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Tigers need to do more than ‘win’ to beat stereotype

Josh-Pastner-600Most of us would agree that stereotypes are generally a bad thing. It's not a good practice to assume things about people or situations without knowing all the details. Even with this being said, many people have to fight preconceived notions on a daily basis.

If sterotypes are generally false, then why would people still choose to believe them? It's because although deep down stereotypes tend to be overblown exaggerations about a large group of people, sometimes – repeat sometimes – there is still a kernel of truth.

For example, everyone has heard the "dumb jock" stereotype. Now, are all athletes idiots? Certainly not. Are there some meatheads among the group? You betcha!

But is that enough to continually reinforce a blanket association? I don't think so.

The University of Memphis basketball team has to fight a stereotype of its own. Many people think that Memphis is continually over-ranked and that its soft conference schedule allows the Tigers to pad the win column. They say that Memphis has a fan base that is blinded by 20-win seasons and C-USA titles.

Maybe these critics have point!

Before Tuesday night, the Tigers led the nation with an 18-game winning streak. They have already wrapped up the conference regular season title with three C-USA match ups remaining. These feats are nothing to scoff at, yet how much weight do they carry?

After a 64-62 loss to Xavier on the road (Feb. 26), the Mempis stereotype continues to pervade the minds of the masses. Hey, an 18-game win streak is impressive! Many teams would love to boast of such an accomplishment.

Unfortunately, that type of win streak coupled with a loss to the first out-of-conference team Memphis has faced in over a month only feeds the thought pattern. Frankly, it's hard not to agree on some level.

The Tigers are still 24-4 and all of their losses are to worthy advisories (Louisville, VCU, Minnesota and Xavier). In the eyes of a national audience, aren't those the games that Memphis needs to win to validate themselves. Doesn't the shine of 24 wins diminish when one realizes Memphis truly hasn't beaten a top program this season?

Memphis head coach Josh Pastner has done a great job in his short tenure at Memphis in many aspects. He is a great recruiter and the Tigers have won a share of the conference title (either regular season or conference tournament) three out of the last four seasons.

However, Memphis has not beaten a Top 25 team or won an NCAA tournament game with Pastner at the helm – facts that are becoming tougher to overlook. Especially when you take into account the Tigers run C-USA and have 20-plus wins a season. Something isn't translating.

Memphis has three games left on the schedule and a bid for the NCAA tournament is already clinched. Still, the outcomes of their remaining contests will heavily influence their seeding come mid-March.

Stereotype or not, the True Blue Nation has high expectations. These 20-win seasons and conference titles have become expected. What might earn a coach a pay raise or contract extension at other programs has become the norm for the Tigers' tired and true.

Look for the conversation about Pastner's ability to win games against top competition to heat up over the coming months. Another loss in the regular season, anything but a conference tournament title, or an early exit from the big dance will only add fuel to this fire.

No one can argue Pastner's character; however, at the end of the day it's all about winning.

And sometimes nice guys do....

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