Memphis made a statement on Saturday afternoon by going into Hattiesburg and soundly beating Southern Miss.
The final score was 89-76, and while the game was closer than the final would indicate, the Tigers were in control for the majority of the second half.
It was as good as the Tigers have looked all season, particularly on the offensive end of the floor, and it came as they beat a Golden Eagle team that was sitting at 18-5 overall and 7-1 in Conference USA on the road. That’s precisely the kind of performance that you expect to see out of a league title contender, and it’s the kind of win that you expect an NCAA tournament team to be able to earn.
The problem, however, is that this win is going to ring hollow.
Southern Miss has mastered the art of RPI manipulation. They were sitting at 43rd nationally heading into this game despite the fact that Donnie Tyndall’s club was 0-5 against the RPI top 100. Their best win to date? Either at home against Denver or on the road at Georgia. That’s not pretty. And it’s exactly why the national reaction to this win will more or less be ‘meh’.
These are the games that Memphis is supposed to win. You know. Because they’re Memphis.
And it also puts them on the exact same trajectory that they were on a year ago. Memphis struggled through non-conference play in 2011-2012, recovering enough as the calendar turned to reel off an impressive winning streak and enter the NCAA tournament as one of the nation’s trendiest sleeper picks. Only, the Tigers went and lost to St. Louis in the opening round.
Fool me once, shame on you.
Fool me twice, shame on me.
How many people are going to see this result and want to avoid being fooled by the Tigers once again?
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.