(8) Memphis vs. (9) Saint Louis: West Region
Memphis 26-8, 13-3 C-USA (Regular-season and Conference Tournament Champions)
Saint Louis 25-7, 12-4 A-10 (At large)
Time: 6:50 p.m. Friday
Location: Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio
Winner will face: (1) Michigan State or (16) Long Island, Sunday
Memphis No. 29 AP; No. 27 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Saint Louis No. 37 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Saint Louis 31
Line: Memphis -3½ (O/U 129)
Players to Watch
Memphis: G Will Barton, 6-6 So. (18.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 51.1% FG); G Joe Jackson, 6-1 So. (11.1 ppg, 3.8 apg, 1.3 spg); F Tarik Black, 6-8 So. (10.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 68.6% FG). After a slow start and erratic playing time, Black has been outstanding in the Tigers’ stretch run. He has made 30 of his last 38 shots and scored 36 points, and had 18 rebounds, four blocks and three steals during the C-USA Tournament.
Saint Louis: F Brian Conklin, 6-6 Sr. (13.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 53.3% FG); G Kwamain Mitchell, 5-10 Jr. (12.1 ppg, 3.8 apg, 1.3 spg); F Cody Ellis, 6-8 Jr. (10.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 39.5% 3s). After being suspended for all of last season, Mitchell returned for his junior year with a vengeance. Mitchell has scored in double-figures in 11 straight games and has had 16 assists during the Billikens’ 2-game A-10 Tourney run.
Why Each Team Dangerous
Memphis: The Tigers are among the handful of most talented teams in the country. They have a ton of offensive weapons and they go seven to eight deep with skilled players. While Memphis was a disappointment early, it has won seven straight, 11-of-12 and 15 of their last 17, winning regular-season and conference tournament titles. The Tigers scored 83 points – and could have scored more – in their last two C-USA tourney games. They shot 59 percent from the floor, 93 percent from the foul line and hit half of their 3s in the championship game win over Marshall. This team is scary explosive and they have held their last five of their last six opponents to 40 percent or under from the floor.
Saint Louis: The Billikens led the A-10 in scoring defense (57.5 ppg) and have one of the most efficient offenses in the country, averaging 1.09 points per possession. Much of that is because they can know down 3s, making 226 this year, and they have gotten to the foul line 612 times. Conklin gives Saint Louis toughness and leadership. Mitchell is a dangerous playmaker and scorer and Ellis is a deadly 3-point shooter. The Bills can go 10 deep and nine of the 10 are capable of big games. SLU has a solid 1.23-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and has a plus 2.8 turnover ratio. Oh, and SLU is very well coached.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
Memphis: Youth, immaturity and continuity have hindered the Tigers over the past two seasons, but that may be a thing of the past. The Tigers aren’t a great perimeter shooting team. Only two Tigers shoot better than 30 percent from 3. Memphis was out-rebounded by its opponents this season, and they turn the ball over nearly 13 times per game.
Saint Louis: Statistically, the Billikens have no glaring weaknesses. They only out-rebounded opponents by 1.7 per game. They don’t have much of an inside defensive presence and they allow too many offensive rebounds. Their center, Rob Loe, prefers to play on the perimeter. The current Saint Louis players have no NCAA experience.
The Bottom Line: All of the variables indicate that this is a Saint Louis win – or at least a Billiken cover. But these aren’t the same Tigers who accrued negative stats throughout the season. They’re just more athletic and talented than Saint Louis.
The Pick: Memphis 76, Saint Louis 69
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 198-150-6 (Through Tuesday, March 14)
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