Memphis: Top talent, bad bet?
Wed, Feb 7, 2007By Jason Logan
Last week the Memphis Tigers complained about the lack of respect they were getting from college basketball analysts. This week, their demands were appeased with a spot in the nation’s Top 10.
Now all the Tigers have to do is prove they deserve it. They’ll get their first chance Thursday night when they visit the UAB Blazers.
"It's a good feeling," freshman Doneal Mack told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "We thought we should have been Top 10 a long time ago, but we're taking it one day at a time. We're not letting it get to our heads, because we've got a lot of games to play."
The biggest knock against Memphis is its soft Conference USA schedule, in which it has gone a perfect 9-0 this season. Many skeptics think the Tigers' 19-3 season record is misleading because of the lack of real competition they have faced this year.
Those three losses have come at the hands of high-caliber programs outside of C-USA such as Tennessee, Georgia Tech and Arizona, while Memphis’ most impressive wins have been against teams like Kentucky and Cincinnati, which were struggling to find their identities at the time.
“The Tigers are legitimate Top 20, but not Top 10 yet,” says David Malinsky of Covers Experts. “The talent is good enough to be in the higher grouping, but unfortunately the conference play does not push them hard enough to develop.”
During the first 13 games of the season the Tigers, who had lost three starters from last season, were a dismal 4-7 against the spread when odds were available.
While some pointed to the missing bodies in the starting rotation, sharp basketball bettors like Malinsky said Memphis’ inability to cover early in the season was due to a lack of killer instinct from head coach John Calipari.
“Sometimes beating up a weak opponent creates bad habits, and Calipari is savvy enough to understand that,” says Malinsky. “Those pointspreads were certainly there for the taking, but there was not particular reason to be running up the scores.”
Since their Dec. 20 loss to Arizona, the Tigers have strung together 11-straight wins and have gone 6-3-1 ATS, with two of those failed paydays coming without leading scorer Chris Douglas-Roberts in the lineup due to injury.
Currently on this run, Memphis has beaten its opponents by a margin of 21.5 points per game but has also seen pointspreads that reflect its dominance over the rest of the C-USA. Books have tagged the Tigers with double-figure handicaps in eight of the last 11 contests, with spreads getting as high as -20 ½.
“I’m not a big fan of playing on Memphis against 18 and 20-point spreads,” says Robert Ferringo of Doc’s Sports. “The lines are only going to get thicker and thicker the more the Tigers win. But all it takes is one slow half or one hot-shooting opponent to blow your bet.”
Oddsmakers have set the Tigers as 10-point favorites for Thursday’s game against UAB. Tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on ESPN from the Bartow Arena in Birmingham, Alabama.