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Little Rock has had an impressive start to the season, winning three of their first four games. On Wednesday, they travel to Memphis to face one of the nation's most talented teams.
The Tigers enter this contest fresh off a 102-56 victory over Alcorn State. It marked the first game they played without star James Wiseman. And while his status remains uncertain as Memphis and the NCAA work out a settlement, the Tigers want to continue to build momentum with big games on the horizon.
Wednesday's game takes place at the FedEx Forum in Memphis with tip-off scheduled for 8 p.m. EST.
The Trojans face their toughest testLittle Rock has several talented players that could challenge Memphis's defense. Markquis Nowell is the Trojans' leading scorer as he averages 25 points per game. Along with him, Ben Coupet Jr. is also a key contributor, adding 14 points and seven rebounds per game.
They'll need them to play consistently well against Memphis who'll likely play without their star center in Wiseman. Because of this, Memphis coach Penny Hardaway goes with a smaller lineup consisting of more guards, which means the matchup to watch is in the frontcourt.
Little Rock's guard play directs how well they compete in this game. If they struggle to protect the ball against a Tigers' defense that features plenty of size (guard Lester Quinones is 6'5") then they'll have trouble keeping up.
And this is due to Memphis' outstanding talent from top to bottom. They rotate five guards each of whom can knock down shots from the perimeter or drive and dish. The Tigers' depth will make it hard for the Trojans to keep pace.
The Tigers adjusting without WisemanAs noted above, since the Tigers are playing without their star center, they rely more on their guard play to generate the scoring. Another player to watch in this contest is forward DJ Jefferies, who's supplied some power in the paint. Jeffries averages 11.5 points and four rebounds a game, which doesn't mirror the production Wiseman would produce. At the same time, it provides enough balance to give Memphis a two-dimensional offense against weaker opponents.
On Wednesday, their guard play dictates the tempo of the game. Because they do an excellent job rotating in fresh bodies consistently, look for them to wear down a Little Rock roster that doesn't have the all-around talent nor depth to keep up.
As a byproduct, this should result in ample fast break opportunities where the Tigers' guards can drive to the paint for easy scoring opportunities. They face a Trojans' defense that's held opponents to 64 points this season. At the same time, they haven't faced an offense as versatile as Memphis. As the game progresses, Memphis's guard play proves to be the difference.
Trends found on Covers.com Memphis is:
- 6-1 against teams with a winning record
Little Rock is:
- 1-5 ATS against opponents with a winning percentage of .600 or more
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Memphis will use its stellar guard play to push the pace and create easy-scoring opportunities in the paint. Meanwhile, Little Rock will hang around for a while thanks to its good guard play. However, as the game progresses, the difference in depth becomes apparent. Look for the Tigers to use its rotating guards to continue to create fresh opportunities while the Trojans struggle to keep up. Even without Wiseman, Memphis wins in dominant fashion.
Full-Game Total Pick
The Tigers average 91 points per game. They'll score close to that on Wednesday, as their depth and talent are simply too much for Little Rock to match. In addition, Memphis' size in guard play will create turnovers to help them push the tempo to score easily. Because they control the pace, they'll be able to use a deeper and more talented bench to continue to keep the pressure on as Memphis wins emphatically in a higher-scoring game.