Memphis vs. UCLA Preview

Memphis vs. UCLA Preview

Memphis vs. UCLA
By Brad Young

Even though both Memphis and UCLA are number one seeds playing in the Final Four, there are few similarities between these schools. The Tigers are playing in their first Final Four since 1985, while the Bruins are making their third consecutive trip to this stage. UCLA remains the most dominant school in college basketball history, winning 11 titles behind such marquee players as Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton.

There are also a ton of similarities between these teams heading into Saturday’s matchup. Besides being number one seeds, both schools have won 30-plus games the last three seasons. The Tigers and Bruins are also led this year by sensational freshman.

Memphis freshman guard Derrick Rose wrapped up the South Regional Most Outstanding Player by going for 21 points, six rebounds and nine assists in the Elite Eight victory over Texas. UCLA freshman center Kevin Love captured the West Regional MOP award by posting 19 points and 10 rebounds against Xavier.

These schools also have some Final Four history after meeting in the 1973 championship game. UCLA throttled the Tigers in that contest, 87-66, behind Bill Walton’s 44 points.

Caesars Palace currently lists Memphis as a two-point favorite over UCLA, with the total set at 135. This contest opened as a ‘pick,’ with the total set at 134 ½. CBS Sports will provide coverage of Saturday’s contest beginning at 6:05 p.m. ET from San Antonio’s Alamodome.

Memphis (37-1 straight up, 16-19 against the spread) advanced to the Final Four after beating the last two teams by 18 points. The Tigers throttled Texas in the South Region final Sunday as a 3 ½-point favorite, 85-67. The combined 152 points toppled the 144½-point closing total, helping the ‘over’ cash the fourth consecutive contest.

Memphis jumped out to an 11-point halftime advantage (39-28), and finished the contest by outrebounding the Longhorns, 34-31. The Tigers shot 50 percent (26-of-52) from the field while limiting Texas to just 36 percent (25-of-69). Guard Chris Douglas-Roberts led all scorers with 25 points including 14 points from the free-throw line, while forward Joey Dorsey contributed 11 and 12 rebounds.

Memphis tied a Division I record for wins in a season, with its lone loss occurring to Tennessee when the Vols were ranked second. The Tigers have remained in the top-three of the polls all season.

Memphis sports a 17-0 SU and 9-7 ATS record away from home, winning those affairs by an average score of 77-63.

UCLA (35-3 SU, 21-14 ATS) has also dominated teams en route to San Antonio after routing Xavier Saturday as a 6½-point ‘chalk,’ 76-57. The Bruins had failed to cover their previous two affairs. The combined 133 points slithered ‘over’ the 132-point closing total, helping the ‘over’ cash the second consecutive contest.

UCLA entered halftime with a 33-24 advantage, and finished the contest by outrebounding Xavier, 34-26. The Bruins shot a robust 54 percent (28-of-52) from the field, while limiting the Musketeers to just 36 percent (21-of-58). Four starters reached double digits in scoring, led by Love and guard Darren Collison’s 19 points and five assists.

Coach Ben Howland’s team is 16-1 SU and 11-5 ATS on the road, winning those contests by an average score of 76-58.

Memphis and UCLA met twice on neutral courts during the 2005-06 season, splitting those affairs. The Tigers prevailed in November 2005 as a 6 ½-point ‘chalk,’ 88-80, while the Bruins triumphed in the 2006 NCAA Tournament as a three-point underdog, 50-45.

Memphis guard Andre Allen is expected to miss Saturday’s matchup with the Bruins due to a team suspension.

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Re: Memphis vs. UCLA Preview

Final Four analysis & pick: Memphis vs. UCLA
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Memphis vs. UCLA

Well, this is a bit of a surprise. After a season in which they couldn’t shake the doubters and second-guessers, the Memphis Tigers go into the Final Four laying chalk against UCLA, the pre-tournament favorite.

Before the tipoff of this year’s tourney, the UCLA Bruins were listed by Las Vegas oddsmakers at +450 to cut down the nets in San Antonio, while Memphis had the longest odds of any of the No. 1 seeds at +600. Despite a 33-1 record and a non-conference schedule that included eight Tournament teams, a lot of people thought Conference USA wasn’t an appropriate breeding ground for NCAA champions.

I guess after watching them dominate a Texas team that beat UCLA at Pauley Pavilion earlier this year, a lot of bettors changed their minds (bettors can be so fickle). This line opened with Memphis at -1 (a pick ‘em at one Vegas sportsbook) but a flood of Memphis money forced bookies to jack the spread to -2 and even -2 ½ at some shops.

It’s not surprising that people have changed their minds about this team. Against Texas, it was finally evident that the size and length across the board on this Tigers roster will tip the scales in their direction against almost any team in the country. Texas had no shortage of talented players, especially in the backcourt, but with Chris Douglas-Roberts at 6-foot-6 and Derrick Rose at 6-foot-3, the Texas guards couldn’t seem to get a good look at the basket and ended up going 10-34 from the floor. As a team, the Longhorns shot 36.2 percent from field-goal range and 32.1 percent from beyond the arc.

But the Bruins match up much better with the Memphis guards. At 6-foot-5, Josh Shipp is nearly as big as Douglas-Roberts and Russell Westbrook also has decent size for a guard. Darren Collison (6-foot-1) still gives up a couple of inches to Rose, so you can probably expect a big game from the Tigers’ freshman, whose play will go a long way in determining the outcome of this game. Rose, has taken advantage of size mismatches throughout the tournament and, in addition to his scoring output, has averaged six rebounds per game – not a contribution most teams would expect from a point guard.

Memphis also has some big men in the frontcourt, but against UCLA, it looks like they won’t have the advantage. Joey Dorsey (6-foot-9, 265 lbs) is usually able to outmuscle opponents in the paint, but against the 260-pound Kevin Love – probably the most skilled and athletic big man in the nation – he’ll have to worry about a lot more than fighting for position and wrangling rebounds. Although Dorsey is a good athlete, you have to give the edge to Love in that matchup.

Don’t be fooled. This will be a very different game from the one Memphis played with Texas. Although the Bruins lost to the Longhorns earlier this season, UCLA is a much more physical and balanced team and will be much more difficult to defend – particularly on the perimeter.

And then there’s the X-factor: Kevin Love. Dorsey is big enough to match up with the UCLA wunderkind, but when Love starts making fade-away jumpers and spin moves in the lane, Dorsey could find himself in foul trouble. Even if Dorsey manages to avoid fouls, UCLA will certainly try to get the ball in his hands as often as possible and he’s proven throughout this tournament that he’s more than equal to the challenge. If I had to choose between freshman phenoms that will take over this game, my money is on UCLA's big man.

Pick: UCLA

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(1) Memphis (37-1, 17-19-2 ATS) at (1) UCLA (35-3, 21-14-2 ATS)

Back in the Final Four for the third straight year but still looking for that elusive national championship, UCLA takes on Memphis, which is back on college basketball’s marquee stage for the first time in 23 years.

UCLA, which had to battle Texas A&M to the finish in the second round, then hold off a game Western Kentucky squad in the Sweet 16, pounded Xavier 76-57 last Saturday as a six-point chalk to win the West Regional. The Bruins snapped a two-game ATS skid and have now won 14 straight contests, though they’ve gone just 7-7 ATS in that span, including 3-5 ATS in their last eight starts.

Memphis hammered Michigan State 92-74 laying 5½ points in the Sweet 16, then capped a dominant weekend by drubbing Texas 85-67 Sunday as a 3½-point favorite to win the South Regional. The Tigers, who had fallen in the Elite Eight the past two seasons, have won 11 in a row since suffering their only loss of the season to Tennessee on Feb. 23. However, despite cashing in both games last weekend, they are still just 4-7 ATS during the winning streak.

This is a rematch of an Elite Eight clash in the 2006 Tournament, a game UCLA won 50-45 giving 2½ points. Earlier that season, Memphis bested UCLA 88-80 as a 6½-point home chalk in November 2005.

UCLA is 1-2 SU and ATS in its last two Final Four contests, with the winner cashing in each contest. In 2006, the Bruins beat LSU in the semifinals before dropping the title game to Florida, while last year, they lost to the Gators 76-66 as a three-point ‘dog in the semifinals. UCLA last won the national championship in 1995. Meanwhile, Memphis hasn’t reached the Final Four since 1985.

The Bruins are on negative ATS stretches of 2-4 overall – all against winning teams at neutral sites – 1-4 on Saturday and 0-5 after a pointspread victory, as they haven’t cashed in consecutive games since Feb. 17 and 21 – a stretch of 12 contests. However, they are 22-7-1 in their last 30 starts as an underdog, including 8-2 ATS in their last 10 as a pup of less than seven points. In its only previous game as an underdog this season, UCLA toppled Stanford 76-67 as a one-point pup.

The Tigers have cashed in just six of their last 18 contests overall, and they’re mired in additional ATS slumps of 1-6 following a spread-cover, 2-4 in non-conference play and 2-5 ATS against the Pac-10. On the positive side, though, Memphis has covered two straight games for the first time since January and is 5-1 ATS in its last six as a Tournament chalk of up to 6½ points.

All four No. 1 seeds reached the Final Four for the first time. Favorites went 3-1 ATS last weekend in the round of eight and are now 37-22-1 ATS for the Tournament.

The Bruins have been solid defensively through much of the Tournament, allowing just 53.3 points per game on 32.8 percent shooting, while averaging 71.3 ppg on 48.8 percent shooting on offense. In addition, they are plus-46 on the glass, outrebounding their four opponents by a 160-114 total.

Memphis is racking up 85.3 ppg in the Tournament, surpassing 77 points in all four games on 49.6 percent shooting, while allowing 69.5 ppg on 42.8 percent shooting. The Tigers have outrebounded their opponents in all four games, winning the board battle by a total of 145-114.

The over for UCLA is on a 2-0 uptick and is also 7-2 in its last nine Saturday meetings and 4-1 in its last five as an underdog. On the other hand, the under is on runs of 16-6 for UCLA in the Tournament, 6-2 for UCLA as a Tournament ‘dog and 4-2 for UCLA outside the Pac-10. For Memphis, the over is on a 5-0 tear in Tournament play (4-0 this year) and is 5-1 in non-conference action, but the under is 4-0 in its last four against the Pac-10.

ATS ADVANTAGE: MEMPHIS

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