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December 20, 2006

Calipari aware of challenge Memphis faces

Arizona tries to keep its win streak going on Wednesday against Conference USA opponent Memphis, who steps into McKale Center with an 8-2 record and ranked 18th nationally.

Memphis head coach John Calipari has experience coaching in college and the NBA. Calipari has been around for a while and knows the best way to find out where his young team is, is to schedule tough opponents.

That was the idea behind scheduling a home-and-home with Arizona and he's excited about the opportunity.

"What a great event for our team to be involved in," Calipari said at a Tuesday press conference. "What we're trying to do early every season is find out about our team, learn about them so we can do a better job of coaching them and prepare them for what lies ahead and this will be the ultimate challenge."

Calipari isn't going to be surprised by anything he sees on Wednesday. He has the utmost respect for Arizona's 2006-07 team and raved about what the Wildcats bring to the table.

"You start with the individual players they have," Calipari said. "You're talking about every position. You've got a senior point (Mustafa Shakur), you've got their two-guard (Jawann McClellan) who I keep saying was the kind of guy I always won with at UMass.

"(Chase) Budinger doesn't play like a freshman. When you talk about (Marcus) Williams and (Ivan) Radenovic … I can go on and on. They have unbelievable players that play together and then you have a Hall of Fame coach who gets them to play the way they want them to play. It's the ultimate challenge."

Arizona doesn't lose games at home very often and it's another reason why this is such a tough task for Memphis. However, Calipari knew what he was getting into from the beginning.

The last difficult game the Tigers played this season was at Tennessee and Memphis lost 76-58. Memphis hopes to perform a little better this time.

"They lose games in this building about once every three years," Calipari said. "That makes it kind of simple. But we need this. We need to find out where are we. When a team that is this good comes at you and tries to make some runs, how do you perform?

"We failed one challenge and it really showed us a lot about our team. We really shifted how we started working with them because of that game at Tennessee. Hopefully we've learned a little bit."

For Memphis, this game is a can't-lose situation. No matter what, the Tigers come out of McKale Center in better shape than when they arrived.

"It's huge for us if we win," Calipari said. "If we win this game it's huge. If you don't, you just lost on the road to a top-ranked team who never loses here who has a chance at doing some unique things."

Memphis will have its chance to upset the Wildcats at 6:30pm MST on Wednesday night.

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