Auburn vs. Memphis Odds, Picks: Trust ‘King Kendric’
Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images. Pictured: Kendric Davis (Memphis)
Auburn vs. Memphis Odds
-115o / -105u
-115o / -105u
Yes, the two teams will play a basketball game, but the real marquee matchup is Bruce Pearl versus Penny Hardaway on the sidelines.
Pearl, the gregarious boss of the Auburn Tigers, has a long track record of success to back up his unending confidence (and that of his team).
Hardaway, meanwhile, is trying to be a disruptor in the industry. He had never coached in college before getting the big gig at his alma mater. His tenure has not been without hiccups, but after an NCAA tournament win last season, his sights are set even higher.
This is actually the second meeting between these two recognizable coaches. Auburn narrowly topped Memphis in this same event back in December of 2020. Neither pack of Tigers made the NCAA tournament that year, however.
The stakes are higher this time around, as both squads are off to strong starts. A victory here would be a tremendous jewel on the winner’s postseason resume.
Few teams can lose what Auburn did in the frontcourt — No. 3 NBA draft pick Jabari Smith, No. 22 pick Walker Kessler — and maintain total dominance at the rim.
This is Pearl we’re talking about, though.
Kessler was the country’s best shot-blocker last season. Without him, Auburn’s block percentage ranking has plummeted to … first, per KenPom? Can that be right?
Thanks to Johni Broome and Dylan Cardwell, it is absolutely correct.
The Tigers have constructed their defense around their vicious rim protectors, running foes off the perimeter and into the waiting arms of Broome and Cardwell. The rim is a no-fly zone. Per Hoop-Math, opponents shoot 49.0% at the rim, the 23rd-best mark nationally.
That also allows the incredibly athletic Tigers to play more aggressively on the perimeter. Their aggression generates turnovers and rushed jumpers. Foes are never comfortable against Auburn’s menacing defensive onslaught.
The offensive end, however, is a work in progress. Auburn badly lacks perimeter shooting — the team currently ranks 316th nationally in 3-point percentage.
Instead, Auburn’s best offense is often the old “volleyball on the glass” option, hurling Broome, Cardwell and plenty of others at the rim in waves.
Point guard Wendell Green Jr. has been a terrific maestro at the head of the attack thus far. Wing K.D. Johnson is a live-wire slasher who can occasionally get hot from deep.
Both players feed off the energy of Auburn’s home crowd. Away from the friendly confines of The Jungle, however, both players become far more erratic.
Last year, these Tigers went 12-3-1 against the spread at home. They went just 8-10 ATS everywhere else.
This year, a gruesome 43-42 rock fight with Northwestern in Cancun is the latest indicator that the Tigers might not be the same team away from Auburn.
This is a vastly different Memphis squad than we have grown accustomed to seeing under Hardaway. While his past teams have been touted for their tremendous freshmen talent, this is one of the most experienced teams in the country.
Past Memphis squads have also been known for sloppy ball-handling, ranking 262nd or worse in KenPom’s turnover rate metric. Last year’s team landed 351st.
With Kendric Davis joining the fold, though, that has risen to 153rd this year, which is middle of the pack nationally.
Davis will be at the heart of most of Memphis’ successes this year. A true floor general, the speedster can get anywhere he wants on the floor thanks to his quickness and ball-handling prowess. He’s a deadly scorer when he wants to be, but he also knows how to set the table for his teammates.
Memphis has become especially scary when Hardaway plays Davis and fellow point guard Alex Lomax together. Per Hoop-Explorer, the Tigers are +22.7 per 100 possessions in that alignment (adjusted for competition). In any other lineup, that drops to +9.4 per 100.
Of course, the Tigers still have some consistent DNA.
Under Hardaway, Memphis has been an automatic near the top of KenPom’s Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. This year’s squad checks in at 18th, led by bristling rim defense.
The Tigers rank 22nd nationally in 2-point percentage defense, largely thanks to forwards DeAndre Williams and Malcolm Dandridge.
Another consistent trait: Memphis lacks shooters. These Tigers rank 321st nationally in 3P attempt rate and 218th in 3P%. They lack shooting threats, and the guys that do take them rarely convert at a high rate.
Auburn vs. Memphis Betting Pick
These teams have incredibly similar defensive DNA: pesky guards who can harass the ball for 94 feet and dominant big men who contest everything at the rim.
Neither has the outside shooting to stretch the court out, either.
As such, expect an inefficient struggle when this game is in the half court.
This points me towards an under wager, but I fear that pace could go haywire here. KenPom projects this game at 69 possessions; I expect it to have at least 72, and it could push into the mid-70s.
The meeting two years ago had 77 possessions, for reference.
Instead, I am backing the Tigers of Memphis in what feels like a pick’em game. The line affords some slight value as a Penny pincher. Plus, the Beale Street Bengals have the best player on the floor: Davis.
Down the stretch of a tight game, I trust “King Kendric” to make the right play. I cannot say the same for Green and Johnson on the other side, especially away from Auburn Arena.