After winning their first three matchups with a 50-point average margin of victory the Billikens have headed south on I-55 for what is likely their biggest game of the season against Penny Hardaway’s 11th ranked Memphis Tigers. Saint Louis’ opponents thus far have been far from challenging, with an average rank of 340th – out of 353 – yet Memphis, projected as double-digit favorites in Tuesday’s matchup, has just a slightly better average opponent ranking of 320th. While Memphis is athletic, tall, and full of 5-star recruits and an NBA Hall of Fame coach, they are very young and lack the experience and chemistry that a team like Saint Louis has and that may be the key difference in this early-season bout.
Team Blue wrapped up their three-game opening week homestand with a 42-point victory (#BillsBy40) over Eastern Illinois last Friday led by Gibson Jimerson’s 18 points in 25 minutes and Francis Okoro’s first double-double – 11 points 12 rebounds and 1 assist, block and steal – as a Billiken. Marten Linssen scored a Saint Louis career’ high 15 points in just 15 minutes, and Yuri Collins joined them as the fourth Billiken to score in the double digits. Like the prior two games we saw Coach Ford play every man on the bench and a total off 11 players contributed to the points total; hopefully the chemistry and experience given to each guy on the roster will prove beneficial in this season’s more difficult tests, such as tonight in Memphis.
Saint Louis Men’s Basketball on Twitter: “The @bommaritoauto Fast Highlights from the 86-44 win over Eastern Illinois pic.twitter.com/4l63b9X3lh / Twitter”
The @bommaritoauto Fast Highlights from the 86-44 win over Eastern Illinois pic.twitter.com/4l63b9X3lh
Penny Hardaway’s 11th-ranked Tigers enter tonight’s matchup with a 2-0 record boasting back-to-back 30+ point victories against Tennessee Tech and North Carolina Central. Hardaway, the former Memphis player and NBA All-Star, is accompanied on the coaching staff by 2004 NBA Champion and 4-time All-Star Rasheed Wallace as well as Larry Brown, the legendary coach who won three national championships of his own – the ABA championship as a player in 1969, the NCAA championship as a coach in 1988, and NBA championship as Rasheed Wallace’s coach in 2004. The Tigers’ roster boasts both Jalen Duren and Emoni Bates as their frontcourt 5-star recruit duo as well as a paragraph-long list of 3- and 4-star recruits to round out a tall, athletic, yet overall inexperienced roster. The team averages a double-double with blocks and steals and has an outstanding 44% 3-point field goal percentage but has shown a tendency to foul and turn the ball over. The ceiling is high for Penny’s Tigers but a lot is yet to be proven of this highly-renowned program and with such a young and unrehearsed roster this early-season matchup is ripe for an upset.
Tonight’s game will be the 59th matchup in the history between Saint Louis and Memphis, in which the overall record is 32-26 in favor of Memphis but the most recent meeting – Round of 64 in the 2012 NCAA Tournament – ended in favor of the Billikens with a final score of 61-54. SLU looks to be favored in areas like points per game, opponents’ PPG, margin of victory, rebounding, assists per game, and turnovers per game, but Memphis’ daunting front court will possibly be the toughest test we face all season and tonight should be very telling of what to expect from #TeamBlue this year. With SLU’s depth, if we are able to keep our front court out of foul trouble and put theirs in the exact opposite situation I believe we could escape victorious but that will not be possible without a well-rounded offensive performance and the composed leadership from point guard Yuri Collins that we’ve seen on both ends of the court so far this year.
Tonight’s game at 7PM CST can be streamed on ESPN+ or listened to on KMOX 1120AM with Billiken favorites Bob Ramsey and Earl Austin Jr. As always, follow @SaintLouisMBB, @ChapleyMedia, @StuDurando, @MidtownMadPod, @WestPineBills, and @BillsBy40 for live updates, news, and commentary. I, @BillsBy40, am excited to be able to bring you updates and commentary live from the FedEx Forum where I will be trying my best to combat the loud and lively Memphis crowd while we look to pull off a Miracle in Memphis.