The No. 22 Memphis Tigers return home to host the Cincinnati Bearcats on Thursday night after splitting two conference road games last week at Wichita State (losing 76-67) and South Florida (winning 68-64). The Tigers currently rank 41st in the nation in Kenpom, while the Bearcats are right behind them at 45.
Cincinnati is currently 3-1 in conference play and has won its last two games by an average of 22.5 points per game. The Bearcats are 10-6 overall and, for the most part, remain similar stylistically under new coach John Brannen to what they were in recent seasons under now-UCLA coach Mick Cronin.
The Bearcats are one of the more experienced teams in the nation this season, as their five leading scorers are all either juniors or seniors, including 7-footer Chris Vogt, who followed Brannen from Northern Kentucky. Vogt is averaging 13.5 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game on the season.
Jarron Cumberland is also still in school, averaging 13.3 points per game but has seen his efficiency regress as a senior.
Memphis has remained resilient despite James Wiseman’s decision to leave the program. The Tigers are 13-3 on the season and should be an at-large selection come tournament time. Freshman forwards Precious Achiuwa and DJ Jeffries lead the Tigers in both scoring and rebounding, while point guard Alex Lomax recently moved back into the starting lineup.
Wing scorer Lester Quinones has played in five games after missing roughly a month with injuries and has averaged just over 11 points per game while shooting 45.5 percent from behind the arc.
Memphis is a 4.5-point favorite at home, with the over/under set at 141.5.
Bearcats Need Resume-Building Win
Right now, Cincinnati sits at 10-6 on the season and 3-1 in the conference, but it lacks a signature win on its resume. The Bearcats’ best win was against Tennessee, which won’t be any good by the end of the season after losing Lamonte Turner.
The Bearcats are just 6-10 against the spread on the season and 1-3 straight up as an underdog, as well as 1-3 straight up on the road. They are 4-4 on the over/under in road and neutral-site games but have gone under in four of their last five contests.
Cincinnati as a program is 6-0 in its last six games against Memphis; however, each of those games was coached by two different coaches.
No Lions, But We Have Tigers And Bear(cats)
Memphis has performed fairly well against the spread this season at 9-6-1 overall and 6-4 ATS at home. As a favorite, the Tigers are 11-1 straight up and 9-1 straight up at home on the season.
They have split their over/under both overall (8-8) as well as at home (5-5) but have gone under in six of their last nine games. The Tigers are currently one of the fastest teams in the nation as well, ranking 12th in Kenpom’s Tempo metric.
Pick and Prediction
It will be an interesting matchup in the paint as the 6-9 Achiuwa will be matched up with the 7-1 Vogt, who also has about 15 pounds on Achiuwa. This matchup really comes down to the Memphis defense against the Bearcats’ offense.
The Tigers hold opponents under 64 points per game and allow the second-lowest effective field goal percentage in the nation at .402. The Bearcats have not been known to have a prolific offense since about 2005, and their defense is not as strong as it was under Cronin in recent seasons. Memphis should cover at home and play the under.