Tag: Memphis

Cincinnati 70 Memphis 60 AAC Semi-Finals

The No. 1 Cincinnati Bearcats (29-4) raced out of halftime to defeat the No. 5 Memphis Tigers (21-13) 70-60 in the first semi-final of the American Athletic Conference Championship.

Cincinnati started the second half on a 21-2 run and out-scored the Tigers 41-18 overall in the half. Senior forward Kyle Washington said it was a position the Bearcats had been in before, but not one he’d like to be in again.

“We’ve been in that situation before, to tell you the truth,” Washington said. “We can’t put ourselves in that situation. We have to come out from the gate with a sense of urgency.”

Memphis went into the half with a 42-29 lead in large part because freshman guard Jamal Johnson went 4-4 from behind the arc. Cincinnati senior forward Gary Clark said his team didn’t follow the scouting report and let Johnson get comfortable.

“When you let a guy like that get comfortable then the rim gets bigger,” Clark said. “In the second half we just tried to adjust and not let him get comfortable looks.”

Sophomore guard Jarron Cumberland led the Bearcats with 18 points while Clark added 17 and 12 rebounds. The Tigers were led by Johnson’s 17 points with an additional 12 by junior forward Kyvon Davenport.

The Bearcats move on to face the winner of the game between No. 3 Houston vs. No. 2 Wichita St. There is speculation surrounding the future of Tigers’ head coach Tubby Smith so the postseason may be in the cards for them.


Memphis 67 Tulsa 64 AAC Quarterfinals

The No. 5 Memphis Tigers (21-12) used a buzzer-beating runner from junior guard Kareem Brewton, Jr. to defeat the No. 4 Tulsa Golden Hurricane (19-12) 67-64.

“It’s just a basketball instinct that you have when the ball come off [your hands] good,” said Brewton. “You feel like its going to go in and that’s what happened.”

The Golden Hurricane struggled shooting all game long. They shot just 41% from the floor, including 2-16 from behind the arc, and 55 percent from the free-throw line. Golden Hurricane head coach Frank Haith expressed he was fine with the shots his team got, but called the shooting performance “unfortunate.”

“We had some really good looks; we just didn’t knock any of them down,” Haith said.

Meanwhile, Memphis had its own struggles as the Tigers had 13 first-half turnovers and 18 overall for the game. Tigers’ head coach Tubby Smith said it was certainly a topic of conversation at halftime.

“We talked about taking care of the basketball,” Smith said. “We had quite a few turnovers.”

Memphis was led by Brewton and junior forward Kyvon Davenport, who both finished with 15 points. Senior guard Corey Henderson, Jr. led Tulsa with 20 while junior guard Sterling Taplin added 14.

Memphis moves on to face No. 1 Cincinnati in the semifinals. Tulsa hopes to continue its season in the NIT.

Memphis 79 USF 77 AAC First Round



Memphis head coach Tubby Smith along with Kyvon Davenport, David Nickelberry and Kareem Brewton, Jr. meet with the media


No. 5 Memphis (20-12) bent, but didn’t break down the stretch as the Tigers held on to beat the No. 12 USF Bulls (10-22) 79-77 in Thursday’s first round of the American Athletic Conference championship.

“I’m really proud of how guys hung in there today and finished the game,” Memphis head coach Tubby Smith said. “Even though we lost the lead there, we still did the things to get the win.”

The Tigers held a double-digit lead for much of the second half, but watched it dwindle away late in the game due to scrappy play by the Bulls and their own sloppy play. It is something that junior guard Kareem Brewton, Jr. says Memphis needs to clean up as it takes a step up against No. 4 Tulsa on Friday.

“I feel like we should execute a little bit more – get back to running our plays,” Brewton said. “I felt like we got out of that a little bit at the end.”

Off the court, it’s been a trying week for Smith. A CBS Sports’ Gary Parish report that the Memphis administration was mulling giving the coaching job to Memphis native and former Tiger Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway. Then before the game news broke that Smith’s son, GiGi, was fired as the head coach of Loyola (Md.). Smith said he personally feels supported by the administration, but the business of coaching is tough.

“It’s the profession we chose and unfortunately, you are hired to be fired usually unless you’re in some program that’s just unbelievable,” Smith said.

Memphis was paced by junior forward Kyvon Davenport, who finished with 27 points, while freshman guard David Nickleberry chipped in 14 off the bench. USF’s freshman guard David Collins poured in a career high 30 points for the Bulls with senior guard Stephan Jiggetts chipping in 16.

The Tigers, who’ve now won 6 of their last 7, get to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive one more day as they face the Tulsa Golden Hurricane on Friday. USF’s season is over.




Live From the American Conference Semifinals

In an unlikely semi-final matchup, the Memphis Tigers (19-14) cruised to a 74-54 victory over the upstart Tulane Green Wave (12-22).

It appeared that playing three games in as many days had caught up with the Green Wave. As turnovers and missed shots began to pile. To add on even more, the team has been dealing with rumors that its coach will be fired once the season ends.

“From day one since I’ve been in this program Coach Conroy always preached to keep the
outside noise out and don’t listen to what no one says and just stay together,” said senior guard Louis Dabney. “When all that was going down, we didn’t really bother to even care, because Coach Conroy always put us first.”

Memphis will now try to play spoiler for a bubble team as it has a chance to win an automatic bid by defeating UConn.

“We know we’re going to have to play a great game if we want to have an opportunity to beat them,” Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. “But we’re excited about the challenge, and it should be a high level game with two high level teams tomorrow afternoon.”

UPDATE: 9:45 p.m.

The UConn Huskies (23-10) continue to ride the wave of emotion following their quadruple overtime win on Friday with an impressive 77-62 victory over the Temple Owls (21-11).

“It was a well-played game by our guys,” said UConn head coach Kevin Ollie. “They were focused. They were determined to get to the championship game.”

The game was decided midway through the first half when the Huskies went on a 35-11 run to turn an eight-point deficit at 14:05 into a 16-point lead at 1:44 in the first half.

Temple struggled with UConn’s size in the first half – struggling to finish around the hoop causing it to shoot 28.1 percent and being outrebounded by nine boards at the break.

The Owls were able to dwindle the Huskies lead down to six on several occasions in the second half – the last being at 9:44. However, the Huskies had an answer to every run.

Sophomore guard Daniel Hamilton and senior forward Shonn Miller both finished with 19 points for the Huskies. Senior forward Jaylen Bond led the Owls with 17.

UConn saw its NCAA tournament hopes take another step forward and it can erase all doubt with a win in the championship game. In the meantime, Temple will have 24 hours to see if its fate will be the same as last season.

“It’s not in our hands,” said junior guard Josh Brown. “We pray that our name is called”

Live from the American Conference Tournament Quarterfinals

For the second year in a row, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane wilted under the pressure of the bubble as it fell to the Memphis Tigers 89-67.

Freshman forward Dedric Lawson scored 22 points and grabbed 12 boards. Senior guard Ricky Tarrant, Jr. and senior guard Trashon Burrell added 21 and 19 points respectively.

Tulsa was outsworked from the tip as Memphis seemed to be the more motivated team. Memphis out-rebounded Tulsa 43-35 and forced 13 turnovers.

Now, the American is a conference bubble teams around the country will be watching as the late semifinal will feature two teams that need an automatic bid to make the Big Dance.

Tune in tomorrow as the blog will be back live from the Amway Center for semifinal Saturday. Tulsa, meanwhile, will be on a flight back to Oklahoma pondering whether or not it will make the tournament.

UPDATE 12:20 a.m.

The upstart No. 10-seed Tulane Green Wave outscored the No. 2 seed Houston Cougars by 11 in the second half and pulled off the biggest upset of the day in Orlando with a 72-69 win.

With nine seconds left in the game, sophomore guard Cameron Reynolds knocked down a three to put the Green Wave up 70-69. On the ensuing Houston possession freshman guard Galen Robinson, Jr. turned the ball over.

Robinson’s turnover was indicative of a sloppy game for the Cougars as they allowed the Green Wave to stick around in the second half despite taking a eight-point lead into the break.

By the 13-minute mark, and despite the lead getting up to nine, the motivated Green Wave tied the game.

The victory was made all the more astonishing by the fact that reports came out during the game had Tulane head coach Ed Conroy being fired as soon as the season was over.

“I had two guys behind the bench put their phones up and say ‘hey coach, you’re gone,'” Conroy said. “That was fun when you’re trying to come back from an eight-point deficit.”

Houston’s faint at-large hopes are now certainly destroyed with a loss to a team, who’s RPI is below 230.

UPDATE 9:45 p.m.

In arguably the best game in the three-year history of the American Athletic Conference, the UConn Huskies (22-10) outlasted the Cincinnati Bearcats (22-10) in quadruple overtime 104-97.

The high drama came at the end of the third overtime. After Cincinnati junior guard Kevin Johnson broke a 95-95 tie with a three-pointer with .8 seconds left, UConn freshman guard Jalen Adams banked in a three from halfcourt to force a fourth overtime.

“It’s something that just happened,” Adams said. “Early in the year, me and (sophomore wing Daniel Hamilton) used to see who could make the most halfcourt shots. I guess it’s paying off.”

The Huskies trailed by as many as 11 in the first half, but fought back to take a seven-point lead with 3:36 remaining in the second half. However the Bearcats clawed their way back into the game to force overtime at 62-62

From there, the game became a slugfest with neither team leading by more than four in any of the first three overtime periods.

In the fourth overtime, UConn grabbed a five-point lead at 100-95, Cincinnati was able to cut it to three on a tip-in by senior forward Octavius Ellis with 25 seconds left. From there UConn was able to salt the game away from the free-throw line.

For UConn, they have a 3 p.m. tilt tomorrow with Temple. Cincinnati, on the other hand, is left to wonder about its NCAA tournament fate. It’s a fate that head coach Mick Cronin says should already be decided.

“I don’t even know why anyone would ask us the question, based on what we’ve accomplished this year versus the rest of the field,” Cronin said. “I understand that our conference doesn’t get as much respect by the people on TV a lot as some other people.”

UPDATE 6:25 p.m.

In the first game of the day here in Orlando, Temple (21-10) pulled away in the second half en route to a 79-62 win over South Florida (8-25).

The Owls were paced by senior guard Jaylen Bond’s 17 points and 8 rebounds. His fellow senior and backcourt mate, Quenton DeCosey added 14 points and 8 rebounds while sophomore forward Obi Enechionyia chipped in 13 and 5.

Meanwhile, the Bulls were led by junior forward Chris Perry who dropped 19 points and grabbed 8 boards. Freshman guard Jahmal McMurray added 16 points.

This blog believes the Owls are in, but they certainly saved themselves from a more nerve wracking weekend by taking care of business versus the Bulls – especially with this being the day that will make or break bubble teams around the country.

Despite that, the Owls say after last year’s disappointment their only focus is the automatic bid.

“Having that feeling from last year, we all remember it. We all remember how it felt,” Enechionyia said. “That’s something we all want to experience – getting to the tournament. Getting to play late in the season.

“Having that feeling in our minds and remembering that. I think its motivated all of us,” he continued

Kentucky Blues

Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari

It’s hard to do what John Calipari did in the previous three years at Kentucky.  He’s taken extremely young teams, meshed them perfectly and had great seasons.  People may have opinions about his tactics, but he’s found a way to work within the system.

However, relying on freshmen and sophomores every year is going to produce some seasons like the one the Wildcats are currently experiencing.  It’s hard to count on young players to give you consistency  in effort and performance on a night-in night-out basis.

It’s doubly hard in a year when the freshman class just isn’t that good nationally.  Nerlens Noel was arguably the best freshman in the country but Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein haven’t been what Calipari expected.

People around the country are wondering what’s wrong with Kentucky.  It’s just the natural progression of a young team.  It’s tough for Big Blue Nation this season, but no one should shed a tear for Kentucky fans.  They’ll be back.

Stock Up: Memphis.  The Tigers are making the most of their last season in Conference-USA.  They’re dominating right now with an 11-0 record including a convincing 13-point win over second-place Southern Miss.  They’re poised for a strong finish.

Stock Down: Ohio St.  Now I’m pretty confident that the Buckeyes are going to make the tournament.  However their resume leaves a lot to be desired.  You wouldn’t even be able to call Ohio St paper champions with the way its resume looks right now.

Stock Up: Colorado St. New Mexico is in first place by a half game in the Mountain West, but Colorado St is turning heads out west.  The Rams are following up on an outstanding year last year with another this year and looks prime for a solid seed in the Big Dance.

Stock Down: The end of Bracketbusters.  This was a great event for mid-majors to get a signature win and has directly led to some squads getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.  If George Mason doesn’t have the opportunity to beat Wichita St in Wichita in 2006 then the Patriots end up in the NIT and the Final Four.

This Week’s Bracket Projections.

Last Four In: Alabama, Temple, California, Villanova

Last Four Out: Baylor, St. Mary’s, Indiana St, Iowa

This bracket is good for games through 2/18.


1.Indiana16.Charleston Southern/Norfolk St Dayton, OH

8.Saint Louis9.Missouri

5.Marquette12.Belmont Austin


6.Illinois11.Creighton Salt Lake City

3.New Mexico14.Valparaiso

7.Pittsburgh10.Virginia Kansas City

2.Kansas15.Stony Brook


1.Michigan St16.Robert Morris Auburn Hills, MI


5.Butler12.Mississippi Austin

4.Georgetown13.South Dakota St

6.Ohio St11.Middle Tennessee St Salt Lake City


7.Cincinnati10.La Salle Philadelphia



1.Florida16.Niagara Lexington, KY

8.Notre Dame9.San Diego St

5.Wisconsin12.Louisiana Tech Kansas City

4.Kansas St13.California/Temple

6.NC State11.Arizona St Dayton, OH

3.Louisville14.Stephen F. Austin

7.Minnesota10.Oklahoma San Jose



1.Miami(FL)16.Northeastern/Southern Lexington, KY

8.UCLA9.Wichita St

5.Colorado St12.Villanova/Alabama San Jose

4.Oklahoma St13.Bucknell

6.VCU11.Iowa St Philadelphia


7.Memphis10.North Carolina Auburn Hills, MI

2.Michigan15.Long Beach St

In graphical form


West Region Breakdown

1. Duke Blue Devils
Durham, NC
Record: 30-4
Automatic Bid: Atlantic Coast Conference Champions
Key Players: Nolan Smith (21.3 ppg, 5.2 apg), Kyle Singler (17.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg), Seth Curry (9.5 ppg), Mason Plumlee (8.5 rpg)
Strength: Duke is one of the most experienced teams in the country as it returns much of the team that won the national championship last season. Led by seniors, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler, the Devils picked up where they left off last season. This team has been focused and primed for a repeat and are very capable of doing that. The Blue Devils may have been the most surprising No. 1 seed to ever win a national championship last season, but they won’t shock anyone if they repeat.
Weakness: This is a solid three-point shooting team, but if it’s off it really throws them into a tizzy. Almost 35 percent of Duke’s field goal attempts are from behind the arc so if its not making a good percentage of them it makes it very difficult for it to score. Duke has size inside, but it must learn to lean on it a bit more or it could come back to haunt it.

2. San Diego State Aztecs
San Diego, CA
Record: 32-2
Automatic Bid: Mountain West Conference Champions
Key Players: Kawhi Leonard (15.4 ppg, 10.7 rpg), Malcolm Thomas (11.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg), D.J. Gay (11.2 ppg), Billy White (9.9 ppg), Chase Tapley (8.4 ppg)
Strength: This is a very tough team. The Aztecs are grown men on the boards as they are first in the Mountain West in rebounding margin. They also defend as they only allow their opponents to shoot 39.6 three from the field and 30.9 percent from three. They do a great job taking teams out of what they like to do and just pound teams into submission. Any team that wants to beat them will have to match their toughness and judging by their record, that’s been easier said than done.
Weakness: The Aztecs have been able to get through the Mountain West schedule with a seven-man rotation, but that’s not going to cut it in the NCAA Tournament. D.J. Gay, Malcolm Thomas and Kawhi Leonard all play a lot of minutes and that could come back to haunt the Aztecs. This is a supremely talented team, but it’s going to take more than just the talent in the starting five to make it to the Final Four.

3. Connecticut Huskies
Storrs, CT
Record: 26-9
Automatic Bid: Big East Champions
Key Players: Kemba Walker (23.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Jeremy Lamb (10.3 ppg), Alex Oriakhi (10 ppg, 8.5 rpg), Shabazz Napier (8.3 ppg), Roscoe Smith (5.1 rpg)
Strength: The world knows by now that to beat Connecticut you have to find a way to contain Kemba Walker. Walker, a national player of the year candidate, has been hard for everybody to stop. Teams have tried zone and man against him and somehow, he’s managed to still score and carry his team. The show he put on in the Big East Tournament was amazing and he’s fully capable of duplicating that in the Big Dance.
Weakness: Outside of Walker, the Huskies just haven’t gotten consistent production from the rest of the roster all year. There have been nights when Jeremy Lamb or Alex Oriakhi have really scored, but not on a night-in night-out basis. Due to that, many teams have played zone against Connecticut and it has worked. The Huskies shoot only 43.3 percent from the field. If Walker’s supporting cast doesn’t step up Connecticut could ripe for an upset.

4. Texas Longhorns
Austin, TX
Record: 27-7
At-Large Bid: Big XII Conference
Key Players: Jordan Hamilton (18.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg), Tristan Thompson (13.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg), Gary Johnson (11.5 ppg, 7 rpg), Cory Joesph (10.5 ppg), J’Covan Brown (9.8 ppg)
Strength: Texas may have the most talented starting five in America. Texas has any number of guys who can fill it up led by freshman Tristan Thompson. The Longhorns have shown they can beat anyone in the country as evident by their win at Kansas. They are hard to guard together and can score in bunches. This team will be tough to beat and is capable of making a deep run in the Big Dance.
Weakness: Texas is still a very young team. The Longhorns get a lot of production from underclassmen and that could be a detriment in the tournament. They’ve already shown a lack of maturity in some of their losses this year and it’s quite possible that it can happen again. Texas’ young players are no doubt talented, but that was also the case in 2007 with Kevin Durant and that ended with a second round loss to USC. There’s plenty of evidence here to say that may happen again.

5. Arizona Wildcats
Tucson, AZ
Record: 27-7
At-Large Bid: Pac-10 Conference
Key Players: Derrick Williams (19.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg), Lamont Jones (9.6 ppg), Kyle Fogg (8.3 ppg)
Strength: It’s easy to see why the Wildcats have had a renaissance year and he wears No. 23. Derrick Williams is an All-American and a load in the paint. He has carried this team all season long with his stellar play. He really has no peer at his position in college basketball and his teammates have done a good job of playing off of him. Williams is a great college basketball player – one with the talent to take the Wildcats on a long run.
Weakness: The Wildcats struggle mightily when they turn the ball over. They sit in eight place in the Pac-10. The team can be really explosive when they’re playing well, but they can also give games away with their carelessness. Even Williams, as good as he is, is a turnover factory as he leads the team with 86 turnovers and just 37 assists. If the Wildcats don’t take care of the ball they could lose to anybody.

6. Cincinnati Bearcats
Cincinnati, OH
Record: 25-8
At-Large Bid: Big East Conference
Key Players: Yancy Gates (11.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg), Dion Dixon (11.6 ppg), Sean Kilpatrick (9.9 ppg), Cashmere Wright (8.9 ppg), Rashad Bishop (8.1 ppg)
Strength: The Bearcats, just like most teams in the Big East, are an awesome defensive team. Cincinnati’s 41.1 percent field-goal percentage defense yields just 59.2 points per game from opponents; good enough for first in the conference. Their guards are great at pressuring the basketball and they have enough length to bother jump shooters. Cincinnati may have flown under the radar, but they’ll prove to be a match-up nightmare in the NCAA Tournament.
Weakness: Cincinnati struggles mightily to score. The Bearcats are one of the worst shooting teams in the Big East as they only shoot 43.6 percent from the field on the year. In fact, the Bearcats second through fifth leading scorers don’t come anywhere near shooting 50 percent. Cincinnati has to make games ugly to win, but if they play against a team that gets hot, there won’t be much it can do to stay in it.

7. Temple Owls
Philadelphia, PA
Record: 25-7
At-Large Bid: Atlantic-10 Conference
Key Players: Ramone Moore (14.9 ppg), Lavoy Allen (11.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg), Juan Fernandez (10.7 ppg), Khalif Wyatt (10 ppg), Rahlir Jefferson (5.1 rpg)
Strength: Temple has one of the most frustrating styles of play to prepare for. The Owls play a deliberate style where they control tempo on offense and play tough defense. They’re physical and tough inside with Lavoy Allen. Their experienced on the perimeter with the unflappable Juan Fernandez. It’s not the most beautiful brand of basketball to watch, but it is very effective.
Weakness: Injuries have really depleted the Owls this season. Temple’s rotation is virtually nonexistent now. Temple only played seven players in their Atlantic 10 semifinal loss to Richmond. The Owls cannot afford any foul trouble because all that’s left at this point are walk-ons. If Temple plays a team with great depth, it may be in serious trouble.

8. Michigan Wolverines
Ann Arbor, MI
Record: 20-13
At-Large Bid: Big Ten Conference
Key Players: Darius Morris (15.2 ppg, 6.7 apg), Tim Hardaway Jr. (13.9 ppg), Jordan Morgan (9.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg), Zack Novak (8.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg)
Strength: Coach John Beilein has one of the most unusual styles of play in America. The Wolverines love to spread teams out and shoot three pointers. They have outstanding guards, who’ve led the team to shoot a respectable 35.3 percent from behind the arc. Once teams decide to guard Michigan on the three point line, it opens up the lane for layups. Beilein’s West Virginia team got hot and made it to the Elite 8 in 2005 so there’s no reason to believe this Michigan team can’t have success too.
Weakness: The Wolverines are extremely weak on the boards. It’s surprising that Michigan was successful in the rugged Big Ten. Michigan was 10th in the conference in rebounding Margin with the likes of Iowa and Indiana finishing ahead of it. That’s part of the reason why the Wolverines were a middling team in the conference and could be the reason why they are booted out of the Big Dance quickly.

9. Tennessee Volunteers
Knoxville, TN
Record: 19-14
At-Large Bid: Southeastern Conference
Key Players: Scotty Hopson (17.4 ppg), Tobias Harris (15.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg), Cameron Tatum (8.9 ppg), Melvin Goins (8.1 ppg), Brian Williams (7.7 rpg)
Strength: Scotty Hopson had a great season for Tennessee. He is one of the most explosive players in the nation and has put up huge numbers against solid defensive teams. Hopson scored 27 on Pittsburgh and 32 on Georgia. He has solid teammates around him who complement his talents very well. If Hopson gets going in the Big Dance, he can carry Tennessee to the second weekend.
Weakness: There was only one team in the SEC that got to the free-throw line more than Tennessee, yet it is only eighth in free-throw percentage. Three key guys in the Volunteers’ rotation shoot sub-70 percent from the charity stripe. This is key in pressure situations when free-throws are so important. The Vols have to get the right people to the line or they may give a win away.

10. Penn State Nittany Lions
State College, PA
Record: 19-14
At-Large Bid: Big Ten Conference
Key Players: Talor Battle (20.1 ppg), Jeff Brooks (13.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg), David Jackson (9.8 ppg), Andrew Jones (5.5 rpg)
Strength: Penn St goes as Talor Battle goes. The Nittany Lions follow the lead of Battle who is one of the best players in the nation. Battle has toiled in relative obscurity in State College for four years, but he finally gets his moment in the sun making the first NCAA Tournament of his career. If he gets hot, he can be the catalyst to get the Nittany Lions to the second weekend.
Weakness: Watching Penn St play on offense is not a pleasant experience. The Nittany Lions are one of the worst teams in the tournament offensively as they score only 63 points per game. They have no explosion offensively and cannot get down by double digits. The Lions want to grind wins out, but on offense, it seems as though that strategy backfires.

11. Missouri Tigers
Columbia, MO
Record: 23-10
At-Large Bid: Big XII Conference
Key Players: Marcus Denmon (17.1 ppg), Laurence Bowers (11.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg), Ricardo Ratliff (10.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg), Kim English (10.2 ppg), Michael Dixon (10.2 ppg)
Strength: Coach Mike Anderson’s “fastest 40 minutes in basketball” is basketball on roller skates. It’s fun to watch, but it’s also difficult to prepare for and that’s what makes Missouri tough. The Tigers employ one of the nation’s most effective full court pressure defenses. They force over 18 turnovers a game and they use those turnovers to fuel their offense. If the Tigers can impose their will with their style of play, they can make a little noise in the Big Dance.
Weakness: This is one of the worst rebounding teams in the Big XII. The tigers get out-rebounded by nearly two boards per game. A lot of that has to do with the Tigers wanting to get out and run, but it also has to do with the fact that Missouri’s big men don’t give consistent production going to the glass. Rebounds can be had against this team and if it gives up too many, it could be one-and-done.

12. Memphis Tigers
Memphis, TN
Record: 25-9
Automatic Bid: Conference-USA
Key Players: Will Barton (12.3 ppg, 5 rpg), Joe Jackson (9.9 ppg), Tank Black (9.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg), Wesley Witherspoon (9 ppg)
Strength: Memphis is one of the most athletic teams in the country. Josh Pastner has built this team in the mold that his predecessor, John Calipari, built his teams. The Memphis roster is full of guys who love to get up-and-down the court and they do it well. The Tigers are treacherous on the fast break and can turn a game into a highlight reel in a hurry. It’s the way they like to play and it’s the way they earned their way to the tournament.
Weakness: Memphis is young and very mistake-prone. The Tigers are ninth in Conference-USA in turnover margin as they turn the ball over 15.3 times per game. The Tigers can be exciting to watch, but they can also be frustrating at the same time. They’ve lost games with their out-of-control play this year and they’ll have to reign it in if they expect to have staying power in the Big Dance.

13. Oakland Grizzlies
Rochester, MI
Record: 25-9
Automatic Bid: Summit League Champions
Key Players: Keith Benson (18 ppg, 10.1 rpg), Reggie Hamilton (17.4 ppg, 5.4 apg), Will Hudson (12.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg), Travis Bader (10.5 ppg), Larry Wright (9.8 ppg)
Strength: This team can score and can do it in bunches. Oakland is second nationally in points per game at 85.6. The Grizzlies have four guys who average double figures led by Keith Benson, a future pro. This team is difficult to guard and that’s evident in their win over Tennessee where it scored 89 points. If this team gets hot, it’s not only a threat to win one game, but don’t be shocked to see it in the Sweet 16.
Weakness: The Grizzlies can be so focused on scoring that they can forget that they have to play defense as well. Oakland allows its opponents to score over 76 points per game, second worst in the Summit League. The Grizzlies will not be able to outscore everyone, especially given the talent level in the Big Dance. If Oakland doesn’t make a commitment to the defensive end, it could be one-and-done.

14. Bucknell Bison
Lewisburg, PA
Record: 25-8
Automatic Bid: Patriot League Champions
Key Players: Mike Muscala (14.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg), Bryson Johnson (11.7 ppg), G.W. Boon (8.8 ppg), Darryl Shazier (8.3 ppg, 5.6 apg)
Strength: Bucknell was able to rip through Patriot League competition on the strength of its defense. The Bison were first in the Patriot League in field-goal percentage defense, three-point field-goal percentage defense, and points allowed. That kind of success on the defensive end yielded only one loss in league play and can make the Bison competitive in the Big Dance. Bucknell has a history of success in the NCAA Tournament. If it is able to defend like it has all season, it may add to that.
Weakness: Bucknell likes to play close to the vest and control tempo because of its lack of depth. That may be an issue if the Bison get in any foul trouble. Bucknell has seven players averaging 20 minutes or more per game and then there’s a huge drop off in before the next closest player. The book on Bucknell will be to press them or get them into foul trouble and if Bucknell isn’t able to manage that it may have a very short stay in the tournament.

15. Northern Colorado Bears
Greeley, CO
Record: 21-10
Automatic Bid: Big Sky Conference Champions
Key Players: Devon Beitzel (21.4 ppg), Neal Kingman (10.6 ppg), Chris Kaba (9.5 ppg), Mike Proctor (5.6 rpg), Taylor Montgomery (5.7 rpg)
Strength: Northern Colorado is one of the best rebounding teams on the mid-major level. The Bears are No. 1 in the Big Sky in rebounding margin at 5.4 per game. They’re also second in the conference in offensive rebounds and first in offensive rebound percentage getting over 35 percent of their misses. If the Bears are able to out-rebound their opponent, they may be able to cause a scare.
Weakness: This is a team that is too reliant on Devon Beitzel to score. Beitzel, the conference’s player of the year, is a great player, but he’s going to need help for Northern Colorado to be successful. If he has an off night this team isn’t capable of being close to anyone in the tournament. Beitzel not only has to score, but he’s going to have to get some partners in crime to be successful.

16. Hampton Pirates
Hampton, VA
Record: 24-8
Automatic Bid: Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Champions
Key Players: Darrion Pellum (17.7 ppg), Kwame Morgan (16.5 ppg), Charles Funches (10.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg)
Strength: Hampton is easily one of the best defensive teams on the mid-major level. The Pirates hold their opponents to just 37.9 percent shooting – good enough for first in the MEAC. It’s allowed Hampton to do major things in the non-conference portion of it’s schedule, including beating George Washington, Colorado St and fellow NCAA Tournament team, Boston University. Teams only averaged 57 points per game against the Pirates in the MEAC Tournament and they hope to duplicate that play in the Big Dance.
Weakness: The Pirates offensive efficiency is some of the worst you’ll see in the NCAA Tournament. Hampton shoots only 40.7 percent from the field and 32.5 percent form behind the three-point line. The Pirates are even bad from the free-throw line only making 65 percent of those as well. This all leads to a poorest 67.2 points per game in the MEAC. If the Pirates can’t score in the tournament, they’ll have no chance to even be close.