Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, February 28, 2014 at 7:00 PM
You know Memphis is going to be ready for Louisville. This used to be a big basketball rivalry. Then Louisville went to the Big East! Now, these two teams are conference rivals once again for a very short time, before the Cardinals head to the ACC. The city of Memphis is ready for its shot at Louisville!
And, the team itself was so focused on Louisville that they went out and lost to struggling Houston Thursday Night. That was a classic look-head. Memphis will have their heads on straight for this one. But, so will Louisville! The Cards have only dropped two conference games all season…one was at home to this very Memphis team.
This has a chance to be a great one because of the history and emotions involved for two talented teams. And, we’ll learn a lot about Louisville’s chances to repeat as National Champions based on what we see here. Getting swept by a team like Memphis would make it seem very unlikely that the Cards could run the table against this year’s waiting minefield.
Let’s run our standard indicator stats to see what they say about this matchup…
Louisville: #2 in Pomeroy, #4 in Sagarin
Memphis: #45 in Pomeroy, #46 in Sagarin
The first thing to note is that the computer guys think these teams are much further apart than the pollsters do. College basketball guru Ken Pomeroy and USA Today computer whiz Jaff Sagarin both have Louisville as a Final Four caliber team right now…but both have Memphis down around bubble caliber. Sure, the Memphis loss at Houston isn’t factored into the polls yet…but that’s still a big difference. The computers think the media has significantly overrated Memphis. The computers still see Louisville as national championship material even if there’s a growing chorus of skeptics around the country.
Offensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)
Both teams are stronger on defense than offense according to Pomeroy’s methodology (which adjusts for pace and schedule strength). Louisville still has a quality offense though, while Memphis is way off the pace in terms of Dance-caliber basketball. It’s been very clear in recent seasons that offenses outside of the top 50 nationally really struggle in the postseason on neutral courts in meaningful games against quality opponents in front of refs who swallow their whistles. Memphis has some work to do to convince us that they’ll be truly dangerous through March. We’re impressed that they upset Louisville the first time. Let’s see what they can do during a tough final stretch in these final two weekends of action.
Defensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)
Louisville always plays great defense under head coach Rick Pitino. Defense wins championships! We’ve been showing you that for years on these pages. And, we’ve talked a lot about Louisville’s defense in prior March’s. Good showing again this season. Memphis doesn’t measure up here either.
Both teams like to push tempo, which should lead to exciting basketball. That’s one reason the media isn’t noticing Louisville’s defense this year. Fast pace tends to hide good defense. You have to make per-possession adjustments to see it. In terms of this matchup, Memphis will be playing in Louisville’s comfort zone, which takes away part of what home court advantage might have given them.
Against the Spread
Though Memphis didn’t really impress in the computers…they have outperformed market expectations. It was 14-10 ATS before the loss in Houston. Both teams are currently moneymakers. Amazing that the line still hasn’t quite caught up to the defending national champs. You can make money betting the elite when oddsmakers don’t realize how elite they truly are.
Louisville/Memphis may or may not be part of the package for JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK on Saturday. There are several great games. We’re also looking at Syracuse/Virginia (which we previewed Friday), Kansas at Oklahoma State (the prime time game on ESPN), as well as Cincinnati/Connecticut, Pittsburgh/Notre Dame, LSU/Florida, Texas/Oklahoma, Creighton/Xavier, and a slew of others. You can purchase the final word early Saturday here at the website with your credit card. If you’d like to talk to a live person about full season options, call our handicapping office before the games start Saturday morning at 1-888-777-4155.
Back with you Sunday to discuss Marquette at #8 Villanova. Then, the final week of the regular season is going to be LOADED with marquee matchups that will help paint the picture for an exciting month ahead. Be with us every day for information you need to know to be a winning handicapper. And, link up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!