Though the regular season is still in its infancy, the Cincinnati Bearcats and No. 22 Memphis Tigers look to be two of the stronger teams the conference has to offer. With that, Thursday night’s clash off Beale Street could end up going a long way in helping decide the regular season title holder. Having already dropped a 76-67 decision on the road at Wichita State, this is a game Anfernee Hardaway’s kids must win and linemakers at online sportsbooks are likely to have them installed short favorites to do just that; especially with the Bearcats owners of poor 1-5 SU and ATS records when playing away from the comforts of its own gym. Three seasons have passed since the Tigers logged a win in this rivalry (3-3 ATS), so you can expect Memphis to be way up for this one knowing full well the last time it played in front of the hometown faithful it dropped a 65-62 decision to Anthony Edwards and the Georgia Bulldogs.
This showdown between AAC heavyweights takes place on Thursday, January 16, 2020. Tip-off will be at 7 p.m. ET from the FedExForum in Memphis, TN. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN. So make sure to fill out your March Madness Bracket today!
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The ‘Natti enters this tilt in a groove having rattled off consecutive wins and covers against Tulsa (75-44) and UCF (68-54). The latter was sorely needed with it representing the Bearcats first true road win of the season. Though it went into the break trailing 29-26, the Bearcats erupted in the second half outscoring the Golden Knights 42-25 to log the come-from-behind win and cover against the closing college basketball odds. It marked the second straight game in which John Brannen’s kids came out like gangbusters in the second half after dropping 49 points on the Golden Hurricane’s heads to log the carefree win and cover. Keith Williams has combined for 34 points and 12 rebounds in each of the Bearcats last two road games, and will need to come up with another big game in this spot to keep the Bearcats’ win streak alive.
Sorely in need off a win after dropping back-to-back games against Georgia and Wichita State after rattling off 10 straight wins, the Tigers got back in the win column after going into South Florida and logging the 68-64 win and slim cover as 3.5-point favorites. The team looked to be on the verge of dropping three straight trailing 37-29 at the break, but rallied in the second half by outscoring the Bulls 39-27 to log the 4-point triumph; the team trailed by as many as 14-points in the second-half! Though Precious Achiuwa led the team in scoring with 22 points, Memphis would’ve been dead in the water had Tyler Harris not made the most of being inserted into the starting lineup. After scoring 17 off the bench against the Shockers, he matched that mark against the Bulls to give the offense the scoring punch needed to secure the road win and cover.
Matchup to Watch
These teams possess two of the best defenses in the AAC. The ‘Natti concedes just under 66 points per game (No. 102) on 39.7 percent shooting (No. 64), while Memphis counters with the nation’s No. 57 ranked scoring defense (63.3 PPG) and allows a 35.3 percent success rate from the field (No. 2). On top of that, the Tigers possess the top-ranked 2-point defense in the land in allowing opponent’s to only convert at a 38.4 percent clip from short range. The Bearcats have struggled mightily from deep evidenced by their woeful 31.1 percent success rate (No. 278). With that, you can expect to see Jarron Cumberland and Chris Vogt continue looking to do damage close to the rack where the team’s ranks No. 60 in 2-point shooting percentage. Whether that translates into success remains to be seen. What we do know is that Memphis will make them earn every basket tallied at short range.
While it’s still no doubt early, this is a spot Memphis must come out triumphant in. It can’t afford losing to the top two teams in the conference at this point of the season; especially with this bout against the Bearcats coming in the comforts of their own gym. Though the Tigers dropped both matchups to the Bearcats last season, the team without a doubt closed the gap. The year prior, they lost each matchup by an average of 12 points per game. Last year, they fell by five at home in a game they let get away late and then dropped a 71-69 decision in the ‘Natti as near 10-point underdogs. As bad the Bearcats have been away from Fifth Third Arena paired with the necessity of winning this game, I expect Memphis to put forth one of those “Circle the Wagons” type efforts and finally put an end to their losing streak in the recent rivalry.
College Basketball Pick: Memphis 72, Cincinnati 64
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