Wednesday College Basketball Odds, Pick, Prediction: Memphis Tigers vs. UCF Knights Betting Preview
Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images. Pictured:
- Memphis travels down to Orlando to take on a potential bubble team in the UCF Knights.
- The Tigers have found their groove in the new year, while the Knights have dropped two ugly games after upsetting Michigan at home.
- Kyle Remillard breaks down why you shouldn't overthink this affair.
Memphis vs. UCF Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Penny Hardaway has been through a rollercoaster first two months of the season, both on and off the court.
Memphis opened the season winning five straight before losing four in a row. The Tigers have finally steadied the ship, though, winning four of their last five.
The program has gone nearly the entire season without a healthy, full roster due to both COVID-19 and the injury bug. Those injuries will continue to linger for this matchup, as the Tigers travel to Orlando to face a potential bubble team in UCF.
Central Florida has had a bit of a streaky opening to this season itself, starting out 9-2 before losing back-to-back conference games to SMU and Temple.
The offense looked sluggish in both those conference affairs, putting up an average of just 61 points. Life won’t get any easier as the Knights now welcome in the top defense in the American Athletic Conference.
How UCF is able to convert from 3-point range could be a deciding factor in this matchup.
Between COVID-19 and injuries, Hardaway hasn’t had his full lineup in nearly six weeks.
That may be the case again, as leading scorer DeAndre Williams missed last game with a back injury, and his status for this game is up in the air. If he doesn’t play, it would be a blow to the Tigers. But rest assured they have plenty of other weapons in the lineup.
Among them are the dynamic freshman duo of Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren.
Duren — the 6-foot-11 center — is a dominant force down low, and leads the conference with 2.7 blocks per game. He’s grabbed a block in every game while averaging 4.3 per every 40 minutes played. Duren is putting up 11 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
Bates is 6-foot-9 forward who is putting up 11 points per game, but has underproduced a bit compared to preseason expectations.
The Tigers utilize a well-balanced offense that has nine players who are averaging six points or more this season. The starting lineup has been a bit of a mixed bag, but the roster as a whole is a deep group, with 11 players averaging double-digit minutes per game.
The Tigers’ size has led them to the seventh-ranked unit in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, where they extend possessions on 39% of their misses. They also thrive at getting to the free-throw line on 42% of their field goal attempts.
In the era of the transfer portal, Johnny Dawkins was somehow able to return 97% of his overall minutes from last season, according to Bart Torvik. That returning production has proven to be a strong contributing factor in the early success for UCF, which is 9-4 on the season.
The group is led by a pair of guards in Darin Green Jr. and Darius Perry, who are averaging a combined 26 points. The duo has contributed to 46% of the team’s total assists after amounting 85 in the 13 games this season.
Both rank inside the top three in the AAC in 3-point field goal percentage, with each hitting 42% on their 144 attempts. The outside shooting by Green Jr. and Perry could be a strong factor in this matchup after Memphis allowed Cincinnati to hit 16-of-30 from 3-point range.
UCF has a dominant center in Cheikh Mbacke Diong, who has amounted 1.8 blocks per game this season. Though he has been an elite shot blocker, the Knights haven’t been capable of defending the paint, allowing opponents to hit 52% of their 2-point attempts, which ranks 262nd in the nation.
That’s a concern considering the Tigers take 67% of their shot attempts from inside the arc.
UCF lost its last two American matchups, including a home loss last time out to Temple. The Knights’ offense stalled, scoring just five points in an eight-minute span after the halftime break.
UCF shot below 40% from the field in that matchup and will need to find its offensive groove again if it wants to take down Memphis after a week off.
Memphis vs. UCF Betting Pick
Memphis has the potential to be a top group in the country if it can solidify the fundamentals (turnovers and free throws). The Tigers rank 353rd in turnover percentage (24%) and 210 in free throw percentage (70%).
Memphis showed it’s capable of doing that last time out, when it hit 85% from the charity stripe and turned it over on just 15% of its possessions.
The Tigers’ guards stand at 6-foot-5 and taller — for the most part — and present length that can challenge the perimeter. That length will prove pivotal in defending the outside shot attempts by both Green Jr. and Perry.
The Tigers have won all three games since entering 2022, and this could be the beginning of a big win streak with a weak upcoming schedule. UCF has lost its last two conference games and the offense has struggled in the new year.
I’m backing the red-hot Memphis Tigers, who are poised to continue their winning streak on the road at Central Florida.
Pick: Memphis +1.5 (Play to -2)
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