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Tigers' No. 1 cause for concern

BEHIND THE LINES

February 23, 2008|Bob Mieszerski | Times Staff Writer

John Calipari has been in this position before, coaching a No. 1-ranked team against No. 2.

The coach of undefeated Memphis, which plays host to No. 2 Tennessee tonight, hopes the outcome is better this time.

In a Final Four semifinal during the 1995-96 season, Massachusetts, which was coached by Calipari and ranked No. 1, lost to second-ranked Kentucky, 81-74.

Another bad omen for Calipari, who earned his 400th collegiate victory Wednesday when Memphis won easily at Tulane, is that No. 2 teams are 4-0 against No. 1s in games involving teams from the same state.

Through history, however, the top team still has an edge. Teams ranked No. 1 are 20-17 versus No. 2.

Memphis, which has won 45 regular-season games in a row, the eighth-longest streak in NCAA history, was no match for the Volunteers the last time they got together early in the 2006-07 season. Tennessee rolled, 78-56, in Knoxville. The only loss the Tigers have had in the regular season since then was a 79-73 defeat at Arizona on Dec. 20, 2006.

Although Memphis is 87-64 against the Southeastern Conference, the Tigers have lost 11 of 18 against Tennessee. Calipari is 17-12 versus the SEC and 2-2 against the Volunteers.

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Boxing

The world heavyweight unification title fight that almost nobody has been waiting for will take place tonight at Madison Square Garden.

Wladimir Klitschko, the International Boxing Federation champion, and Sultan Ibragimov, the World Boxing Organization champion, will meet in the first heavyweight unification match since Lennox Lewis defeated Evander Holyfield in their 1999 rematch.

The website Bodoglife.com has Klitschko, who is 49-3, favored at -330, meaning a bettor would wager $330 to win $100. Ibragimov, who is 22-0-1, is +230, meaning a $100 bet would return $230.

There are also plenty of proposition wagers being offered. Klitschko is 2-3 to win by knockout, technical knockout or disqualification and 13-5 by decision and Ibragimov is 9-2 to score by KO, TKO or DQ and 12-1 by decision. The odds the fight will end in a draw are 19-1.

Those who believe Klitschko will win in the first round can get 11-1, and the price on an Ibragimov win in the opening round is 40-1.

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Pro basketball

Although some so-called NBA experts do not agree, there are oddsmakers who believe the blockbuster trade Cleveland was involved in Thursday has made the Cavaliers a better team.

Bodoglife.com has dropped Cleveland, which acquired Joe Smith, Wally Szczerbiak, Ben Wallace and Delonte West, from 10-1 to 8-1 to win the Eastern Conference title and the Cavaliers are now 18-1 (from 20-1) to win the NBA title.

The website also posted 17 as an over/under number on how many wins the Cavaliers will have the rest of the regular season. They have 27 games left.

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bob.mieszerski@latimes.com

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