Memphis vs. Boise State Odds
In what should be a defensive bout Thursday afternoon, Mountain West champions Boise State take on the red-hot Memphis Tigers in the Round of 64.
In mid-January, the NCAA Tournament was a fading hope for Penny Hardaway’s Memphis squad. But a strong end to the season — the Tigers won 12 of 14 — has resulted in an at-large bid and the No. 9 seed.
Something has clicked for this Memphis team that has been without Emoni Bates since Jan. 27. BartTorvik has the Tigers as the seventh-best team since Bates’ absence (lower-back injury).
They’ll take on No. 8-seeded Boise State, which has won eight of its last nine, including a one-point win over San Diego State in the MWC tournament. Leon Rice’s team is long and athletic, using its defensive prowess to disrupt the opposition.
Despite being the lower seed, Memphis (-2.5) actually enters as the favorite. The line has moved toward the Tigers’ favor since open.
Can Memphis keep the ball rolling and take down one of the Mountain West’s best in Boise State? Or will the Broncos’ physicality and defensive pressure prove to be too much for the Tigers?
It’s been a rollercoaster season for Hardaway and his Memphis program. The Tigers brought in some highly-touted recruits in the offseason, but were unable to stay healthy the first half of the year.
Since the roster has been at full strength, though, Memphis has been as hot as a pistol, winning 12 of its last 14 matchups.
Memphis wants to speed up the game and get its athletes out and running in the open court. The offense owns one of the most dominant one-two punches in the front court between Jalen Duren and DeAndre Williams.
Duren, a 6-foot-11 freshman, averages 12 points per game while leading the American in rebounds (8.2) and blocks (2.1) per game.
The duo has helped Memphis dominate the paint and snag offensive rebounds on 38% of its misses.
That size has also allowed Memphis to block shots at the fourth-highest rate in the nation. The defense holds opponents to just 45% on 2-point attempts and forces turnovers at a top-50 rate.
But the roster has some glaring flaws that could be exposed in the tournament. The offense turns the ball over at the fifth-highest rate in the nation. The Tigers also only convert on just 69% of their free throws, which ranks 270th in the country.
Memphis certainly has the talent needed to make a run in the tournament. If the program can clean up the fundamentals, it will be a dangerous matchup for anyone.
The Boise State Broncos’ struggles in the non-conference hurt them in the seeding, as they were two seed lines lower than Colorado State despite winning both the regular season league title and Mountain West Tournament.
The Broncos win with defense and length. It’s very difficult to get to the rim against them, and they can hang with any team in the country on the glass.
The Broncos are led offensively by 6-foot-7 point guard Emmanuel Akot and sharpshooting guard Marcus Shaver Jr. Shaver has been the closer for Boise State most of the season, and his clutch late-game shooting is a major reason why the Broncos are 12-4 in close games this year.
Boise should be able to keep Memphis off the glass, as the Broncos are fifth nationally in defensive rebounding and first in the MWC in rebounding on offense and defense.
The Broncos have really big guards. Abu Kigab is a scoring wing who crashes the boards and grabs them at a high rate.
The offense has a tendency to get bogged down in the half-court, unless freshman phenom Tyson Degenhart is hitting his perimeter shots. He’s made 40% this season and drilled some key 3s to power the Broncos past San Diego State in the league title game.
When he’s missing, the Broncos really struggle to consistently score.
If this game is close late — which the betting line suggests it will be — Boise State really struggles to shoot free throws. The Broncos make just 65% from the line, which ranks 346th in the nation.
They’ve improved as the year has progressed — and it’s why they’ve won more close games — but that remains a serious red flag if the game comes down to it.
Memphis vs. Boise State Betting Pick
This is one of the most intriguing matchups on Thursday’s slate. Both teams are strong defensive squads that have the size and physicality to match one another.
On the other side of the floor, these are two very contrasting offenses. Boise State will look to slow the pace down and run out of the half-court, while Memphis loves to run-and-gun and push transition.
The Broncos are solid in defending transition offense, ranking 41st in the country, per ShotQuality. If they can slow the game down like they want, Memphis should struggle on the offensive end.
But slowing down the pace also plays into Memphis’ strength on the defensive end. The Tigers rank 23rd in 2-point defense and sit inside the top 50 in turnover rate. They’re an even better 21st out of the half-court, per ShotQuality, and thrive around the rim and out of the post.
They’re a disruptive athletic group, led by rim protector Duren, who averages 2.2 blocks per game.
It’s important to monitor the status of Bates, who has not played since Jan. 27 due to a lower back injury. I think it’s safe to assume he will not return for the NCAA Tournament, though I’m not really sure it matters. Memphis has been just fine without the five-star freshman.
I think the difference here will be the Tigers’ defense out of the post, where they rank eighth, per ShotQuality. That’s where the Broncos like to operate on offense, and if they struggle and fall behind against this fast-paced Tigers squad, I’m not sure if the Broncos can fight back into the game.
It’s also important to note that Memphis and Boise State also struggle from the free throw line. Memphis ranks just inside the top 300, while Boise State is 13th-worst in the NCAA.
Both teams can match each other’s strengths on the defensive end, and this could very well turn into a defensive slugfest. The first half under is also worth a look, because both teams thrive defensively.
I would avoid full-game unders just for the sake of late fouling, but I still give the edge to Memphis, which should get the job done in Portland.