Last year, the star of Josh Pastner's first highly touted recruiting class decided to throw caution to the wind and make the boldest of predictions.
"We're going to win the national championship this year," Will Barton said. "I'm guaranteeing it!"
Sure, Barton was merely having some fun and trying to motivate his teammates; there was no reason to hold his feet to the fire. Whatever, right? Still, needless to say, Memphis did not win the national title. In fact, the Tigers mostly sputtered, finishing fourth in Conference USA during the regular season. While the end of the season -- a nice run to the C-USA tourney title and a hard-fought loss to Arizona in the NCAA tournament -- was encouraging, it was far from the lofty heights Barton foresaw last summer.
Surely, the kid learned his lesson about predictions. Surely he wouldn't say something like that for a second straight year, would he? Right? Right?
Wrong. Barton was back at Memphis's annual High Tops Party Thursday, and he just couldn't resist doubling down. From the Memphis Commercial Appeal:
Barton, whose national championship guarantee at last year's High Tops Party garnered national media attention, stopped just short of doing so again. Then he did -- again.
"Coach Pastner said I can't say it," Barton told the crowd.
"If he says it, he's got to back it up," Pastner chimed in.
"I'm gonna say it then. We're going to win it all," Barton announced to a cheering crowd before turning to address a reporter. "Don't put this in The Commercial Appeal. I don't want to see it on ESPN or none of that this year. Let's keep it in the party. Off the record."
That didn't happen, unfortunately, but there is some good news: No one thinks Barton is being totally serious. No one is going to get mad about this prediction, at least no one reasonable. It's all in good fun.
Plus, this year it doesn't seem so farfetched. Memphis will begin the season ranked in the top 10 in many experts' polls, as the maturation of Barton's class with the addition of Pastner's stellar 2011 haul give the Tigers a chance to be a truly elite team this season. Are they good enough to win the national title? Who knows. But 2011's prediction is at least a degree less ostentatious than 2010's.
(Hat tip: Jeff Goodman)