This Wednesday the 7-7 (1-1) Tulsa Golden Hurricane will host the 12-4 (2-1) Memphis Tigers. Tulsa is coming into this game reeling a bit, losers of 3 of their last 4 games, including a close 61-64 loss to Houston last week, while Memphis, winners of 3 straight, seem to be playing their best basketball of the season. The Tigers thumped a good South Carolina team 70-56 to close nonconference play, and have followed that up with a 9 point win over UConn, and a 21 point beat down at Tulane.
- Time: 7 pm
- TV: ESPNews
- Location: Tulsa
- Line: Memphis -1.5
Season Thus Far
Memphis is the 69th ranked team according to Kenpom. They are 1-4 against top 100 RPI teams (1 win was against South Carolina), but are a perfect 11-0 against teams with a 101+ RPI ranking, Tulsa ranks 166th. Last Thursday Memphis hosted UConn, and won 70-61. In that game the Tigers shot 47.5% from the field, and only turned the ball over 4 times.
Players to watch
- Dedric Lawson: The Tigers are led in scoring and rebounding by 6’9″ Forward Dedric Lawson. Last season as a freshman, Lawson also led the Tigers in points and rebounding, was named the AAC Rookie of the year, and was named to the AAC all-conference second team. Initially Lawson declared for the NBA draft, but after a disappointing show at the combine he decided to return to Memphis for his sophomore season. Lawson is averaging a double-double this year with 20.4 points and 11.1 rebounds per game, and he is 15th in the nation in blocks with 2.75 per game. Lawson is also the most efficient player in the country according to the NBA’s player efficiency metric. The man is a beast, and he is one of the best players TU will play this season.
- Markel Crawford: The junior guard has been on a tear of late, averaging 23.7 points per over his last 3 games, and shooting an incredible 72.2% from the field. Crawford’s prolific yet efficient ability to score makes him an extremely valuable player for the Tigers.
- KJ Lawson: KJ is a freshman who was ranked as the 44th best player in his class coming out of high school. Standing at 6’7″, he has the size and athletic ability to play at the next level. Lawson has had his struggles at times this season, but he has come up big in a couple games this season.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Memphis gets good shots, and they take advantage of them. 69% of their shots are two pointers, and they are 8th in the nation in points from 2-pointers. They shoot 47.5% from the floor as a team, which is good for 40th in the nation. Memphis is quite good on offense, 38th in points per game, top 50 offensive efficiency team, 10th in assists per game, and 38th in fewest turnovers per game. Where the Tigers struggle though is behind the arc, where they shoot 31.2% which is 303rd in the country. This strongly suggests that Tulsa will play zone almost all game.
Defensively the Tigers are top 75 in defensive efficiency, 135th in forcing turnovers, 20th in blocked shots, they don’t foul often, and they don’t allow very many offensive rebounds. With all that said though, the Tigers are susceptible at times on defense. Oklahoma hung 94 on them, Iowa 92, and Savannah State 86. As expected those teams were able to put up those numbers thanks to elite 3-point shooting. The Tigers only allow other teams to shoot 32.1% from behind the arc, but Tulsa will have to replicate what OU and Iowa did if they want to get into a shootout with Memphis.
Memphis is so good in pretty much every statistical category, but part of that may be because they rank 237th in strength of schedule. The Tigers are certainly good, but they are not as elite as the numbers indicate. As I mentioned earlier, expect to see a lot of zone from TU on Wednesday; if Coach Haith is going to play his zone against a team that was 4th in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (UH), he better play it against Memphis who live off points in the paint and struggle from behind the arc.
Dedric Lawson scares me, Markel Crawford scares me, and KJ Lawson scare me. Dedric is obviously the best of the group, but the fact that the Tigers have 3 players who can go for 20+ on any given night is trouble for our defense. We have been a good statistical defense thus far this season, but Memphis has one of the best offenses that we have faced. Our ability to not allow second chances will be key for us on Wednesday night, otherwise I am somewhat confident about our ability to hold Memphis to 70 or fewer points.
This game will most likely (and unfortunately) come down to Tulsa’s ability to shoot the 3, and not turn the ball over, two things that have not been a strength for TU this season. If Tulsa takes smart shots, rebounds, and doesn’t turn it over 10+ times then I think they could win a close one, unfortunately I just haven’t seen any reason to be optimistic that we can accomplish that, Memphis 70-59.