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Memphis vs. SMU Preview



SMU guard Zhuric Phelps is one of the most talented scorers in the AAC. (Image Credit: SMU Athletics)

Memphis looks to extend their winning streak to eight games on Sunday with an AAC matchup against SMU. The two teams will do battle inside the FedExForum at 4 p.m. on January 7th. ESPN will have the coverage of the game.

What can Memphis expect out of SMU?

SMU Roster Preview

Rob Lanier is in his second year leading the SMU program. The former Georgia State head coach has helped the Mustangs earn a 10-4 record in the 2023-24 campaign thus far. SMU has wins over Florida State and West Virginia and losses to programs such as Texas A&M and Wisconsin this season.

The Mustangs rank 39th in the nation in the NET Rankings and 48th in the nation in KenPom. Those rankings are good for third and second in the AAC, respectively. Per KenPom, they possess the nation’s 89th-best Adjusted Offensive Efficiency and its 24th-best Adjusted Defensive Efficiency.

Backcourt Rotation

SMU is led in scoring by the backcourt duo of Zhuric Phelps and Chuck Harris.

Phelps is a 6’5 junior guard coming off a strong season where he averaged 17.5 PPG. That scoring production has dipped to 14.7 PPG this season, but Phelps remains a talented three-level scorer. As a tough shot-maker and taker from all areas, Phelps can be tough to stop when he gets going. While the efficiency hasn’t been there throughout his career, he shoulders a heavy load for a Mustangs squad that needs him to on the offensive end. He, too, is a solid defensive player, chipping in 1.9 steals per contest.

Chuck Harris is a 6’4 senior guard that Lanier picked up from the transfer portal this offseason. The Butler transfer has been a double-digit scorer for every season of his career, and that has continued in his senior campaign. Harris is second on the team in scoring at 13.2 PPG. He has been really efficient this season, shooting 46.1% from the field and 42.6% from beyond the arc. Harris brings good perimeter shooting and ball handling to the Mustang backcourt.

B.J. Edwards, a sophomore transfer from Tennessee, is the third member of the SMU backcourt. The 6’3 guard was a four-star recruit in the class of 2022 and is a good future piece for the Mustangs. Edwards is a good playmaker with a physical frame that makes him a threat as a downhill driver. He leads the team in assists at 3.8 per game and also chips in 1.3 steals per game defensively. He’s a solid shooter who has connected on five of his ten attempts this season.

Backcourt Depth

SMU plays a ten-man rotation on a consistent basis, with three guards coming off the bench and contributing from the perimeter, primarily with their shooting.

Junior Jalen Smith earns the most minutes among that trio, playing 20.1 minutes a night. Smith started 23 games for the Mustangs last season and has averaged 5.1 PPG as a reserve this season. The 6’2 guard is a good shooter who has connected on 17 of 44 attempts from beyond the arc, good for a 38.6% mark.

Senior guard Emory Lanier is the son of head coach Rob Lanier. He transferred from Davidson ahead of the 2022-23 season to play for his father. Lanier, a 6’4 guard, has averaged 4.6 PPG this season while shooting 15 of 34 from deep. He plays 10.0 minutes per game off the bench.

Senior Ricardo Wright is the final member of this trio. The 6’4 guard transferred over from Marist ahead of the 2022-23 season along with Lanier. Wright is yet another solid shooter off the bench for the Mustangs, connecting on 14 of his 36 attempts. He averages 4.1 PPG.

Frontcourt Rotation

Seniors Samuell Williamson and Keon Ambrose-Hylton make up a solid frontcourt pairing for SMU.

Williamson is a fifth-year senior who spent his first three collegiate seasons at Louisville. The former five-star recruit was ranked as the 16th-best recruit in the class of 2019, per 247Sports. At 6’8, Williamson is a versatile wing who brings a variety of things to the Mustangs. He averages 8.7 PPG and 6.6 RPG (leads team) while shooting 46.7% from the floor.

Ambrose-Hylton is a 6’9 forward and another member of the Mustangs who transferred over ahead of the 2022-23 season. The former Alabama reserve has started all 14 games for SMU this season, averaging 8.6 PPG and 4.1 RPG. Ambrose-Hylton is a strong interior defender and an efficient finisher on the inside, connecting on 74% of his attempts from the field.

Frontcourt Depth

Tyreek Smith and Ja’Heim Hudson add depth in the frontcourt for SMU.

Smith plays a key role off the bench for the Mustangs and is the fifth-leading scorer on the team. The 6’8 senior forward had previous stints at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State and is in his first year with the program. Smith is an athletic big who averages 7.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.

Hudson is a 6’7 junior forward who transferred over from Georgia State this offseason. He is a physical player who can stretch the floor, connecting on 7 of 24 three-point attempts this season. In 14.2 minutes per contest, he has averaged 3.9 points and 3.4 rebounds.


Memphis will head into this contest short-handed in the backcourt. The Tigers lost reserve guard Caleb Mills to a knee injury in their last game against Tulsa, one that is expected to result in a long-term recovery. Mills, who played 24.2 minutes per game for Penny Hardaway, averaged 7.9 PPG this season and was a key contributor. Backup guards such as Jayhlon Young and Jayden Hardaway will have to step up in his place.

The Tigers have not been at their best as of late despite being on a seven-game winning streak. Memphis needed a game-winning three-pointer from Jahvon Quinerly to take down Tulsa on the road on Thursday. If they fail to bring it today, that winning streak could be snapped against a better team in SMU.

Despite the absence of Mills, however, Memphis still has more talent than their opponent, a common trend this season. Nae’Qwan Tomlin continues to familiarize himself with Penny Hardaway’s system and has been impressive in his first three games in a Tiger uniform. David Jones also continues to get better as he recovers from an illness, meaning the Memphis star should be closer to 100% health as the AAC slate ramps up.

The Mustangs have a strong defense and have a talented backcourt with Zhuric Phelps and Chuck Harris. Outside of them, however, the SMU offense isn’t incredibly potent. The Tigers’ pressure defense needs to force the ball out of this duo’s hands and force the opponent’s other pieces to make plays. If they are able to do so, they should cruise to a victory surrounded by a welcoming home environment.

Final Score: Memphis 77, SMU 67.