The Memphis Tigers are looking to snap a four-game losing streak on Saturday, as they host Wichita State inside the FedEx Forum (noon tip, CBS). After thriving in non-conference play and reaching the #10 ranking in the AP Poll, the Tigers fell apart in conference play in January. They went 4-4 on the month, with consecutive losses against South Florida, Tulane, UAB, and Rice.
The Tigers will look to break their losing streak against the last team they beat, the Wichita State Shockers. Memphis put on a scoring explosion on the road in Wichita, scoring 112 points and connecting on 19 threes in a 26-point victory.
With Memphis looking to return to the win column this Saturday, what can they expect from their opponent?
Wichita State Scouting Report
Led by former Oral Roberts head coach Paul Mills, the Shockers possess a record of 9-12 on the season, with a 1-7 record in conference play. Wichita State currently sits last in the American alongside Temple.
The Shockers have gone 1-4 since their first contest against Memphis, with their lone conference win coming over SMU. Paul Mills’ squad currently sits at 158th in the NET Rankings. They rank 203rd in the country in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency and 148th in the country in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, per KenPom. Despite the Shockers’ record, their analytical numbers aren’t completely terrible.
Strong Guard Play
Although the result of last month’s contest was lopsided, Wichita State still put up 86 points. Memphis struggled to stop the backcourt of Colby Rogers and Miami transfer Harlond Beverly, who combined for 37 points on 16 of 24 shooting. The lack of perimeter defense has been a theme for the Tigers during conference play, especially during the losing streak. If Memphis struggles to keep these two in front of them, it’ll be a long night once again, even on their home court.
Junior Colby Rogers is the leading scorer for this Shockers team. He averages 15.2 points per game on 40.5% from the floor and 38.6% from three. Rogers is a really good shooter, connecting on 2.7 threes per game this season. He possesses a quick release and is a three-level scorer. The 6’4 guard spent previous stints at Siena and Cal Poly.
Harlond Beverly has taken on a bigger role since transferring over from Miami in the off-season. The 6’5 guard currently averages 10.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.3 steals per contest. Beverly is a physical driver who can finish around the rim, but isn’t much of a perimeter threat, connecting on only 20% of his threes.
Junior guard Bijan Cortes has started for the Shockers ever since the loss to Memphis. Cortes doesn’t do much scoring (3.6 PPG), but is a strong facilitator in 17.4 minutes per game.
Junior guard Xavier Bell didn’t have a great performance against the Tigers last time out (9 points). However, Bell is the Shockers’ second leading scorer at 11.8 points per game. While Bell isn’t much of a shooter, he has a strong mid-range game, which is where he primarily operates.
Quincy Ballard is the starting center for Wichita State. The 6’11 big averages 7.1 points and 6.0 rebounds per game while shooting 70.7% from the floor. Ballard is a strong interior finisher and a presence in the paint on the defensive end. He averages 2.2 blocks per game in just 22.2 minutes.
Senior David Ridgnal is a versatile piece for the Shockers in the frontcourt. The 6’6 forward averages 8.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. He’s also a good shooter from the outside, despite the numbers not exactly showing it (32.5 3FG%). Ridgnal makes 1.2 threes per game as the starting power forward, a good number. He scored 15 points and made four threes against Memphis in the first matchup of the season.
The fourth leading scorer for Wichita State is reserve big man Kenny Pohto. The 6’10 junior center from Sweden averages 10.3 points and 6.4 rebounds while shooting 46.8% from the floor. Pohto is a strong presence on the glass and has nice footwork in the paint while possessing a solid mid-range game.
In what is a relatively short rotation for Paul Mills’ squad, 6’8 sophomore forward Isaac Abidde (4.5 PPG, 2.1 RPG) and 6’6 junior Ronnie DeGray III (5.4 PPG, 2.6 RPG) add further depth for the Shockers.
Final Score Prediction
Surely Memphis can’t lose to two straight AAC bottom feeders, right? Wichita State sits at 1-7 in the American, and the Tigers are coming off a lose to Rice, who is now 2-6 in the conference.
The combination of Memphis’ porous defense and Wichita State’s solid guard talent could make this game close, especially with how the Tigers have been playing overall. However, the Shockers’ defense has been poor as well, evidenced by the fact that the Tigers scored a season-high 112 points in their last matchup. If Memphis can slow down the trio of Colby Rogers, Xavier Bell, and Harlond Beverly to some extent, they shouldn’t have too much trouble winning.
If Memphis can show any signs of improvement on defense and win comfortably on Saturday afternoon, it will go a long way toward rebuilding their confidence down the stretch run of the season.
Final Score: Memphis 83, Wichita State 75