Saturday, February 24, 2007

Saturday For The Tigers - Great In The SEC, Miserable Elsewhere

Of all sports nicknames, “Tigers” is one of the most common. Since we’re in February, the Detroit Tigers are not yet in action. However, the college basketball world offered plenty of Tigers on Saturday. Their success depended entirely on what conference to which they belonged. It was a huge day for Tigers in the SEC, but depressing for all the other Tigers.

The LSU Tigers made the biggest splash with a 66-56 stunner over #3 Florida in Baton Rouge. Although the game matched two of last year’s Final Four, the Bayou Bengals were heavy underdogs as they entered with 9 losses in their previous 10 games. However, they got 18 points from Terry Martin and 17 from Garrett Temple, and they shut down the high-powered Gators on the defensive end. The Tigers even pulled off the shocker without leading scorer and rebounder Glen “Big Baby” Davis. Official reports attributed his absence to a pulled right quadriceps. Reportedly, as a Baby who attracts media attention, Davis was also distracted by rumors that a celebrity would try to adopt him.

Staying in the SEC, the Auburn Tigers finished off a season sweep of #25 Alabama with an 86-77 victory in Tuscaloosa. In 21 of its previous 22 trips to enemy territory, Auburn had gone home as Tusca-Losers. However, Quan Prowell and Korvotney Barber each scored 17 points to put the Crimson Tide’s NCAA tournament hopes in jeopardy. Responding to another loss to the hated rival school, Bama fired Mike Shula again.

Unfortunately for other Tigers, such good fortune did not extend outside the SEC. The Clemson Tigers continued their slide with a 59-54 setback at Boston College. On January 13, Clemson was 17-0 as it entered a road contest at Maryland. Things have changed quite a bit from that day, when the San Diego Chargers were the Super Bowl favorites and Britney Spears had hair. Beginning with a loss in College Park, the Tigers have dropped 9 of 11 to slip to the wrong side of the bubble. Exxon once had a slogan, “Put a tiger in your tank.” For Clemson the past six weeks, it’s been “Watch the Tigers as they tank.”

The Missouri Tigers also absorbed a bitter road defeat. Entering Saturday on a three-game winning streak, Missouri fell 82-77 in overtime at Nebraska. The setback dashed the Tigers’ faint NCAA tournament hopes, and not just because they dropped to 6-8 in Big XII play. By rule, any team that gets swept by Nebraska is automatically ineligible for the Big Dance.

All other Division I Tigers in action on Saturday went down to defeat. The Towson Tigers lost to Drexel. The Pacific Tigers did likewise to Cal State Northridge. The Princeton Tigers fell short at Harvard. And the SWAC provided a double-whammy to its Tigers, as Grambling succumbed to Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Jackson State could not handle Mississippi Valley State. You could argue that Princeton’s loss to the Crimson was cancelled out by Auburn’s win over the Crimson Tide. Plus, Towson, Grambling, and Jackson State had to deal with Dragons, Golden Lions, and Delta Devils, respectively. Those creatures sound pretty scary, but all Pacific had to do was maul a bunch of Matadors. That should be a breeze for Tigers.

The most high-profile of all Tigers had a disappointing Saturday because he was NOT in action. Tiger Woods was absent from the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship after being eliminated by Nick O’Hern in Friday’s third round. Woods is human, so his winning streak on the PGA Tour was bound to end sometime. However, the real loser was NBC, which will settle for the Geoff Ogilvy-Henrik Stenson final on Sunday. Ogilvy actually has great credentials, having won this event last year before capturing the U.S. Open. However, one NBC Sports executive asked, “Ogilvy??? Isn’t he the brainiac kid in The Bad News Bears?” Then the executive resumed his heavy drinking.

The Memphis Tigers also missed out by not seeing action on Saturday. The Conference USA schedule brings Memphis a guaranteed win every game, so John Calipari’s crew did not get their regular dose of victory this Saturday. Fortunately for the Tigers, they resume action Sunday at home against Houston. Memphis’s 13-0 league start has included 12 double-digit victories. Not that they need an edge, but the Tigers will even get to host the conference tournament at the FedEx Forum. Aware of the lack of suspense the tournament will bring, Conference USA officials are debating whether to market the event as “Bored in the USA” or “Disgraceland.”

As for Saturday, the glory belonged to the Tigers from LSU and Auburn. Last weekend, both schools were represented at NBA All-Star Weekend, as Auburn’s Charles Barkley outran Dick Bavetta, and LSU’s Shaquille O’Neal started for the Eastern Conference. Although Shaq’s team lost the game, both these former Tigers left Vegas as winners. Because neither guy hung out with Pacman Jones.