The Tigers can win because…
They have the talent and the veteran roster to beat a No. 1 seed. Memphis was shaky on Friday night against George Washington but Memphis was expected to win. Now, this team, which is loaded with senior guards who have been through the pressure of the NCAA tournament, can play freely. The Tigers have seniors (Joe Jackson, Geron Johnson, Chris Crawford, and Michael Dixon, Jr.) who are all very skilled. Jackson is a great penetrator with the dribble, Crawford is a really good spot-up shooter, and Johnson and Dixon are a little bit of both. These players will be excited to face a No. 1 seed in the third round of March Madness, but what will motivate the Tigers' seniors even more than playing a top seed is the chance to make their first Sweet 16.
None of these Memphis players have tasted what it's like to advance another weekend in the brackets. Such an accomplishment would mean a lot to a senior class that has not been able to excel as much as its fans have hoped. This game feels like a Super Bowl for Memphis. The Tigers might not beat Virginia in a three- or five-game series but they only have to beat the Cavaliers once on Sunday night. This is not a question of talent, but execution. If you look at pure talent, Memphis probably has a slight advantage. All the Tigers have to do is be committed to moving the ball and not going one-on-one all the time. If they can do that, they have a great chance to do more than just cover the NCAA basketball odds.
The Cavaliers can win because…
They are playing an opponent that will probably not do the things it needs to do to win this game. Virginia is going to win because Memphis generally does not display the level of patience it needs to win big basketball games. The Tigers' seniors might want to win really badly, but they do not restrain themselves and make the right kinds of decisions. The Tigers do play too much one-on-one ball, they take a lot of bad shots and settle for really long threes, and they overdribble and often do too much freelancing. Memphis' recruiting has been more than adequate in recent years. Coaching has been the problem. Pastner is only 36, so he has a lot of time in which to learn and grow. On the other hand, he is only 36, and unless you're Brad Stevens, 36-year-old head coaches in big jobs (Memphis is a big job in college basketball) don't usually have everything figured out. Pastner is going up against a coach, Virginia's Tony Bennett, who has done one of the five best coaching jobs in the country this season. Virginia is so good at knowing what to do and when to do it. The Cavaliers are in the right position at the right time, and they will slow down Memphis, knowing that the Tigers are going to want to run as much as possible.
Outlook & Pick
Virginia played a shaky game on Friday, so it's not as though Memphis was the only team to suffer from a bad game. The Cavaliers are going to be a lot better in this game than they were against Coastal Carolina, so take them with your NCAA basketball picks. That's probably going to make the difference for them.