes it's what one and done, and if you hear that, you have a tendency to tense up. As a head coach, you're concerned with everything.

"You're concerned about your staff and your kids' mental and physical well-being. As a player, you're worried about yourself, as a head coach, you have to be concerned about everything."

TUBBY'S WEARY: Although Kentucky is the top seed in the tournament, coach Tubby Smith isn't expecting any favors from his opponents.

"At this time of the year, you better come with your best because anybody can beat you," said Smith, whose team will face the winner of today's Florida A&M-Lehigh contest.

"It's the 65 teams competing for one championship. I don't know much about the advantage or disadvantage (of being No. 1). You look at it on paper, and you're supposed to have an advantage. But I know the capabilities of all the teams in this tournament. I'm not sure what advantage you have."

A LONG JOURNEY: Sure, Alabama has to play Southern Illinois in Seattle. But don't think Crimson Tide coach Mark Gottfried is too worried that his team has to make one of the longest treks of any team in the country.

"They could have sent us to Antarctica," he said. "Our guys didn't really care. We'll travel on Tuesday, and we play Thursday. We'll have enough time to get acclimated out there."

Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216

or josh.katzowitz@augustachronicle.com.


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