On Wednesday, February 10th the Memphis Tigers come to Hofheinz Pavilion to take on the Houston Cougars. The game will be televised on ESPNU from tip off at 6:00 P.M.
While the Tigers have a long tradition of success in basketball, extending into recent history, they have struggled more than usual this season. They have fallen to a 14-9 record overall, and an even 5-5 in conference, putting them just behind the Cougars at sixth among post-season eligible teams. They seem to have lost to the bulk of their tough opponents. Their difficult early schedule had them falling to Oklahoma and Ole Miss. And during conference play they have dropped games to Cincinnati, UConn, and SMU. So, they seem to win most of their games against easy opponents, but lose games to teams that can put up a fight.
The Tigers, however, look to end this trend as the season draws to a close. On Saturday, they defeated Cincinnati, who is currently third in the American Athletic Conference, in a close game in Memphis. So, perhaps the tide is turning and the Tigers will ride into Houston with momentum in tow.
The Cougars, on the other hand, lost in blow out fashion to the Tulsa Golden Hurricane on Saturday, which dropped them to 16-7 and 6-5 in conference play. This disappointing loss snapped a three game winning streak Houston that had included a victory over the then No. 12 SMU Mustangs. The Cougars were streaking at the right time, but hit a bump in the road on Saturday. They will look to get back on the right track with a conference win over Memphis on Wednesday.
With both team’s chances of receiving an at large bid to the NCAA Tournament increasingly unlikely, if not impossible, they will look to win the American Athletic Conference Tournament for a chance to get into the Big Dance. A win on Wednesday could improve their potential seeding in the tournament.
Houston will look to contain Memphis’s leading scorers Shaq Goodwin and Dedric Lawson, who are averaging 15 and14.3 points per game respectively. These impressive players each grab more than 8 rebounds a game, as well. But the Tigers aren’t just these two. Both Ricky Tarrant Jr and Trahson Burrell are averaging double digits scoring this season, too.
The Cougars will have to contain some of these players. But they must also lift themselves out of the offensive slump that Tulsa put them in. They hope to have Rob Gray Jr, the Cougars’ and the conference’s leading scorer, back in the lineup after missing two games with an injured left ankle incurred in the closing minutes of the East Carolina game. They’ll also hope that Devonta Pollard can stay out of foul trouble so that they can have him as a defensive presence on the court.
Wednesday looks to provide Cougar fans with an exciting game rife with conference seeding implications. Memphis head coach, Josh Pastner, is from the Houston area, so he will likely want to impress in his hometown. He will also want his team to capitalize on the momentum they have created with their win over Cincinnati. So, Cougar fans should come out to the game and ensure that Kelvin Sampson knows which team, coaches, and players the city of Houston is behind.