Gonzaga at Memphis
February 7, 2014
By Brian Edwards
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When the BracketBuster games were created for mid-major schools nearly a decade ago, Memphis and Gonzaga weren't included because they already played brutal non-conference schedules and weren't in need of quality wins in late February.
Therefore, then-Memphis coach John Calipari and Mark Few decided create a cross-coast rivalry between the Tigers and the Bulldogs. These teams met for six consecutive years with Memphis winning five times but only covering the spread at a 3-3 clip.
After a two-year hiatus, the rivalry returns Saturday when Gonzaga flies across the country to take on Memphis at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
Most books opened Memphis as a 4.5-point home favorite.
Gonzaga (21-3 straight up, 11-10-1 against the spread) has won seven in a row while going 4-3 ATS. The Bulldogs are off of Wednesday's 71-66 win at Portland. They failed to cover the spread as 15.5-point road favorites.
Angel Nunes, Kevin Pangos and David Stockton led the way with 13 points apiece. Pangos is one of the nation's best perimeter shooters who averages a team-high 15.3 points and 4.1 assists per game. He has made 43.4 percent of his shots from 3-point land and is draining 89.3 percent of his free throws.
With that said, Pangos is in a bit of slump. He's been held to single digits in scoring in three of the last six games. Pangos was in double figures in 17 of his team's first 18 games. In Gonzaga's last three outings, Pangos has hit only 5-of-24 shots from the field and 3-of-12 from 3-point land.
Memphis (17-5 SU, 12-7 ATS) has won seven of its last nine games, compiling a 6-2 spread record during this stretch. The Tigers demolished Rutgers by a 101-69 count as 14.5-point home 'chalk.' Austin Nichols led six players in double figures with a team-high 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the field. Chris Crawford produced a double-double with 12 points , 11 rebounds and five assists.
Josh Pastner's squad has won 10 of its home games, but it has a mediocre 4-5 spread record. Whether at home, on the road or at a neutral site, the Tigers are 4-2 ATS in six games as single-digit favorites.
Memphis is No. 32 in the RPI Rankings. All five of its defeats have come against opponents in the RPI Top 50, but we should note that four of those losses came by double-digit margins. The Tigers are 3-5 against RPI Top-100 foes, with their best wins coming over Oklahoma State at a neutral venue and at Louisville.
Gonzaga is No. 24 in the RPI with a 7-2 ledger against Top-100 teams. The Bulldogs have won six of those seven games by double-digit margins. Their three setbacks came to Kansas State and Dayton on neutral courts and at Portland.
This will be Gonzaga's first game as an underdog this season.
Although the 'over' has cashed in back-to-back games, the 'under' is still 12-6 overall for the Tigers, 6-2 in their home games.
The 'under' is 13-9-1 overall for Gonzaga, cashing in five consecutive games and 11 of its last 14.
**B.E.'s Bonus Nuggets**
-- LSU went into Athens for an SEC showdown Thursday night at Stegeman Coliseum. According to ESPN Bracketology guru Joe Lunardi, the Tigers were a part of the quartet of teams considered 'the last four in' the NCAA Tournament field. But after a 91-78 loss at Georgia, LSU now has three losses to teams with an RPI of 117 or worse. For a bubble team, the lack of effort, intensity and toughness on the defensive end from LSU was absolutely deplorable. The second half was basically lay-up lines for the Bulldogs, who are 5-4 in the SEC and steadily improving. If LSU doesn't hear its name called on Selection Sunday, it will have zero right to bitch about it because it pulled a complete no-show on Thursday.
-- After missing seven straight games with a foot injury, Michigan State senior center Adreian Payne returned Thursday night in an 82-67 home win over Penn State at Breslin Center. Payne scored 12 points, grabbed three rebounds, dished out two assists and blocked one shot in 18 minutes of playing time. However, starting guard Keith Appling couldn't go against PSU due to a wrist injury. Appling, who averages 15.0 points and 4.9 assists per game, is 'questionable' for Sunday's game at Wisconsin. Also, Branden Dawson (hand) remains out and isn't expected to be back until early March.
-- San Diego State's Winston Shepard (12.8 PPG, 4.1 RPG) injured his wrist in Wednesday's come-from-behind win at Boise State. He's 'questionable' Saturday vs. Nevada. The Aztecs opened as 12-point home favorites.
-- Texas point guard Javan Felix (12.0 PPG) didn't play in this week's win at TCU due to a concussion. He is 'questionable' for Saturday's game vs. Kansas State.
-- After missing a month with an appendix issue, Washington State's DaVonte Lacy (18.3 PPG) returned to the court on February 1. The Cougars are 1-1 SU and 2-0 ATS since Lacy came back. Lacy looked 100 percent in a loss to Colorado this week as he dropped 34 points on the Buffaloes. Wazzu is a 13-point 'dog Saturday night at Utah.
-- Georgia Tech starting point guard Trae Golden is 'questionable' for Saturday's home game against Virginia due to a groin injury. Golden couldn't go in Tuesday's 45-41 loss at Clemson that was a spread cover for the Yellow Jackets, who are 6-2 ATS in their last eight games. Golden, a transfer from Tennessee who went to McEachern High School about 30 miles north of Atlanta, is averaging a team-high 14.0 points and 3.6 assists per game.
-- Cincy has quick turnaround and tough test Saturday night at SMU. The Mustangs, who are unbeaten at home, opened as 3.5-point favorites. The Bearcats had to rally to slip past UConn at home Thursday night. As usual, Sean Kilpatrick was the catalyst and put yet another game on ice with clutch shooting at the charity stripe.
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