The No. 6 Louisville Cardinals (8-1) will hit the road to face former conference foe Memphis Tigers (6-2) on Saturday. The unranked Tigers have a tall order in front of them, but history and home court advantage may be in their favor.
The FedExForum, which is also home to the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, has been rough on visiting teams since the Tigers started playing there in 2004. The Tigers have accumulated a 150-17 overall record inside the building. The 150 victories are the most on a home court since 2004 in the country. However, 10 of the 17 losses during this span of time have been to non-conference opponents. UofL has 136 home wins during the same time frame which is tied for fifth best with Pittsburgh.
Both Louisville and Memphis were participants in the Battle 4 Atlantis which took place in the Bahamas. During the tournament, is where both teams picked up their only losses. Memphis fell to VCU (6-3) 65-78 and a very good Minnesota (11-1) team 75-84. Louisville lost in the championship game to Duke (9-0) 71-76. Since, both teams have been playing good basketball.
Memphis has four players who average double-figures in scoring. Geron Johnson is the top scorer with 11.0 points per game followed closely by Adonis Thomas (10.9 ppg), Joe Jackson (10.6 ppg), and Tarik Black (10.4 ppg). Overall, the Tigers average 74.8 points per game which is 67th best in the country. Shaq Goodwin is the leading rebounder and pulls down 6.1 per contest.
For Louisville, Russ Smith continues to be the big offensive threat. Smith is averaging 20.3 points per game and shooting 45.4 percent from the floor. The only other double-digit scorer is point guard Peyton Siva who is tossing in 10.9 points per game. Louisville is averaging 77.0 points per game which is 45th best in the country.
Smith and Siva are also the key to Louisville’s nasty defensive pressure. Combined, the two guards are good for 6.0 steals per game. UofL is only allowing their competition to score 53.1 points per game. Over the past two outings, the Cards have only given up 38 and 47 points.
Louisville has had this recent success without big man Gorqui Dieng. Dieng has been sidelined with an injury for the past 4 games and will not play against Memphis despite being cleared to practice. Head coach Rick Pitino is more concerned about Dieng being in game shape than he is the injured wrist at this point. Therefore, UofL will continue to rely on Stephan Van Treese and Montrezl Harrell to fill the void. Since Dieng has been out, Van Treese has averaged 7.8 rebounds and Harrell has averaged 7.5 points per game.
Both squads do share two common opponents in Samford (2-9) and Northern Iowa (6-3). The Tigers escaped with a 65-54 victory over Samford, while UofL cruised to an 80-54 win. The Northern Iowa results were almost identical with Memphis winning 52-47 and UofL doing the same 51-46.
Throughout the match-ups between these two schools, Memphis holds a 3-2 lead when they are unranked and Louisville is in the Top 10. Last year, that was the case as well when Memphis visited the KFC YUM! Center to play ranked (No. 4) Louisville. On that day, defense was an afterthought. Louisville went on to win 95-87 as Russ Smith poured in 24 points and had 7 steals.
Tip-off is at 2:30 and the game will be televised on FOX Sports Net. One team will be receiving their first loss outside of Paradise Island, Bahamas. Early Las Vegas odds are indicating UofL will only be a 3-3.5 point favorite.