Where to Watch
Location: Moda Center, Portland, Oregon
Tip Time: 1:45 p.m. EST
Television/Streaming: TNT/March Madness Live
DraftKings Betting Line: Memphis -2.5, O/U 133.5
There may not be two hotter teams in the country than Memphis and Boise State. They’re heading on a collision course, just to play … Gonzaga?
Well, that’s not too generous given the seasons that they had.
Memphis had a disastrous start to the season that included a loss to Georgia (UG) as it looked like another turnover-filled, over recruited Memphis team. But Emoni Bates went down with an injury in late January and since then the Tigers have won ten of 12.
On the other end, Boise State won its first Mountain West regular-season title and followed that up with a conference tournament title. They finished the season winning eight of nine, last losing to a team who is not in the Field of 68 in November.
Which one of the strong will survive?
As mentioned above, what a strange season for the Memphis Tigers. They opened it with a 6-5 record and finished at 21-10.
Although they lost to Georgia (UG) and Tulane to open the season, they beat the likes of Virginia Tech and Alabama. The Tigers would then finish the regular season winning ten of 11, including two wins over the Houston Cougars.
The effort can be given to AAC Freshman of the Year, Jalen Duren. Not only does the center average 12.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, but he is also shooting 62.6% from the field while ranking in the top 30 of block percentage and top 50 of offensive rating.
By his side in the frontcourt, Deandre Williams is averaging 10.9 points per game while shooting 55.2% from the field. In the backcourt, Lester Quinones is the only guard who averages double-digit points for Memphis at 10.1 points per game.
Now, there’s been talks that Emoni Bates may return and although he has shown that he can be impactful on the floor, the record says elsewise.
Memphis’ biggest problem is the turnovers. Averaging 16.4 points per game, Memphis ranks dead last in offensive steal percentage, and I think that could be the ultimate difference-maker in the game.
This Boise State team came out of nowhere and pretty much eased its way into the NCAA Tournament field. After opening the season with a 3-4 record, the Broncos won 13 straight, winning the Mountain West regular-season title and capping it with a conference tournament championship.
In a league that is so frontcourt heavy, the Broncos have a sleeper of a group under the basket.
Led by Abu Kigab, the Canadian forward averages 14.7 points per game while shooting 50% from the field. Alongside him, Mladen Armus may only average 7.2 points and 7.9 rebounds per game but ranks in the top 25 of the country in offensive rating and top 130 in defensive rating.
Before we get to their star-studded, tall backcourt, let’s talk about that defense.
It has ranked in the top 20 of the country all season and currently sits as the 16th best in the NCAA Tournament field on KenPom. They own the boards and have shown they can keep offenses quiet, holding their opponents to under 70 points in seven of its last nine.
The players who answer that defense on the other side of the court is the offense. Emmanuel Akot is an enormous 6-8 guard who is not only one of the best three-point shooters in the country but scores 10.7 points per game. Alongside him, Marcus Shaver seemed to of hit every big shot for Boise this season, hitting 41.6% of his shots and scoring 13.6 points per game.
If it means anything, Boise State is 2-0 against AAC opponents this season.
I believe that turnovers will be a huge difference-maker in this game as Boise State has a top 50 steal percentage in the country and Memphis ranks dead last. The Broncos have the size to body up the Tigers and should limit what Duren can do down low. Boise State wins this game by a score of 68-66.