The Battle of Memphis-Tennessee
Memphis and Tennessee must be laughing at their northern neighbors (UK and Louisville) as they are set to face off Saturday as the top ranked teams in the nation.
For Memphis, this is the game on their schedule that is their biggest threat to spoil their undefeated regular season. For Tennessee, this is a great way to shore up a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and prove they are the best team in the state (and possibly the nation). Both of these teams have great guard play, with Tennessee having the upper-hand in height and experience.
Memphis is looking to become the first team since UNLV to win all of their regular season games. While they do not quite have the reputation of dominance that the tough Runnin’ Rebels team once held, they do have a certain swagger and flair that is very appealing.
Of course, Memphis has dominated the regular season before. Last year they nearly went unscathed, only to lose to Ohio State in the Great 8, while UT also lost to the Buckeyes in a miraculous comeback. There is one big difference though from this years Memphis team who returned all of their starters and last years; Derrick Rose. Rose should be a top 10 pick in next years NBA Draft and he is second on the team in points and first in assists. Chris Douglas-Roberts is dropping 18 points a game and I guarantee you that he has become best friends with Rose who opens up the entire court for others.
Tennessee also is stacked with talented guards, all of whom are experienced. Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith provide consistency and a clutch mentality that can’t be over appreciated. Tyler Smith is long and athletic and his proven valuable both under the boards and running the floor.
This game should come with a warning label: Watching this game may cause fatigue and increase heart rate.
Everybody on the floor, for both teams, will be able to run the floor and play “risk” defense. An effective pump fake could make five guys jump, and effective fake pass could make 3 guys bite and as always a solid box out will be the best way to grab a rebound. If you do get a rebound, keep it high or it will get stripped.
My thoughts after watching both teams all year (and last year) is regardless of the outcome they are each legitimate top five teams. I give the edge to Memphis, mainly because it’s a home game but also because I think this could turn into Derrick Rose’s official coming out party for those who have not been fortunate enough to see him play. As great as Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith are, I think Rose will be the most talented. Rose is inexperienced but his teammates are not. John Calipari has a steady, even flow in his take on an undefeated season and his temperament is perfect for his team.
I not only like Memphis in this game but that are my front-runner to with the NCAA Tournament and have been since the start of the season. A lot can happen between now and then but I like their odds. Young talent mixed in with experience and great guard play is a winning combination.