Conference play is in high gear across the country and teams are all looking to bolster their resumes and improve their positioning as we get closer to tournament time. While there's still a bit of season left to go, it's safe to say it's getting late early for both Memphis and UConn.
The Huskies (11-9, 2-5 AAC) are lacking a single Quadrant 1 victory and Memphis (15-5, 4-3) is teetering on the NCAA Tournament bubble in the wake of James Wiseman's suspension and subsequent early departure. That's the backdrop as the teams prepare to play Saturday at FedExForum in the first of two meetings this season.
Wiseman's departure is creating a brighter spotlight for Memphis freshman Precious Achiuwa, a 6-foot-9 forward and voracious rebounder who has proven to be a capable scorer and plus defender while relegated mostly to the post in Wiseman's absence. Achiuwa is on a streak of 10 straight games scoring in double figures and is averaging 10.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game during that time. UConn counters with a balanced attack led by senior guard Christian Vital.
- When: Saturday, 1 p.m. ET
- Where: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
- TV: CBS | Connected TV: CBS All-Access
- Live stream: CBSSports.com | Mobile: CBS Sports App
UConn: Picked to finish sixth in the AAC, the Huskies are looking to use a 78-63 win over Temple on Wednesday to jump-start their second half after a stretch of six losses in seven games. The Huskies played the game with just seven scholarship players but managed to snap a streak of four losses that came by a combined 17 points. The rough stretch tainted UConn's record. But the fact remains that Dan Hurley's second team has a home win over Florida on its resume and lost neutral site games to Xavier and Indiana by a combined four points. All the close losses indicate the Huskies are better than their record. And they can prove that by picking up their first Quadrant 1 win and first true road win at Memphis.
Memphis: The AAC has work to do if it's going to match last season's NCAA Tournament bid total of four. Only Wichita State and Houston entered the weekend in the top 50 of the NET rankings. But Memphis and Cincinnati are at No. 51 and 52, respectively, and the Tigers can complete a nice bounce-back week — and maybe even get off the bubble for a bit — with a victory over UConn. This is a Quadrant 3 game for the Tigers. But it's the first in a stretch of three straight winnable home games (Temple and South Florida are up next). For all the lamentation that followed Memphis' 40-point loss at Tulsa last week, the Tigers could look up at the end of this homestand and be 18-5 with a 7-3 conference record before playing five of their final eight on the road.
Game prediction, pick
Latest odds via SportsLine: Memphis -5.5
UConn is 0-4 in true road games, while Memphis is 10-2 at home, with its only losses coming by a combined seven points to Georgia and SMU. The Huskies have a penchant for playing close games. But expecting them to cover would not be wise. Pick: Memphis -5.5