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If there was one way to remove the bad taste from Memphis' mouths after losing at Houston, it would be winning this game. The Tigers didn't do themselves any favors losing to the Cougars on Thursday and could end up in the 8-9 seed range if they aren't careful. Memphis already won at Louisville earlier this season so another win wouldn't be too farfetched.
The problem for Memphis is that Louisville is cruising through its schedule right now. Outside of two close games against Cincinnati, the Cardinals are winning every game by double digits. They have won 11 of their last 12 with dominant performance.
It's been a bit different for Memphis as most of their games have been close, even against the bottom barrel of teams. The Tigers beat UFC by six points, Rutgers by five and needed OT to take out Temple. And those were their last three wins. While they have the confidence of already beating Louisville, they aren't playing the best basketball right now.
In the previous matchup which Memphis won 73-67, the Tigers used their balance to get the win with five players in double figures, all of them being starters. That's in par with most games for Memphis, as they don't often have one guy that's going to take over. Louisville's top trio wasn't enough, but that's not saying they won't be in this game. Defending players like Montrezl Harrell and Luke Hancock will be a problem once again for Memphis.
Louisville has a small size advantage as Memphis will have to use Chris Crawford on Hancock. Both players will have chances on the offensive end, but Hancock gets the edge, although he has been struggling lately. Harrell and Shaq Goodwin will matchup at the four-spot with Harrell having a slight edge for Louisville as he's better on the offensive end. The one spot the Tigers can attack will be with Austin Nichols, who will likely be guarded by Stephan Van Treese.
The backcourts for these teams are very even as well, but Russ Smith won't be stopped. He can get his points no matter who's defending him. The question for Louisville will be what guys like Chris Jones and Terry Rozier can do. Rozier has hit double digits in four straight games coming off the bench. However, Michael Dixon Jr. fills that same exact roll for Memphis.
Out of the Memphis starting three guards, one of them will need to find a rhythm. Geron Johnson, Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford can all be viable options, but if their shots aren't falling, anything can happen. That's what happened at Houston when none of them scored more than seven points and Dixon had to take over, but he can only do so much.
With the way these two teams are playing right now, it would be an upset if Memphis got the win even though they are at home. Just like last season, Louisville is honing in down the stretch and while their remaining schedule is tough (at SMU, vs. UConn), not many will be putting money down against them.
Predicted Score - Louisville 80 Memphis 74
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