With this many games, we are guaranteed to have some high-quality matchups on the college basketball hardwood. Arizona and Oregon should be a great one in Eugene and we have some good Big Ten tilts tonight, but let’s head to the AAC to take a look at the matchup between Memphis and Wichita State. The Shockers are up to -6 across most of the market with a total of 141 with early action on the over and also the home team.
This is the third true road game of the season for Memphis, though the visit to Portland to face the Oregon Ducks might as well count. The Tigers are coming off of just their second loss of the season in a 65-62 disappointment at home last Saturday. This is the second conference game for Memphis after knocking off Tulane on December 30 in something of a lackluster performance.
Wichita State’s only loss came at the hands of West Virginia and that loss has looked better as the season has gone along with the way that the Mountaineers have played. Since that game, Wichita State owns wins over Big 12 members Oklahoma State and Oklahoma and also beat VCU by 10 at home. The most recent beatdown of Ole Miss by 20 was a good final tune-up for the meat of AAC play.
Like Memphis, Wichita State has a conference win and it didn’t come as easy as it should have against East Carolina. But, it came, and that’s what matters. Now Wichita State steps up in a big way. This Memphis game is a tough one, but road trips to UConn and Temple may be even tougher, as Wichita State has played one true road game this season. Keep a close eye on this team, particularly if the Shockers look really good in tonight’s matchup.
We all know the old adage about assuming. I think it was probably fair to assume that Memphis would be known for its offense with a head coach like Penny Hardaway and all of the young, up-and-coming athletes in the program. It has actually been Memphis’s defensive acumen that has stood out this season. The Tigers are eighth in adjusted defensive efficiency per Bart Torvik and are actually second in eFG% on defense. The Tigers are in the top 35 in forcing turnovers, are second in both 2P% defense and Block%, and opponents are only shooting 28.3% on three-point shots.
The schedule really plays a big part here. Memphis has played only five games against top-100 opponents per Torvik. In those games, they have allowed 1.084, 1.128, .757, .714, and .905 points per possession. Those aren’t bad numbers by any means, but they’ve had the chance to pad their stats against some really bad teams like UIC, Alcorn State, Jackson State, and New Orleans. One of those top-100 teams is Bradley and they are not great offensively.
The strength of schedule argument plays for Wichita State, too. The Shockers have those three games against Big 12 foes and also played VCU. Other than that, their best opponent was South Carolina and the Gamecocks, despite a win over Virginia, have also lost to Stetson. The Shockers have not played a particularly good schedule this season, so this is a step up in class for them as well.
Whichever team takes better care of the basketball will win this game. Memphis ranks 306th in the country in TO% on offense at 22.1%. They make up for it by being 34th in TO% on defense at 23.3%. Wichita takes care of the basketball and has a similar TO% on defense to that of Memphis. The Shockers are at 16.8% on offense and 22.8% on defense. If Wichita State can snag some extra possessions, it should go a long way and that could very well be a primary reason why the line is on the rise.
The athleticism of both teams is clearly on display with the offensive rebounding numbers. Both teams rank in the top 40 per Torvik. Wichita State, though, is much better on the defensive glass. There seems to be a theme here with the stat comparison and the line movements that we are seeing. It looks like Wichita State will get some extra possessions in this game by forcing turnovers and getting offensive rebounds. If that is the case, Wichita State is also the more efficient offensive team. It would also require Memphis to speed up the game a little bit and they do play at a faster tempo.
Wichita State struggles to score on the interior. Memphis is great defensively there. This game will require Wichita State to knock down some long jumpers. Getting to the rim is very hard against Memphis. The Tigers have played at a slower pace than average in some of their bigger games. I think the under might actually be the way to look here. If Wichita State is grabbing extra possessions, they are the slower tempo team.
Pick: Under 141
Lean: Wichita State -6