NCAA Tournament Preview
Sweet 16 Edition
#3 Texas A&M vs. #2 Memphis
Thursday, March 22nd
Alamodome – San Antonio, Texas
Line: Texas A&M -2.5
Same as last time - I will have a full recap of the Aggies’ 72-69 win over Louisville out later today, but here is a first look at the Aggies’ opponent in the Sweet Sixteen, the Memphis Tigers.
Memphis advanced to the Sweet Sixteen yesterday by defeating Nevada by a final score of 78-62. Previously, they defeated North Texas in the first round by a final score of 73-58.
In the Tigers’ win over Nevada, they got quite a scare when leading scorer Chris Douglas-Roberts left the game at the 8:11 mark with a sprained ankle. His status for Thursday’s game with the Aggies is up in the air. Douglas-Roberts says he is going to play, but his coaches are taking a wait-and-see approach.
One thing that is for sure, he will not be at 100% by Thursday, only 96 hours after injuring his ankle.
The most bizarre thing to stand out about the Memphis win over Nevada is that they held the Wolf Pack scoreless over the final 6:17 of the game. Memphis actually held a lead of only 2 points at 64-62 before scoring the final 14 points of the game.
As you will see down below, one of the biggest strengths of this year’s Memphis team is that they are very deep and have the ability to overcome the loss of a player who has Douglas-Roberts’ ability.
Getting to know Memphis
According to InsideRPI on ESPN.com, Memphis played the 71st toughest schedule in the nation, and their overall RPI rating is a very impressive 8th.
In the latest AP poll, Memphis ranked #5 in the nation. The Tigers are 33-3 overall, and they have won 24 straight games, the longest such streak in the nation.
Memphis easily won Conference USA this year, and the biggest knock on them is that they did not face the quality conference opponents necessary to make a deep run into March.
Memphis did make an impressive run through a very tough non-conference schedule in going 6-3 against the RPI top 100 teams, with their best win coming over Kentucky. They also posted wins over Oklahoma, Cincinnati and Gonzaga.
Notable games this season:
- vs Oklahoma Win 77-65 Nov. 20
- vs Georgia Tech (#19) Loss 85-92 Nov. 21
- vs Kentucky (#22) Win 80-63 Nov. 22
- at Arizona (#9) Loss 71-79 Dec. 20
- vs Cincinnati Win 88-55 Jan. 04
- at Gonzaga Win 78-77 Feb. 17
As we mentioned briefly above, the first thing that stands out on the Memphis roster is that there are 9 guys who average double-digit minutes.
Leading the on-ball attack for the Tigers is 6’2” freshman Willie Kemp. Kemp is an interesting player who averages 6.7 points and 2.5 assists per game, but he is rarely in the game late in the 2nd half because he only shoots 41% from the free-throw line.
Memphis’ most prolific scorer is the before mentioned 6’6” Chris Douglas-Roberts, a sophomore who averages 15.4 pionts and 3.4 rebounds per game. His teammates refer to him as “buckets” because of his versatility and ability to score from so many different spots on the floor. If Douglas-Roberts can not go on Thursday, it will leave a noticeable void in the Memphis lineup.
Rounding out the starting backcourt is 6’6” sophomore Antonio Anderson. Anderson is the Tigers most tenacious defender, but he still manages to knock down 7.6 points per game.
The Tigers’ frontcourt is as tough a group as you will find, and leading the way is 6’9” junior Joey Dorsey.
Dorsey is a tough as nails bruiser who is in the top 25 nationally in both rebounds per game and blocks per game. Dorsey is also the catalyst for this Memphis team and has become their “as he goes, so goes the team” player. If Dorsey has one weakness, it would be his propensity for fouling. If you can bait him into a couple of early fouls, you can throw his attacking style on the defensive end out of balance. Dorsey averages 8.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.
Joining Dorsey in the frontcourt is 6’9” sophomore Robert Dozier. The book on Dozier is that he is tremendously athletic and long (7’3” wingspan) but that he is very inconsistent. Dozier is averaging 10.1 points and 5.8 rebounds this year.
Coming off the bench for Memphis are the following:
- Jeremy Hunt – 6’5” senior guard – (14 points, 2.9 rebounds) – One of the best shooters on the team and one of the best 6th men in the nation.
- Andre Allen – 5’10” junior guard – (5.2 points, 3.1 rebounds) – Splits minutes with starter Willie Kemp at the point guard position. One of their most aggressive defenders.
- Doneal Mack – 6’5” freshman guard – (7.1 points, 2.0 rebounds) – At his best when going to the basket and can score points in bunches if he gets hot.
- Kareem Cooper – 6’11” sophomore forward – (4.5 points, 3.8 rebounds) – Inconsistent at best but forced into minutes when Dorsey or Dozier get in foul trouble.
John Calipari is one of the best coaches in the game and through his first 15 seasons as a coach has amassed 374 wins and has a career winning percentage of 73.7%.
Prior to taking over in Memphis, Calipari was the head coach at UMass where he took the Minutemen to the Final Four in 1995-1996. He also spent time with the New Jersey Nets in the NBA.
His turnaround job at Memphis has been quite impressive, and he took the Tigers to the Elite 8 last year as a #1 seed before falling to UCLA.
Calipari is only one of three coaches to ever lead two teams to #1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. Roy Williams and Bill Self are the others.
There is no doubt that the Aggies have the offensive firepower and defensive toughness to go toe-to-toe with the Tigers.
The scouting reports will tell you that Memphis is most vulnerable against teams that can play at their tempo, play man-to-man defense and physically harass them.
The Aggies have proved they can play an up-tempo game (the win over Texas in February and the win over Louisville on Saturday come to mind). Saturday in particular, I think they showed quite a bit by continuously breaking the Louisville press while keeping turnovers to a minimum.
You know that Gillispie is going to throw his ferocious man-to-man defense at Memphis.
You also know that the Aggies are not afraid to get physical with anyone as they (the Aggies) are one of the toughest teams you will ever see.
The most glaring team statistic that stands out for Memphis is that they only shoot 61% from the free throw line – good enough for 315th out of 325 teams. The Aggies need to put them on the line 20+ times on Thursday night.
You will not see a zone look from Memphis as they will employ their pressure man defense the entire game.
You might also want to keep an eye out for a ton of missed shots in this game as Memphis only allows opponents to shoot 38.5% from the floor (8th best in the nation), while the Aggies allow 37.3% (3rd best in the nation).
Would someone please let Josh Carter and Antanas Kavaliauskas know what time the bus leaves for San Antonio? Thanks!
The Aggie Hoops Report’s Game Outcome Prediction -
Memphis Tigers - 62
Texas A&M Aggies – 67