Meet the Tigers

Alonso Tacanga

Don’t expect CSUN men’s basketball Head Coach Bobby Braswell to be in a smiling mood when he gets up this morning ready to take the flight that’ll take his team to its long-awaited return to an NCAA Tournament city.

Lack of time and sleep sometimes gets in the way of a cheerful awakening.

‘You just got to know how to compartmentalize,’ the coach said after arriving 40 minutes late to his own practice Monday afternoon. ‘It’s something I’ve had to learn to deal with.’

Braswell was forced to push the Matadors’ lone Northridge practice before taking off for Kansas City, Mo. because he attended his son’s court date and it ran late. Busy with personal affairs and winning championships, the coach hasn’t even had time to look at his Tournament rival, No. 3 Memphis.

‘I have to do a lot of (scouting) tonight,’ he said. ‘I’ll do it all evening, in the morning, on the plane. We’ll get caught up.’

Chances are the coach will be looking at great amounts of tape and not the newspaper of the institution he works for. Either way, students who have dreamed of seeing their school in the holy competition ‘- or ones who’ve jumped on the bandwagon ‘- might want to know some basics about the team that’s won 25 games in a row.

That was No. 1. No. 2 is, last season, the Tigers were runner-ups to win the NCAA championship. Had it not been for a Kansas last-second 3-pointer that sent the game into overtime, the Tigers would have been National champs.

That Memphis squad featured the 2008 NBA No. 1 draft pick: point guard Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls.

This season, they’re not half bad either. Memphis (31-3) has the least losses of any team playing in the tournament.

‘They’re athletic and long,’ CSUN point guard Mark Hill said. ‘They like to run. We like to run. It’s going to be a great game.’

Rose was a freshman before leaving for the NBA. In 2008-09, the Tigers struck gold again with another first-year player. Tyreke Evans, a shooting-guard-turned-point-guard, scores more than any of the Matadors (16.6 ppg.)

‘I’m not afraid to go up against those guys,’ CSUN forward Willie Galick said.

That’s less hard for a 6-foot-8 forward to say. Evans is 6-6. Hill, his match-up, is 5-10.

The Tigers also have something Braswell would like his team to emulate. Memphis is ranked No. 5 in defensive efficiency nationwide. They allow only 56.9 points per game.

‘We’re going to have to play a near flawless game,’ the defensive-minded coach said.
Possible it is. It’s happened before. Eight years ago, No. 15-seed Hampton took down No. 2-seed Iowa State.

Why not again?

‘They’re humans just like us,’ Galick said.