There are 32 games on Thursday and Friday, one of the most exciting 48-hour segments on the sports calendar.
We won’t be able to get individual previews up for every game, but we’ll cherry pick some of the more compelling matchups during the tournament’s “second” round.
In this post, we preview the 8-9 matchup in the West Region between a Memphis team that everyone thinks was under-seeded and a Saint Louis team lead by Rick Majerus that few folks know much about.
Memphis-Saint Louis Game Info
- Seeds & Region: #8 Memphis v #9 Saint Louis in West Region
- Memphis-Saint Louis Date: Friday, March 16th
- Memphis-Saint Louis Tip Time: 6:50 ET
- Memphis-Saint Louis Location: Columbus
- Memphis-Saint Louis TV: TBS
- Memphis-Saint Louis Announcers: Tim Brando and Mike Gminski
- Memphis-Saint Louis Point Spread: Memphis -3
- Tickets: Memphis-Saint Louis Tickets
- Tickets: All Columbus Sessions
- Tickets: West Regional Tickets in Phoenix
Memphis-Saint Louis Analysis and Prediction
I felt the Tigers were under-seeded based on how well they have played of late, but that doesn’t necessarily mean this will be a blowout either.
The Billikens are one of the most efficient defensive teams in the country, with Top 50 rankings in multiple statistical categories. However, Memphis appears to have a distinct advantage in free throw rate, where they rank among the Top 50 nationally compared to Saint Louis’ ranking just inside the Top 200. Memphis sophomore Will Barton has been fantastic this season and will create matchup problems for Saint Louis as well.
On defense, the Tigers boast the 11th-best effective field goal percentage defense in the country, which should neutralize some of Saint Louis’ shooting ability. The game will provide an interesting contrast in tempos, as the Billikens want to slow the game down and limit possessions, while Memphis wants to get out and run to take advantage of their superior athleticism.
In the end, I like the Tigers’ chances to advance and set up a terrific second round matchup against top-seeded Michigan State.
Predicted Winner: Memphis
Memphis Tigers Team Capsule
- Conference: Conference USA
- Record: 26-8 (13-3 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 9-1
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 3-6
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Belmont, Southern Mississippi, Xavier
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Georgetown (2), Louisville, Michigan, Murray State, Southern Mississippi
- Player to Watch: Will Barton (6’6” G, So.) – 18.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.4 spg, 51.1 FG%
Memphis Bottoms Line:
The Tigers are playing as well as any team in the country heading into the Big Dance, as they steamrolled the competition in the conference tournament. Their last 10 wins have all come by double-digits, and this is a team no one wants to see in their portion of the bracket. Memphis ranks in the Top 20 in offensive and defensive efficiency, and they rate out well in multiple statistical categories, including block and steal percentage.
Will Barton has had a phenomenal season, hitting 56.6 percent of his two-pointers, grabbing nearly 20 percent of available defensive rebounds, and posting a strong free throw rate. His length and versatility make him a matchup nightmare for virtually any opponent.
Big man Tarik Black makes 68.3 percent from the field and is expected to be ok after suffering an arm injury in the C-USA Championship. Guards Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford both score at least nine points and dish out nearly four assists per game, with Crawford doubling as the team’s top three-point shooter. Freshman Adonis Thomas returned from a knee injury to play in the Conference USA Tournament, so he would add even more depth to Josh Pastner’s already deep bench.
Saint Louis Billikens Team Capsule
- Conference: Atlantic 10
- Record: 25-7 (12-4 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 8-2
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 4-3
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Saint Bonaventure, Vermont, Xavier (2)
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: New Mexico, Temple, Xavier
- Player to Watch: Kwamain Mitchell (G, Sr.) – 12.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.3 spg
Saint Louis Bottoms Line:
Rick Majerus is going back to the Big Dance with the Billikens, who finished just behind for the A-10 Title. Saint Louis is particularly strong on the defensive end, where they rank in the Top 15 in adjusted efficiency. They rank in the Top 50 in effective field goal percentage defense, turnover rate, and defensive rebounding percentage, and the only area where they struggle is their opponents’ free throw rate.
The Billikens aren’t too shabby on offense either, as they rank in the Top 40 for efficiency there as well. They take great care of the basketball and shoot well as a team, which helps make up for the fact that they struggle to get to the line and corral offensive rebounds.
Forward Brian Conklin leads the team in scoring at 13.9 points per game and makes over 53 percent from the field, while also posting a strong free throw rate. In the backcourt, Kwamain Mitchell averages over 12 points and leads the team in assists, and Mike McCall Jr. and Jordair Jett both score at least six points per game. Forward Cody Ellis is the third double-digit scorer and can step out and knock down three-pointers to give the Billikens another offensive threat.
Related: Jump to our West Region Bracket Breakdown.
See our other individual game previews and predictions:
- South Region: #4 Indiana v #13 New Mexico State
- South Region: #5 Wichita State v #12 VCU
- South Region: #6 UNLV v #11 Colorado
- South Region: #7 Notre Dame v #10 Xavier
- South Region: #8 Iowa State v #9 Connecticut
- West Region: #4 Louisville v #13 Davidson
- West Region: #5 New Mexico v #12 Long Beach State
- West Region: #6 Murray State v #11 Colorado State
- West Region: #7 Florida v #10 Virginia
- West Region: #8 Memphis v #9 Saint Louis
- East Region: #4 Wisconsin v #13 Montana
- East Region: #5 Vanderbilt v #12 Harvard
- East Region: #6 Cincinnati v #11 Texas
- East Region: #7 Gonzaga v #10 West Virginia
- East Region: #8 Kansas State v #9 Southern Miss
- Midwest Region: #3 Georgetown v #14 Belmont
- Midwest Region: #4 Michigan v #13 Ohio
- Midwest Region: #5 Temple v #12 Cal/USF
- Midwest Region: #6 San Diego State v #11 NC State
- Midwest Region: #7 St. Mary’s v #10 Purdue
- Midwest Region: #8 Creighton v #9 Alabama