#9 St. Louis Billikens vs. #8 Memphis Tigers -3
I was a bit surprised that Memphis fell as low as an #8 seed in the bracket, but I don’t think Coach Pastner can complain too much about their draw. St. Louis had a fine season, but will definitely have to shoot well to make up for some of the athletic deficiencies they are going to encounter when matched up against the running Tigers of Memphis. St. Louis moves the ball well and is well coached with Rick Majerus, but doesn’t have an answer for C-USA player of the year Will Barton.
Memphis has won eight straight, 11 of their last 12 and 15 of last 17 games overall. However, it isn’t just the win totals that are impressive, it is the manner in which they are beating relatively decent teams. In their last eight wins, they are averaging a point differential of over twenty two points per game. The wins include teams that appeared in the postseason like UCF and Marshall as well as Tulsa, UAB, Southern Miss and Xavier. In the last month they have begun to look like the team that was ranked as high as #9 in November.
As usual, Memphis challenged themselves outside of conference, which accounts for the majority of their losses. They suffered competitive early-season defeats to Georgetown (in OT) and Michigan, both top-4 seeds, as well as losses to Murray State, Louisville and Georgetown a second time. They also own wins over Tennessee, Xavier, and Belmont. So before you use the “yeah, but who have they beaten?” argument, I’d contend their C-USA foes compare quite favorably with this year’s relatively down Atlantic 10.
St. Louis’s best win out of conference was Washington, and after that a terrible Boston College team. They also have losses to New Mexico, a good ball club, and Loyola Marymount… a not good ballclub. Their season record against the A-10’s best, Xavier, Temple and Dayton was just 4-3. My point is not that St. Louis isn’t a good ballclub, rather it is to say they have a similar conference slate to Memphis, and were tested far less pre-conference than were the Tigers.
Memphis also has some impressive statistics on their side. They shoot nearly 50% from the floor (slaying the myth they can’t score efficiently) and hold opponents to a staggering 38%. Over their last five games, all against teams playing in the post-season somewhere, they shot 52% and held the other team to just 37%. That’s insane. Factoring in the momentum, the three point lay seems awfully generous if you want to back Memphis. I see them taking control of this game early with controlling the defensive end of the court, and using their athleticism to get enough easy baskets that they are not forced to rely on their at times shaky perimeter shooting.
Give me the Tigers laying the three.
Free Pick: Memphis Tigers -3