As the nation's top-ranked team, Memphis hasn't had any problems dealing with the bottom feeders in its own conference. Houston hopes that as Conference USA's second-best team, it can put up more of a fight.
The No. 1 Tigers (19-0, 5-0) look to continue the best start by a school in Conference USA history on Wednesday when they travel to Houston to face the Cougars, the league's only other unbeaten squad in conference play.
Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Memphis –9.5 point spread favorites (View College Basketball odds) for today’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 66% of bets for this game have been placed on Memphis –9.5 (View College Basketball bet percentages).
Memphis has three wins over ranked nonconference foes on its resume, including an 85-71 victory over then-fifth ranked Georgetown on Dec. 22. They don't have any ranked teams to deal with in their own league, and their five conference wins thus far have been over teams with a combined 6-20 Conference USA record.
Not that the Tigers are particularly concerned with being undefeated - for now.
"The only time we'll worry about another undefeated season is (after the national championship game)," said coach John Calipari. "If we're undefeated at the time, we are all going to all really be really happy."
Houston is the closest thing to competition the Tigers will have in the conference. The Cougars (15-3, 4-0) were picked to finish right behind Memphis in the Conference USA preseason coaches' poll, and they've done nothing to dispel that notion, winning their four league games by an average of 13.7 points.
Cougars coach Tom Penders can also notch his 600th career victory Wednesday if his club can pull off the upset.
"If it all ended tomorrow, I've had an incredible run," Penders said Monday. "I would be very thankful for everything that's happened."
But Penders' team lacks a signature win this season and has yet to face a ranked opponent. Memphis will be the first No. 1 team to visit Hofheinz Pavilion since the Cougars lost to top-ranked Cincinnati on Feb. 17, 2000.
The Tigers have been dominant this season. They rank in the top 25 in the country in both scoring offense (80.9 points per game) and scoring defense (59.4 ppg) and Memphis has a larger average margin of victory (21.5) than anyone but No. 2 Kansas, the nation's only other undefeated team.
But things haven't gone quite as well since they took over the nation's No. 1 ranking on Jan. 21 for the first time since the 1982-83 season. The Tigers shot just 37.9 percent in a 56-41 victory at Tulsa last Wednesday, and Gonzaga hung around on Saturday, trailing by only three before Memphis took over early in the second half en route to an 81-73 win.
"We know teams are going to come at us, but we've got a deep team," said Joey Dorsey, who's 10.6-rebound average is among the top 10 in the nation. "If you can play for 40 minutes, bring it."
With Dorsey providing the rebounding, guards Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose have carried the scoring load. Douglas-Roberts leads the team with 16.8 points per game, including an average of 19.0 in his last four games.
Rose, one of the nation's top freshmen, averages 14.3 points and had perhaps his best all-around game against Gonzaga, posting 19 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.
"He's getting more comfortable playing and more comfortable being aggressive offensively," Calipari said. "Yet, he's still a point guard that tries to get everyone involved."
Houston features one of Conference USA's top scorers, Rob McKiver. The senior guard averages 19.8 points - among the top five in the league - but he only makes 37.5 percent of his shots.
McKiver is shooting just 31.1 percent in his last six games, a big reason the Cougars are second-to-last in the conference in field-goal percentage (41.2).
Dion Dowell, Houston's second-leading scorer (12.4 ppg) and leading rebounder (7.6), has struggled with foul trouble lately. He's averaged 7.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in his last four contests, fouling out twice.
The Tigers have won five straight in the series - four in Memphis. Houston last beat the Tigers on Feb. 5, 2005.
by: Staff Writers - Email Us
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