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Final Four Times Three: Which Memphis Team is Best?


As the Memphis Tigers prepare to face UCLA Saturday night at the Final Four in San Antonio, here's a parlor game for Tiger fans to enjoy. Consider the starting lineups for the three Tiger squads to reach the Final Four -- 1973, 1985, and the current edition - and decide, position-by-position, which team comes out on top.

POINT GUARD: Bill Laurie (1973), Andre Turner (1985), Derrick Rose (2008) This is quite a trio. We can't give credit to Laurie for his post-Tiger success (married into the Wal-Mart empire and former owner of the NHL's St. Louis Blues). Laurie's job was to get the ball into the hands of three scorers -- Larry Finch, Ronnie Robinson, or Larry Kenon -- and little else.

Turner -- the Little General as he came to be known -- was more of an offensive threat, averaging 11.4 points in 1984-85 and dishing out more assists (763) than any Tiger in history. (Turner was his team's top scorer -- with but 11 points -- in the Final Four loss to Villanova.) Rose, by any other name, has been the new variable that has made an already strong Tiger team worthy of a number-one ranking (for five weeks), a top seed in the NCAA tournament, a school-record 37 wins, and a solid chance at the program’s first national championship. Rare is the freshman to earn third-team All-America honors, as Rose did this season. And he's embraced the national spotlight, averaging 20.5 points in the Tigers' four tournament victories. EDGE: 2008

SHOOTING GUARD: Larry Finch (1973), Vincent Askew (1985), Antonio Anderson (2008) No contest here. Anderson has been the widely acclaimed "glue guy" for the Tigers, and has been integral to Memphis accumulating a record of 103-9 over the last three seasons. He's John Calipari's defensive stopper and will be critical if the Tigers are to win two games this weekend. Askew scored 1,171 points in three seasons as a Tiger, averaging 8.3 in 1984-85. But he was a role player on a team dominated by bigger stars. Larry Finch was -- and remains -- Mr. Memphis Basketball. He averaged 24.0 points per game in 1972-73 as he became the program’s all-time leading scorer (he remains fourth on the list). And Finch was at his sharpshooting best at the Final Four in St. Louis, scoring 21 points against Providence in the semifinals and 29 in the loss to UCLA. EDGE: 1973

SMALL FORWARD: Billy Buford (1973), Baskerville Holmes (1985), Chris Douglas-Roberts (2008) Buford was a popular teammate on Gene Bartow's squad, but not a difference-maker. Like Laurie, he deferred to the Finch/Robinson/Kenon trio that made headlines, game in and game out. The late Holmes -- he died by his own hand in 1997 after killing his girlfriend -- delivered more than the greatest name in Tiger history. He averaged 9.6 points per game in 1984-85 and played in 12 NCAA tournament games (a record to be broken Saturday by five Tigers). As for CDR, the junior from Detroit became the first Tiger to be named first-team All-America since Penny Hardaway in 1993. Conference USA's Player of the Year, he is already among the top ten scorers in Tiger history. His point totals in this year's tournament: 23, 17, 25, 25. EDGE: 2008

POWER FORWARD: Ronnie Robinson (1973), Keith Lee (1985), Robert Dozier (2008) Dozier has been an important player this season as one of only three bigs Calipari uses in his rotation. A solid rebounder and defender, he's a complementary scorer who has merely lacked consistency. The other two men on this list have their uniform numbers hanging from the rafters of FedExForum. Robinson was Finch's partner in crime (at Melrose High School before Memphis State). He's one of only four Tigers to score 1,000 points and grab 1,000 rebounds. The Big Cat scored 24 points and pulled down 16 boards in his team’s win over Providence in the national semifinals. But Lee takes this position's prize. A four-time All-America (twice second team, once third-team, and first-team in 1985), Lee is the program’s all-time leading scorer (2,408 points) and rebounder (1,336). In all four of his seasons as a Tiger, Memphis State reached at least the NCAA's Sweet 16. Villanova put the clamps on him in Lexington, holding Lee to 10 points and seven rebounds in his final college game. EDGE: 1985

CENTER: Larry Kenon (1973), William Bedford (1985), Joey Dorsey (2008) If we were measuring solely the last four games Dorsey has played, the two-time C-USA Defensive Player of the Year might take the prize in the pivot. If he keeps this standard of play for two more games, Dorsey may return from San Antonio carrying a net. But it's hard to forget the dud he put up against Ohio State in last year's regional final. Bedford formed half of an imposing frontcourt duo with Lee in 1985 and became a third-team All-America a year later. (Sadly, he and Lee are probably the most disappointing NBA prospects in Tiger history.) Kenon was one and done as a Tiger before the expression became vogue in college hoops. But he was a force in 1972-73, setting a single-season record for rebounds (501) that still stands. Kenon scored 28 points and grabbed 22 rebounds in the national semis, then had 20 points and eight rebounds against UCLA. EDGE: 1973

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