Texas Longhorns (31-6), +3.5, O/U 145 vs. Memphis Tigers (36-1), -3.5, O/U 145, Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas, 2:20 PM EST, Sunday March 30th
By Badger of Predictem.com
The South Regional comes down to No.1 versus No. 2. The Texas Longhorns versus the Memphis Tigers in a showdown of two teams both worthy of a Final Four appearance.
Both teams come into the finals off of impressive Sweet 16 victories, with the Longhorns 20-point blowout of Stanford (82-62) only slightly more impressive than the Tigers 18-point win over Michigan State (92-74). Either way, scoring 82 and 92 versus the caliber of defense they played against on Friday tells you that both teams are hitting on all cylinders.
Oddsmakers opened the game with Memphis as a slight 3.5-point favorite, with an over/under total of 143. Early betting action has caused most Las Vegas sportsbooks to move it up to 145 quickly, and most offshore sportsbooks are listing it at 144.5.
Memphis is also listed as a -165 favorite on the moneyline, while Texas is listed at +145.
The 2nd-seeded Longhorns have looked good throughout the entire tournament. After blowing out first-round opponent Austin Peay by 20 points (74-54), the Horns had their only “test” of the tourney so far in a narrow, 75-72, second-round win over the Miami Hurricanes. In the victory over Stanford on Friday, the Longhorns shot nearly 50 percent from the floor (49.2) and had four players all score in double-figures.
Memphis looked great last time out versus Michigan State, but that was in response to all of the crap they took by barely beating Mississippi State in round two, 77-74. Coach John Calipari deflected questions about the Tigers bad free throw shooting in the Bulldogs game and turned it into motivation for Memphis to just drill the Spartans in the Sweet 16 game and remove the need for free throws down the stretch.
This game features a tantalizing matchup of perhaps the two best college backcourts in the country. The Tigers duo of freshman Derrick Rose (27 pts., 5 ass., 4 reb.) and Chris Douglas-Roberts (25 pts., 5 reb., 2 steals) are coming off of their best individual games of the tourney. The Texas two-step of D.J. Augustin (23 pts., 7 ass., 5 reb., 2 steals) and A.J. Abrams are talented enough to match up with anyone, although Abrams struggled with his shooting on the Reliant Stadium floor on Friday (5-of-14 for 12 pts.).
Which team defends the best will determine it, and both of them (Texas is 7th in FG% allowed at 38.6 ; Memphis 9th at 38.9) do a great job of challenging every shot.
Texas has covered in two of their three NCAA Tournament games so far, missing only as 6.5-point favorites in their win over Miami in round two. This will be the first time in the tourney the Longhorns come into the game as underdogs, where they were 5-3 ATS and SU during the regular season.
The over has hit in the Longhorns last two games and is 7-3 in the Longhorns last 10 games as underdogs.
Memphis has only covered one of the NCAA Tournament point spreads, the last time out as 5.5-point favorites over the Spartans. The Tigers have been real hard on bettors of late, going just 3-8 ATS in their last 11 games.
The Texas Longhorns won 69-58 and covered the spread (as 5.5-point chalk) the last time these two teams played in Memphis, back in January of 2006. They also won the 2005 game in Austin by a score of 74-67. Memphis covered that game, but the under cashed in for both games of the series.
Badgers Pick: Texas is every bit as athletic and fast as Memphis, which is why this could end up being the best game of the whole tournament. Neither team shoots free throws well (Texas 68% ; Memphis 60%) so this game could turn ugly if its close down the stretch. Great defense and bad free throw shooting keep this game under the 145 total, so take the under.