The ebbs and flows of college basketball season are frustrating. From one half to the next, a game can look completely different and it always feels like you are on the wrong side of those scenarios. If you have an over, the teams will make everything in the first half and couldn’t shoot the ball into the ocean in the second half. If you have an under, like we did last night, a 54-point first half becomes a 98-points second half and your under 139.5 never had a prayer between Mississippi State and Kentucky.
Such is life with the grind on the college hoops hardwood. You pick yourself back up and give it another try. That’s all you can do, right?
So, we’ll give it another try today and we’ll do so in the AAC where the Temple Owls take on the Memphis Tigers. There are a lot of games that we could use today with a few major conferences in action, but I like to switch it up and to try and give several conferences a chance in the spotlight. Memphis is favored by 7.5 at BetOnline, but by 8 at Pinnacle and Bookmaker, so we do have some sharp money early in the betting process on the host Tigers. The total is 136.
This one didn’t make the cut for the college basketball situational spots article, but several games on tonight’s card did, so give that a look and make sure to check back in with it every day to see which games are offering up the best opportunities.
The AAC is a pretty darn good conference. We’ll see how many teams actually make the cut for the Big Dance, but there are three top-40 teams in Houston, Wichita State, and Cincinnati and more than half of the conference ranks in the top 100. Temple is not one of those teams, but the Owls do have a win over Wichita State on their resume. The problem is that Temple has really gone in the tank of late.
The Owls are just 3-6 in conference play and had lost seven of eight before beating East Carolina this past weekend. Temple even lost to Penn in the third of four games against Big 5 opponents. The game against Villanova is coming up on February 16, but Temple has three conference games to worry about before that.
Memphis has been riding the struggle bus of late as well, though not to the degree of Temple. The Tigers lost by 40 to Tulsa in a dismal performance back on January 22. They followed that up with a home loss to SMU, which was not a good look either. A two-point win at UCF seemed to inspire a little bit of confidence heading into the win over UConn at home, but Memphis is not the high-ceiling team that everybody expected.
A big reason why is because the NCAA screwed over projected #1 overall pick James Wiseman. Wiseman wasn’t the only highly-touted freshman for the Tigers, but he was the one that could dominate a game. Precious Achiuwa has played all 21 of Memphis’s games, but fellow frosh Lester Quinones has missed five and DJ Jeffries has missed two. Quinones missed his games in the non-conference, but has never fully gotten comfortable this season. Jeffries has been all over the map, but he just had zero points in 26 minutes in the win over UCF before sitting out the UConn game.
Sophomore Alex Lomax just snapped a long stretch of poor play with 13 points in that UConn win. His previous five games had been 0, 4, 0, 4, 4 in the points column and he hadn’t scored in double digits since the January 4 loss to Georgia.
This is one of the youngest teams in college basketball with only one senior playing regular minutes. Everything else goes to freshmen and sophomores. As you would expect, the team has gone through a ton of growing pains and inconsistent play. The most incredible thing about all of this is that Memphis has one of the nation’s best defensive teams. The Tigers are first in eFG% against on defense and eighth in adjusted defensive efficiency. Achiuwa is one of the nation’s premier defenders at the rim, as Memphis ranks second in Block% and second in 2P% defense. Admittedly, that isn’t what we expected from first-year head coach Penny Hardaway.
Legendary Temple head coach Fran Dunphy retired and Aaron McKie took over. Temple has lost its offensive identity. The Owls were 62nd in adjusted offensive efficiency per Bart Torvik last season, but they are 249th this season and rank 324th(!!) in 2P% on offense at 44.8%. The odd thing is that McKie keeps pushing the pace with this poor offense, as Temple ranks 67th in adjusted tempo.
Temple’s defensive prowess has been quite solid. The Owls rank 33rd in eFG% on defense. That is almost good enough to offset being 300th in eFG% on offense. The problem is that Temple has fallen off even more in conference play. The Owls are still defending the 3 well, but their eFG% on defense is up to 47.2%. It was 43.6% in non-conference play. Temple’s adjusted offensive efficiency is last among the 12 teams in the AAC in conference action.
There are two offensive stats that stick out like broken and mangled thumbs for the Tigers. The first is that they rank 343rd out of 353 teams in TO% on offense with a TO rate of 23.4%. They are also 265th in FT%. In conference play, Memphis has the worst TO% on offense at 24.9%. As a result, their offense has suffered, particularly of late. The Tigers have also fallen off a little bit defensively after playing a pretty weak non-conference schedule.
This is a tough game to pick because both teams look fade-worthy right now. Temple can’t get out of its own way offensively and Memphis can’t take care of the basketball. Temple was even 23-of-75 from the floor in the loss to Penn and 23-of-58 in the loss to UConn.
The poor offensive efficiency from Temple for the season and Memphis of late is the reason why we have a total of 136 here, even though this game is likely to be played at 73 or 74 possessions. Memphis just played a 77 possession game against UConn and it fell 133.
I’ll lay the lumber with Memphis tonight, as scary as that is. Temple’s offense gets even worse on the road and they don’t have a lot of athletes that can match up with Memphis. The Owls are 344th in eFG% in away/neutral games and 352nd in 2P%. They’ll have to hit threes to stay in this one and I don’t see that being the case. Try to get a 7.5 while they still exist.
Pick: Memphis -7.5