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Get ready for some Thursday night AAC showdowns featuring the Memphis Tigers versus the Temple Owls and the Florida Atlantic Owls versus the UAB Blazers. Find our best college basketball picks for these two AAC bouts below!
Date: Thursday, February 8
Time: 7:00 pm EST
Moneyline: Memphis N/A | Temple N/A
It would be challenging to adequately describe the Memphis Tigers’ regular season to this point. They have had three players leave the program halfway through the season, one of whom (Mikey Williams) was in the midst of a court case until recently. However, Williams entered the transfer portal when the program decided he would not play for them until the legal process ended.
Additionally, freshman forward J.J. Taylor opted to enter the transfer portal in the middle of the season. But it gets weirder. After mysteriously disappearing from the Memphis Tigers basketball program (without much explanation), Jordan Brown returned to the team at the end of January.
Despite all of this inner-program chaos, the Memphis Tigers ascended the national rankings to as high as No. 10 before the wheels fell off. And the “wheels falling off” is probably the understatement of the year, as the wheels’ current state could be more aptly described as combusted.
After Memphis was ranked tenth in the nation, it immediately dropped its next four games to South Florida, Tulane, UAB, and Rice, respectively. Making matters worse, two of those games were on the Tigers’ home floor! Then, the Tigers narrowly escaped another home upset against Wichita State (1-8 in AAC) in their last game on Saturday.
Head coach Penny Hardaway secured a lot of individual talent in the transfer portal, including Jahvon Quinerly, Jaykwon Walton, Jordan Brown, Caleb Mills, Nick Jourdain, Jayhlon Young, Nae’Qwan Tomlin, Jonathan Pierre, and David Jones. Malcolm Dandridge and Jayden Hardaway are the only two returners from the 2022-23 Tigers team!
Unfortunately, Mills is out for the season with an injury, Tomlin was only able to join the team somewhat recently, and Brown went missing for two months. It is hard to blame Coach Hardaway for all of that.
David Jones has been the Tigers’ brightest light this season, averaging just shy of 22 points, eight rebounds, and two steals per game on a 46/38/82 shooting split. When Memphis struggles offensively, Jones can get a bucket and help it regain momentum. Still, Jones can only do so much for this team that has plummeted in the NET rankings (79th) and in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin metric (76th.)
Meanwhile, Temple is the worst team in the AAC, boasting an 8-14 overall record but only winning one of its nine conference games thus far this season. The Owls rank 243rd in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin, behind the 273rd-most efficient offense nationally. Further, Temple’s only conference win was at home against Wichita State, the other 1-8 team in the AAC.
The Owls didn’t bring back many players from last season’s team, as Hysier Miller and Jahlil White, the fifth and seventh-leading scorers, respectively, are the only two key returners. In fact, Nick Jourdain transferred from Temple to Memphis and will be playing against his old team in this bout. Damian Dunn and Khalif Battle, the Owls’ two best players from last year, also left the program after their 2022-23 season.
Despite their struggles this season, Temple has kept many games within striking distance, especially in conference play on its home floor. Can the Owls do the same in this spot?
At this point, backing the Tigers as favorites feels like a death sentence. Memphis is an impossibly poor 3-13 against the spread as a favorite. Laying 6.5 points with the Tigers on the road after losing four of their past five and barely beating a Shockers team that is 1-8 in conference play (on their home floor) is not an optimal position.
Temple might be terrible offensively, but the Tigers have let Wichita State, Rice, and UAB shoot over 44% from deep over their past three games. Further, they rank 354th (out of 362 teams) in turnovers per game in that stretch.
Memphis has played down to its competition all season long, and there is no reason to believe it won’t do the same in this spot. The Tigers might win, but seven points is a substantial number to cover on the road in a conference game.
Date: Thursday, February 8
Time: 9:00 pm EST
Moneyline: Florida Atlantic N/A | UAB N/A
Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook. Head over to DraftKings Sportsbook to place your bets.
After making the Final Four in last season’s 2023 NCAA Tournament (as a No. 9 seed), expectations were sky-high for the Florida Atlantic Owls this year, especially since they were basically returning their entire team. No, seriously, the Owls brought back every one of their rotational players except for Michael Forrest.
The list of returners includes Johnell Davis, Vlad Goldin, Alijah Martin, Nick Boyd, Bryan Greenlee, Giancarlo Rosado, Brandon Weatherspoon, and Jalen Gaffney. Nick Boyd missed some games towards the beginning of the season, while Rosado is still out with a knee injury; however, the Owls basically have transplanted their roster from the Final Four team to this year’s squad.
Still, Florida Atlantic has struggled at times, losing to Charlotte, FGCU, and Bryant. None of those teams rank inside the top 100 of KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin (Charlotte sits at 100th.) Luckily, the Owls seem to be getting hot at the right time, stringing together seven straight wins since that road loss to Charlotte.
FAU occasionally gets into tough late-game situations against teams that it should blow out, partly because of its defense, which ranks 77th in adjusted defensive efficiency. Very few of the teams that the Owls have played this season, save No. 10 Illinois and No. 8 Arizona, can keep up offensively with them, as they rank 15th in eFG%, 39th in 3P%, 43rd in offensive rebounding percentage, and 13th in points per game!
Now, for UAB.
The UAB Blazers got off to a rough start to the 2023-24 campaign, dropping five of their first nine games. Five of those games were home games, and they only secured two wins in that stretch. Since then, the Blazers have rattled off seven consecutive home wins, including an impressive four-point dub against South Florida. That game handed USF its one and only loss through the first ten games of conference play.
The Blazers have won their past four home games by just shy of nine points, and none of those teams are the bottom-dwellers of the AAC. At least, not yet. UAB has a balanced scoring attack, with five players averaging double-digit points per game. That offensive quintuplet includes Eric Gaines, Yaxel Lendeborg, Alejandro Vasquez, Efrem Johnson, and Javian Davis. With five players who can put points on the board, the Blazers are a harder team to defend, evidenced by their ranking of 79th in adjusted offensive efficiency (KenPom.)
The UAB team we saw at the beginning of this season is not the same as we see now. The Blazers are a dominant force at home, logging seven straight home wins. Additionally, this recent stretch of games for them has been tough, but they have kept road games close against Charlotte (100th in adjEM) and SMU (46th in adjEM) while sneaking out a narrow win against North Texas (75th in adjEM) away from their home floor.
FAU presents a challenge for this Blazers team, but their recent play is promising. They should keep this game within two possessions.
Andrew has always been an avid sports fan and followed his hoop dreams all the way to college. He’s well-versed in everything betting with multiple years of experience and is qualitatively and quantitatively knowledgeable in sports statistics and analytics.More info on Andrew Norton
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