NCAA Basketball Picks Memphis vs. UConn

Willie Bee

Friday, February 14, 2014 2:21 PM GMT

Friday, Feb. 14, 2014 2:21 PM GMT

Everyone is chasing the Cincinnati Bearcats in the American Athletic Conference, and two hoping to catch Mick Cronin's outfit before the end of the regular season collide Saturday when the Memphis Tigers make their first-ever visit to face the Connecticut Huskies.

Hartford's XL Center serves as the site for this AAC battle, and ESPN will broadcast the high noon (ET) tip. No betting lines are out for the game just yet, so keep your browsers pointed at SBR's live NCAA basketball odds to catch those numbers once they are released.

It's the second meeting of the season between the Tigers and Huskies, and only the third time they've ever gotten together on the hardwood. The two squads clashed in Memphis just about a month ago, and UConn left FedEx Forum with an 83-73 upset as a 7-point underdog.

The only other matchup between the schools came at Madison Square Garden in the semifinals of the 2007 2K Sports Classic, and the Tigers used a big second half to grab an 81-70 victory.

Tigers Hit Road After 3-Game Homestand

Memphis (19-5 straight up, 13-8 against the spread) just completed a perfect 3-0 homestand with Wednesday's 76-70 decision vs. the Central Florida Knights. Favored by 14 over a Knights team that has only one dubya in conference play, Josh Pastner's troops needed a 15-2 spurt late in the game to just get the victory.

The Tigers shot an even 50% from the field in the latest triumph, but struggled a bit from long-range plus were beaten on the glass where UCF held a 39-27 overall advantage, almost half of those rebounds on the offensive end. Memphis was basically able to win the game at the free-throw line where it held an 18-8 scoring advantage.

In the loss to UConn on Jan. 16, the Tigers ran out of gas in the second half when the Huskies shot better than 60% from the field. The teams were tied at 62 with just over five minutes to go, but the Memphis missed five of its final eight field goal attempts and committed three turnovers from that point on.

Pastner announced Thursday that Dominic Woodson had been suspended indefinitely for his potty mouth on the bench in Wednesday's win vs. UCF. Woodson, a 6-10 freshman from Texas, did not play against the Knights and had been ejected in Memphis' 60-54 win over Gonzaga last Saturday due to a flagrant-2 foul.

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Game With Tigers Begins Tough Stretch For Huskies

Saturday's matchup with Memphis commences a hard final three weeks on the schedule for Connecticut (19-5 SU, 13-9 ATS). The Tigers are one of four ranked teams among Kevin Ollie's squad's final seven games with Southern Methodist and Cincinnati visiting the Huskies before they close the regular season at Louisville.

UConn has won two straight since losing at Cincinnati a week-&-a-half ago, the latest dubya coming Wednesday in an 83-40 rout of South Florida. The Huskies smothered the Bulls on defense, holding USF to just 12 field goals while recording nine steals and 11 blocks. Six of those blocks were by freshman center Amida Brimah.

A 45-14 lead at halftime allowed Ollie to rest his starters in the second half. Shabazz Napier, Connecticut's leading scorer averaging over 17 PPG, was only on the floor 18 minutes and Brimah's half-dozen blocks came in just 23 minutes of court time.

A couple of teams with nearly identical records and sitting just a few rungs apart in the latest rankings should set up a close, physical battle. The spread should also be close with the Huskies slight home favorites, and that's where I'm leaning right now with my NCAA basketball picks.

My pick: Lean Connecticut

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