The move to the American Athletic Conference was a smart move by Memphis. They are playing better teams and they are going into the tournament more prepared than when they were in Conference USA.
The Atlantic 10 was the best mid-major in college basketball. A half dozen teams made it into the NCAA Tournament and they are well represented. George Washington faced tough competition and they’re ready.
Senior guard Joe Jackson has scored over 1,500 points in his four seasons at Memphis. He has only won one NCAA Tournament game. Is this the year Memphis makes a deep run?
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Memphis joined the newly-formed American Athletic Conference and are finally facing major program teams during the regular season. They were near the top of Conference USA year after year, but were always knocked for never having a strong schedule. Well, that talked officially ended this season. Not only were they facing UConn, Louisville, Cincinnati and SMU on a nightly basis, but their non-conference schedule was great. They have a non-conference marquee win against Oklahoma State and played Florida within two points. They have five wins against ranked teams and were 12-6 in conference. A strong showing from senior guard Joe Jackson could really make the Tigers a tough out.
George Washington hasn’t been consistently been in the NCAA Tournament in awhile. They’re making their first tournament appearance since 2007. Head coach Mike Lonergan has improved this team in only three seasons. They have a balanced offense with Maurice Creek shooting from deep and Kevin Larsen and Isaiah Armwood taking care of things in the paint. George Washington’s only marquee win came in December when they beat Creighton on a neutral court. The Atlantic 10 was the best mid-major in the country, but they didn’t beat any of the top teams. They took care of the teams they were supposed to beat and that’s it.
Memphis is a better overall team with a better résumé. If you’re looking for an upset pick, I don’t see it happening in this game. A #9 seed may have been a little high for George Washington. They are probably a #10 or #11 seed in this tournament. Memphis will move on to face the winner of the Virginia/Coastal Carolina game.
Prediction: #8 Memphis Tigers
Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.