Alabama Birmingham Blazers vs. Memphis Tigers Preview

University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers (22-8), +14, o/u 145 @ Memphis Tigers (29-1), -14, o/u 144, FedEx Forum, Memphis, Tennessee, 1 p.m. Eastern, Saturday
By Oracle of

It’s hard to imagine that a team with just one loss on the entire season is looking for respect. But it’s safe to say that’s the case with the Memphis Tigers, who hold the best record in the NCAA at 29-1.

The Tigers held the nation’s No. 1 spot for 5 weeks before losing to then No. 2 Tennessee, 66-62, in a battle for supremacy not only between the top two teams in the country, but for sovereignty in Kentucky. After their first and only loss of the year, it’s as though the Tigers vanished from national title contention, at least according to experts around the nation who believe teams like North Carolina, Kansas and UCLA are the front-runners.

It’s only odd because Memphis continues to absolutely dominate its respective opponents, winning three straight since their loss to the Vols by an average margin of nearly 14 points, including their most recent 72-55 win over Southern Methodist University on Wednesday.

The Tigers did run into some trouble in their supposed cupcake Conference USA schedule, running into an upset-minded Alabama-Birmingham team back on February 16th. The Tigers narrowly escaped, thanks to a Chris-Douglas Roberts three-point play with under a minute left in the game, securing a 79-78 win.

Douglas-Roberts left his stamp on the game with 32 points and 7 rebounds, leading the comeback charge.

Freshman guard Derrick Rose, who is expected by many to leave school after this season, struggled against the Blazers by shooting just 2-of-13 for six points, along with committing three turnovers. It wasn’t a typical game for Rose, who averages 14.4 points and 4.3 assists per game.

Although UAB played Memphis so tough already this season, the Tigers are favored -14 at home. The over/under stand at 144 because of these two teams’ powerful offenses.

The Blazers have some overall impressive numbers as a unit, landing in the top 70 teams in the country in points scored (74.9), field goal percentage (46.3%) and three-point shooting (39.3%). The Blazers are a balanced squad, boasting even more impressive numbers on the defensive side of the ball.

They hold opponents to 40.9% shooting (44th in the country), including just 32.7% from downtown (57th).

The Blazers have flown under the radar all year, mainly because of Memphis being the cream of the crop in the conference, and the fact that the rest of the CUSA teams are deemed as below average. Not only has the team flown under the radar, but so has Robert Vaden, who leads the conference in scoring at 22.1 points per game. The 6-5 guard posted 27 points in the first meeting, including four three-pointers.

Memphis will have the luxury of hosting in the second showdown, where they are 16-1 at the FedEx Forum. Although they play well at home, bettors haven’t had a lot of luck if they picked the Tigers to cover, as they are 7-9-1 ATS in Memphis. Overall on the year, they are 13-15-2 ATS.

The Blazers have been good to bettors for most of the year, posting a 15-9-1 mark, including a perfect 4-0 in their past four games. Being double digits dogs in the past hasn’t kept UAB from covering, as they are 8-1 ATS when 13-point dogs or more. On the flip side of that, though, UAB is 7-15-1 on the road as a dog in their last 23 road games.

The Tigers have been favored by double digits a lot this season. They haven’t faired well for bettors as of late, posting a 2-6 record ATS when favored by at least 13 points. They also haven’t covered the spread in their last four overall games.

The Blazers don’t like playing in Memphis, though, where they have a 1-7 record against the spread in the last eight head-to-head meetings. The home team is also 4-1 ATS in the past five games.

With two potent offenses, it would be easy to figure that the over was a good bet for bettors. However, the over is just 1-8 in the last nine meetings between these to CUSA teams.