Record: 13-8 (4-4 AAC)
Head Coach: Josh Pastner (7th Season)
Josh Pastner's seat grows warmer by the day. Barring a miracle, Memphis will miss the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive year, a drought that this program hasn't seen since John Calipari's first two years coaching the Tigers in 2000-2001 and 2001-2002.
Pastner is still under contract through 2020 and would still be owed $10 million-plus if fired in March, according to The Commercial Appeal's Geoff Calkins. And, as we learn from The Daily Helmsman's Omer Yusuf, average attendance has dropped at the FedExForum from more than16,000 two years ago to around 11,500 this season.
I guess that's what happens when you lose to lowly East Carolina at home, which is what Memphis did on January 24th. The Tigers have lost three of four, most recently a 12-point setback at No. 12 SMU on Saturday, dropping them to 5-25 against the Associated Press Top-25 in the Pastner Era.
UConn comes to town on Thursday (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2), with the Huskies holding a 4-2 head-to-head advantage over the Tigers since the two became conference foes. This is a rematch of a thrilling January 9th meeting in which UConn won 81-78 up in Storrs.
In a game that UConn led for most of the way, it became the Shaq Goodwin show in the second half, with the senior forward scoring 19 of his 23 points after the break. Goodwin eventually fouled out, but Memphis actually held the lead in the final minute. UConn hung on for the victory thanks to clutch free throws from Daniel Hamilton and Sterling Gibbs, the latter of whom had a game-high 26 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the three-point line.
It's worth noting that although the Huskies were without the services of Amida Brimah, who missed 11 games with a broken finger (Thursday will be just his 2nd game back), the combination of Kentan Facey (7 points, 5 blocks) and Phil Nolan (7 points) filled in admirably.
Facts & Figures
Shaq Goodwin has taken off since Memphis-UConn Part I, averaging just under 20 points per game over his last seven contests. After a down 2014-2015 campaign (9.6 PPG), Goodwin has been much more aggressive this season, taking four more field goals and three more free throws per game. He's also blocking over two shots a night.
As in the number of fouls committed by Memphis in that first meeting, compared to just 23 by UConn. Memphis' main strength is getting to the free-throw lineâfree throws account for 26.2% of their total points, the 4th-highest such rate in the countryâbut every foul they were given, they gave back. Goodwin was limited to just four first-half minutes with two early fouls and was one of three Tigers to foul out, joining Markel Crawford and Avery Woodson. Memphis strives to make more free throws than their opponent even attempts, but each team made 26 that day.
That's the advantage UConn held in transition points on January 9th, despite Memphis playing at the 7th-fastest tempo in the country, way faster than they ever have under Pastner. The slower overall pace favored the Huskies, and UConn even beat Memphis at their own game by significantly outscoring the Tigers on the fast break.
Memphis has just two Top-100 RPI wins entering Thursday night: home vs. Temple and on a neutral court vs. Ohio State.
Good thing Memphis cashes in at the charity stripe so often, as their Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) of 45.6% ranks 318th out of 351 Division-1 teams, in the same offensively-challenged tier as the likes of San Diego State and Rutgers. Memphis doesn't shoot well from three-point land, shoots even worse inside the arc compared to other schools, and posted a 37.3 FG% against UConn in the first meeting. It doesn't help that as efficient as Goodwin is, Memphis' second and third leading scorers, Dedric Lawson (39.3%FG, 14.4 PPG on 12.6 shots per game, most on the team) and Ricky Tarrant (37% 2FG, 31% 3FG), are quite the contrary.
What Else Does KenPom Tell Us?
Memphis and UConn both struggle to score the ball—Memphis ranks 120th in adjusted offensive efficiency, while UConn comes in at 117th—but the Huskies are much better defensively (5th in adjusted defensive efficiency compared to 58th for Memphis). UConn's edge on the defensive side of the ball is a result of more commonly holding opponents to one-and-done and committing less personal fouls.
Be prepared to see a lot of missed two-pointers, many of the blocked-shot variety, too: UConn has the 4th-stingiest inside-the-arc shot defense, while Memphis is 11th best nationally. And both the Huskies and Tigers have Top-10 block rates.