Texas vs. Memphis Preview
Texas vs. Memphis Preview
Texas vs. Memphis
By Brad Young
After all the games and upsets that make the NCAA Tournament so special, the top two seeds collide in the South Region’s Elite Eight. While ‘Cinderella’ teams like Davidson and Western Kentucky grab most of the spotlight, high seeds Texas and Memphis continue to topple opponents en route to Sunday’s matchup.
The Longhorns figured to take a step back this season with departed superstar Kevin Durant bolting for the NBA, but the school is just one victory away from their first Final Four since 2003. Texas captured a share of the Big XII title, and set a school record during the regular season with 26 victories. The Longhorns also have regular-season victories over Tennessee and UCLA, and have won 15 of their last 17 games.
Memphis has dominated opponents all season, and is just a possession or two away from an unblemished record. The Tigers’ lone setback occurred in a tightly contested home contest with Tennessee, so there will be no talk or extra pressure about being the first undefeated champion since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers. Memphis didn’t skate through an easy schedule either despite playing in the modest Conference USA, beating out-of-conference opponents UConn, Georgetown, Oklahoma, Southern Cal, Arizona and Gonzaga.
Caesars Palace currently lists Memphis as a three-point ‘chalk’ over Texas, with the total set at 144½. The Tigers opened as a two-point favorite, with the total set at 145. CBS Sports will provide coverage of the South Regional final from Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas beginning Sunday at 2:20 p.m. ET.
Texas (31-6 straight up, 17-14 against the spread) routed third-seed Stanford Friday as a two-point ‘chalk,’ 82-62. The combined 144 points toppled the 134-point closing total, helping the ‘over’ improve to 3-1 the past four games. The Longhorns have alternated ATS wins and losses their last six outings.
Texas lost the rebounding battle to the inside-dominant Cardinal, 40-37, but prevailed by shooting a stellar 50 percent (32-of-65) from the field. Four of the five starters reached double digits in scoring, led by guard D.J. Augustin’s 23 points, five rebounds and seven assists.
The Longhorns salted away the game with a 20-3 run after holding onto a narrow 52-51 advantage. Center Dexter Pittman contributed on the defensive end, helping keep Stanford’s Brook Lopez scoreless the last 13:55. The hefty sophomore center came off the bench to provide four points and six rebounds.
Memphis (36-1 SU, 15-19 ATS) throttled fifth-seed Michigan State Friday as a 5½-point favorite, 92-74. The Tigers had failed to cover their previous two contests. The combined 166 points soared past the 136-point closing total, enabling the ‘over’ to cash the third game in a row.
The Tigers dominated the Spartans, cruising after taking an incredible 30-point halftime advantage, 50-20. Memphis won the rebounding battle, 32-25, while shooting a robust 53 percent (31-of-59) from the field. The Tigers defense also limited Michigan State to just 28-percent shooting (5-of-18) from behind the arc.
Freshman guard Derrick Rose led all scorers with 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting, while grabbing four rebounds and dishing out five assists. Backcourt-mate Chris Douglas-Roberts added 25, while forward Robert Dozier contributed nine and 10. The defense really clamped down on Michigan State shooting guard Drew Neitzel, who managed just six points on 2-of-8 shooting.
Texas and Memphis actually collided back in 2006, with the Longhorns prevailing as a 5½-point road underdog, 69-58. However, many key players on both sides were still in high school during that contest.
Free-throw shooting remains one of the few chinks in both the Texas and Memphis armor. The Longhorns rank a lackluster 186th in the country at the charity stripe, while Memphis is 326 out of 328 teams by connecting at just a 59.2-percent clip. In a close contest, how a team fares at the free-throw line might determine which school punches its ticket to San Antonio and the Final Four.
Re: Texas vs. Memphis Preview
(2) Texas (31-6, 17-13-1 ATS) vs. (1) Memphis (36-1, 16-19-2 ATS)
Memphis rolled into the Elite Eight for the third straight year courtesy of Friday’s 92-74 rout of fifth-seeded Michigan State, easily cashing as a 5½-point favorite. The top-seeded Tigers closed the first half on a 15-0 run to take a 50-20 lead into halftime and never looked back in winning their 10th straight game. Memphis also covered the spread for the first time in the Tournament.
Prior to Memphis’ demolition of Michigan State, Texas handled Stanford wire-to-wire, cruising to an 82-62 victory as a one-point favorite. The second-seeded Longhorns, who have reached the Elite Eight for just the second time this decade, used a 20-3 second-half run to separate from the Cardinal and improve to 15-2 in their last 17 games (11-5-1 ATS).
Memphis’ season has ended in this round the last two years, as the Tigers got crushed by Ohio State in last year’s Elite Eight 92-76 as a two-point underdog after suffering a 50-45 defeat to UCLA as a 2½-point favorite in 2006. The Tigers haven’t reached the Final Four since 1985.
The last time the Longhorns got this far in the Tournament was in 2006, when they lost to LSU 70-60 in overtime as a three-point favorite. Texas hasn’t advanced to the Final Four since 2003.
These teams played a home-and-home series in 2005 and 2006, with Texas winning both games by scores of 74-67 at home (failing to cash as a 13½-point favorite) and 69-58 on the road (covering as a 5½-point ‘dog).
The Tigers are just 3-7 ATS during their 10-game winning streak, and they’ve cashed in only five of their last 18 games, all as a favorite. Additionally, they’re on negative ATS runs of 3-5 in Tournament play, 2-4 after a SU win, 1-4 outside Conference USA and 0-6 after a spread-cover, as they haven’t cashed in consecutive games since late January. On the bright side, Memphis is 4-1 ATS in its last five against the Big 12 and 4-1 ATS in its last five Tournament games when favored by less than seven points.
Texas is on pointspread runs of 8-3-1 at neutral venues, 8-3 as an underdog, 21-10-1 after a SU win and 4-1 against Conference USA. The only blemish is its 1-4 ATS slump when playing on Sundays.
Memphis is averaging 85.3 points per game on 49.4 percent shooting in the Tournament, while giving up 70.3 ppg and allowing foes to shoot 45.4 percent from the field. The Tigers have outrebounded all three opponents in the tourney and are plus-28 on the boards through three games.
Texas is putting up 77 ppg on 47.5 percent shooting in this event, but the Longhorns have really shined on defense, allowing just 62.7 ppg while limiting opponents to 34 percent shooting. Texas is plus-17 in rebounding, though Stanford had a slight 40-37 edge on the boards Friday.
The over is 4-0 in Memphis’ last four Tournament games (3-0 this year) and 4-1 in its last five non-conference games. Also, for Texas, the over is on streaks of 7-3 as an underdog, 7-0-1 as a neutral-site pup and 5-2 on Sundays. However, the under is 7-0 in the Tigers’ last seven against the Big 12 and 5-1 in the Tigers’ last six on Sundays. Finally, the two meetings between these schools in 2005 and 2006 stayed under the total.
ATS ADVANTAGE: TEXAS
Re: Texas vs. Memphis Preview
Elite Eight analysis & pick: Texas vs. Memphis
Texas vs. Memphis
Odds: -3½, 145
No Cinderellas here, just the top two seeds in the region and both are looking incredibly strong coming into the Elite Eight.
Even though the Longhorns are playing just a few hours’ drive from their home base in Austin, Tex., the home-court advantage seems to be dampened by the setup at Reliant Stadium. The court is elevated and the stands are set back a good 20 feet from the sideline, not at all like the close quarters in most campus gyms. So don’t factor that into your handicapping because both teams are sleeping in hotels rooms and eating at restaurants.
Texas’ 20-point win over Stanford was impressive, especially considering the size advantage the Cardinal had with their 7-foot twin towers. Although D.J. Augustin proved once again that he is the best point guard in the country, he wasn’t alone this time. Damion James and Connor Atchley were extremely effective finishing inside, even with Stanford’s big men in the way. Justin Mason also caused problems for the defense as he showed good quickness and a nice crossover dribble that helped him slash his way into the middle of the defense and create open looks for teammates (6 assists).
But Memphis is not at all like Stanford. Texas played a zone against Stanford and simply collapsed on the ball when it was passed to the post, knowing they didn’t have to worry about the perimeter shot. Stopping Memphis won’t be that simple because every player on the floor is a threat to score at any time.
The Tigers have big, strong, quick athletes at every position. Guard Chris Douglas-Roberts, at 6-foot-7, causes matchup problems for most teams, but Texas is lucky to have Damion James, who is just as big and almost as quick as CDR and should frustrate the C-USA Player of the Year because Douglas-Roberts is used to being matched up with either slower forwards or smaller guards.
The Longhorns’ forwards might get pushed around in the post a bit the beefy Joey Dorsey, but if Texas needs more muscle, they can utilize 300-pound Dexter Pittman who did a good job on the Lopez boys when he was in the game.
It’s hard to go against Memphis after they completely dismantled the Michigan State Spartans in the Sweet Sixteen, but Texas won't be as easily stopped. John Calipari knew if he wanted to shut down the Spartans’ offense, all he had to do was take Drew Neitzel out of the game. That was no problem for the 6-foot-3 Rose and with the bigger, faster guard all over him for 40 minutes, Neitzel finished just six points and State looked lost in the offensive end. But Augustine is a much more talented point guard than Neitzel, particularly off the dribble, and he’s surrounded by better offensive talent. This might be one of the only games Memphis has played this year in which they don't have a huge physical advantage over their opponent and that could be tough for the Tigers to deal with.
By all accounts, Texas matches up better with the Tigers much better than any team they’ve faced in the Tournament and with the points, they look like a live dog in the Elite Eight.
Re: Texas vs. Memphis Preview
I love the way Texas ran and doubled Stanford the other night, but you know Calipari is going to have Memphis prepared. Can't wait to see how this one plays out.
I have Texas in my bracket and I'm still alive! Could be biased, but I'll take the Longhorns getting 3.5 points, too. I think this one will go down to the wire...