AAC Tournament: Tulane vs Memphis Prediction
Tulane vs Memphis Preview
The American Athletic Conference Tournament begins today with at least three teams (Houston, Cincinnati, UCF) secured a spot in the Big Dance. Depending on who else you talk to, Temple and less likely Memphis need great showings to make an impression on the selection committee. Of course, winning it all is the only way to guarantee your spot in the tourney.
Brandon Reid of MFST broke down the AAC Tournament to perfection going through all the scenarios, teams and seeds.
As the No. 5 seed, the Tigers (19-12) did not receive a first-round bye and will need four wins in four days to ensure a trip the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2013-14 season.
Their first task appears to be an easy road.
Tulane comes in as the 12th-seed failing to win a single AAC game and won just four games all season (4-26, 0-18).
But that doesn’t mean Penny Hardaway is going to let his guys look past this opening round game:
“We can’t overlook Tulane,” Hardaway said. “Their coach is definitely preparing for us like we’re preparing for them. They’ll come in with a scheme and we just have to protect home court. We don’t take anybody for granted.”
Their coach is former NBA-er Mike Dunleavy Sr. whose reputation precedes him–but there is no denying this season has been a struggle. He has looked lost on the sidelines while rumors of how long the school will put up with zero conference wins and the worst record in program history.
To his credit, his team has been in some of these games, narrowly losing to Wichita State by three, USF by five, ECU by four and by one, etc.
That type of success has not necessarily translated to Memphis however–the Tigers obviously swept the season series winning at home (where this tournament is held) 102-76 and at Tulane 83-79.
If the Green Wave are going to keep up with the Tigers scoring at the Forum, they will need leading scorer Caleb Daniels to dominate the way he has recently. Coming off a 36-point outing versus the Shockers, Daniels shot 65 percent from the floor while making 12 of his 14 free throw attempts. His play reminds me of James Harden in the fact that he drives the lane often, solely looking for contact–he has shot 12+ free throws in four games this season and averages six free throw attempts per game.
The Tigers will need to defend without fouling.
Offensively, Memphis begins and ends with senior Jeremiah Martin.
Martin, the conference’s leading scorer at 19.7 points per game, has been a record-setting run since early February and was named to the league’s all-conference first team earlier this week.
Since Feb. 2, Martin has had two games of 40 or more points, including setting The American’s single-game scoring record with 43 points against Tulane. He’s also had three other games with 30 or more points, including 37 in an impressive road win at Wichita State.
He averaged 30.6 points in February, the most in a single month in school history. He is the only player in program history to score 40 or more points twice in a career.
“We know other teams are going to game-plan him,” Hardaway said. “To beat us they have to stop him. So other guys are really focused and ready to step up because we need more than him.”
If the Tigers get off to a hot start, don’t expect Penny to keep his starters in very long. The potential of four games in four days can be taxing on the players bodies and a former player who understands that is always great to have at the helm of your program:
“If we’re handling business the way we’re supposed to, I want to get the starters off the floor as much as I can,” Hardaway said. “Hopefully, the bench can come in and sustain (the lead) or (extend it). That will allow us to have some fresher legs.”
- Tulane is 1-14 this season in games away from Fogelman Arena. The Green Wave has lost 20 straight games.
- The Tigers have a 33-9 record in conference tournament games played in Memphis. Memphis has reached the conference tournament championship at home 11 times and won seven league titles.
- In the Tigers 102-76 victory over Tulane Feb. 20 at FedExForum, Martin set a conference single-game scoring record with 43 points. He surpassed the previous record of 42 set by Louisville’s Russ Smith.
LINE: -16.5 Memphis
Dan’s Bet: -16.5 Memphis
Score Prediction: Memphis 85 Tulane 66
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