Memphis Tigers vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane Preview and Pick

Memphis Tigers – 4.5 (12-3) 8-6 ATS at Tulsa Golden Hurricane + 4.5 (11-5) 4-6 ATS Tuesday, January 13, 2009 Reynolds Center 7:30 p.m. EST, TV: ESPN2
By Wilson of

The University of Memphis team is currently ranked No. 32 in the Associated Press poll and No. 31 in the ESPN/USA Today poll which is relatively new turf for the Tigers as they have been ranked in the top 25 consistently over the past couple of seasons. The Golden Hurricane welcome the Tigers for their first home opener of Conference USA play. Tulsa opened their conference play by beating Southern Miss 67-58 on the road January 7.,

Tulsa has won 7 of their last 8 games and is currently on a 3-game winning streak with their last loss at BYU 74-68 on December 30. Tulsa would enjoy nothing more than to earn a quality win over a tough John Calipari coached squad.

The Golden Hurricane are fueled by juniors Ben Uzoh (14.9 ppg) and Jerome Jordan (12.5 ppg). Jordan leads Tulsa on the boards with 9.1 per contest along with 37 block shots, well enough for third in the conference. Uzoh dishes out 4 assists per game and has 61 on the season. The three-point shooters for Tulsa are Justin Hurtt (41.8 percent) and Ray Reese (40.5 percent).

The Golden Hurricane’s are averaging 66.6 points per game and allowing 58.9 to their opponents. Defensively they will be tested by the athleticism and physicality of Memphis. However, Tulsa did hold the Tigers to just 56 points, they still lost the game 56-41 but it was a great effort for the Tulsa defense.

Memphis comes into tonight’s Conference USA contest with an impressive record (12-3). The Tigers have a couple of notable losses to top 25 ranked Georgetown in overtime 79-70 and Syracuse 72-65.

The Tigers are averaging 78.5 ppg while giving up 61.9. Doneal Mack leads the Tiger’s offensive attack. Mack is a talented lefty who tops the conference in perimeter shooting, but he can also put the ball on the floor and take it to the rack. Tulsa will need to prepare well just to keep Mack in check.

Head to head, Memphis leads the series 7-0, 3-4 ATS, and 3-4 O/U. The Tiger’s average win margin versus Tulsa is 17 points. The last time these two teams met (March 2008) the Tigers won 77-51. The Tigers are 11-1 SU in their last 12 road games. The total has gone under in 4 of the last 5 games between these two teams.

Memphis can score a lot of points quickly, especially with Calipari’s dribble drive motion offense which spreads the floor and forces defenses to constantly chase guys all over the court. Calipari will be coaching in his 300th game as the Tiger’s head coach. His record speaks for itself; he is 231-68 which translates into a .773 win percentage.

Defensively, Memphis has dominated in their last 6 games. Coach Calipari knows how defense wins games and it has shown recently. In the Tiger’s last 6 games they have boasted 56.7 scoring defense, held teams to 33 percent FG, rebound margin of +7.3, 8 blocked shots ppg, and 8.5 steals per game. Under coach Calipari, the Tigers are 57-10 in the month of January. Memphis has won 28 of their last 29 games in January with the last loss on January 2 of 2006 to Texas 69-58.

I’ve always been impressed with Memphis and Calipari’s approach on both ends of the court. I watched Memphis in person when they played Gonzaga at home in 2007, which they beat the Zags in OT, and they were quite amazing athletically. This year’s squad may not be as talented but they work extremely hard and leave it all on the court.

Wilson’s Pick: It’s always a craps shoot on the road but I like the Tigers to get it done. Memphis wins and covers the points, 72-63. Luck to ya.