NCAA Tournament Predictions: 8. Memphis vs. 9. Florida Atlantic
8. Memphis (24-8, 13-5/AAC)- It hasn’t been as easy as it seemed when Penny Hardaway took over and brought with him the No. 1 ranked recruiting class in the country in 2019. But the former NBA All-Star has built a solid program with the Tigers, and has them in the NCAA field for the second year in a row, this time earning the automatic bid by toppling No. 1 Houston, 75-65, in the American Athletic Conference title game.
Memphis is led by explosive senior guard Kendric Davis, an SMU transfer who averages 21.8 points, 5.6 assists and 2.1 steals per game. 6-9 senior forward DeAndre Williams averages 17.6 points and 7.8 rebounds per game and is another force to be reckoned with. Scoring depth is an issue as no other player averages in double figures, so stopping those two will be high on opposing coaches’ radar. All told though, the Tigers can fill it up with anyone, averaging 79.5 points per game this season, which ranks 29th in the country.
9. Florida Atlantic (31-3, 18-2/Conference USA)- One of the best stories in the country this season, Florida Atlantic went from being picked fifth in the preseason poll for Conference USA, to 31 wins and a regular season and tournament championship. Other than Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s, FAU has been the best mid-major team all-season long, and they will be a popular pick to make a run in this year’s tournament.
Dusty May’s group has been explosive offensively this season, scoring over 78 points per-game, and ranking in the top-ten in the country in offensive rating. They have a balanced scoring attack which features six players averaging at least 7 points per-game and they shoot over 37% from distance. They are also an exceptional rebounding team, ranking 21st in total rebounding.
FAU is deep, dangerous, and has lost only two games since November. They will present an extremely tough matchup for Memphis and could also be a serious threat to play spoiler in the second round as well should they advance. That said, the Tigers are playing just a little bit too well.