Coach Rick Majerus makes his return to the big stage as his 9th seeded Saint Louis Billikens face 8 seed Memphis in a first- round West Regional game in the NCAA Tournament. Tip-off is at 6:50 PM ET at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
The loser goes home after the game while the winner sticks around to play top-seed Michigan State. That’s how confident I am about Michigan State’s chances right now.
Ninth-seeded Saint Louis, a former league rival of the Tigers, finished second in the Atlantic 10 during the regular season before suffering a 71-64 loss to Xavier in the semifinals of the A-10 tournament. The Tigers own a 32-25 lead in the all-time series, but the teams have not met since the Billikens left Conference USA after the 2004-05 season.
$5 dollar fine for whining
Tiger fans are still miffed that after winning 26 games they could be placed in the same bracket with MSU and then be forced to face them in a second-round game no less.
The Tigers could have won at least one of their two games with Georgetown. That would have been enough to make them a 7. They could have beaten Michigan or Murray State. Or not lost to Central Florida and UTEP in conference, bad losses by any measure. Memphis maintains it deserved better than an 8. However if you check out all the seven seeds, not many of them have an easy go of it.
My non-basketball opinion of the Memphis seeding issue is that they were hit by bad karma in the form of using Luke Walton as an assistant coach for part of the year. Walton has been stealing money from the Lakers for years and someone, somewhere in the universe isn’t cool with that. Lakers fans will be rooting for the Billikens for just that reason.
Saint Louis (25-7 SU, 16-10)
Fifth-year head coach Rick Majerus is no stranger to NCAA Tournament play. In his 25 years of coaching, Majerus has advanced to the NCAA Tournament 11 times. His 1997-98 Utah team was the national runner-up. (Remember Keith Van Horn?).
This is the Billikens’ seventh appearance in the NCAA Tournament and first since 2000, when they captured the Conference USA Tournament. Saint Louis which finished second in the tough Atlantic 10 conference hasn’t played in the NCAA tournament since 2000. They closed well, winning 12 of their final 15 games.
Saint Louis’ calling card is defense ranking among the nation’s top defensive squads. Opponents have averaged just 57.5 points against the Billikens this season, which ranks eighth in the country. They’ve held opponents to 50 or fewer points on 10 occasions so far this season. In addition, teams have scored less than 40 three times.
Offensively, SLU is led by senior forward Brian Conklin (13.9 points, 53.3 percent field goals) and junior guard Kwamain Mitchell (12.1 points, 3.8 assists) who are the leaders of a deliberate half-court offense which is averaging 69.2 points per game.
Memphis Tigers (26-8 SU, 17-12 ATS)
The Tigers split their first 10 non-conference games but found their traction once conference play rolled around. The play of sophomore guard Will Barton helped Memphis get going, as Barton averaged 18.1 points per game on 51.1 percent shooting and pulled down a team-high 8.1 rebounds. Forward Tarik Black (10.9 points) and sophomore guard Joe Jackson (11.1 points, 3.8 assists) also average in double figures for Memphis.
Harvey’s Take: The tragedy of the seeding of these two teams is that one of them will have to face Michigan State on Saturday. Sadly both teams have Sweet 16 potential but likely won’t sniff next weekend.
In what will be one of the top first-round games, I’ll take Saint Louis to pull the mild upset.