College Basketball Betting: Memphis' Streak May be in Jeopardy (Really)
by Matt Severance - 02/25/2009
Two weeks ago here on Doc's Sports, I wrote a preview story saying that Tulsa had a realistic chance to end Memphis' Conference USA winning streak (then at 50 heading into the game). And even if the Golden Hurricane didn't win, they should be able to hang close, I reasoned.
In fairness, Tulsa had nearly beaten Memphis earlier in the season, and the Tigers were coming off a highly-charged win at Gonzaga. But a 26-point-pie-in-the-face later, I am a believer in Memphis more so now. Yet I am back to tell you that the Tigers' C-USA winning streak (now at 54) is truly in jeopardy - this time in Thursday's game at UAB.
I realize the Tigers have won 18 straight this season (14-3 ATS; the run coincided when Tyreke Evans moved to the point) and haven't been really challenged since late January by Tennessee. Part of that winning streak included a 13-point victory over the Blazers in Memphis.
But this game is in Birmingham (that Tulsa game was in Memphis - my bad again). And UAB had a 12-point lead early in that first game with the Tigers. Following that loss, UAB moved Aaron Johnson out of the starting lineup and put senior Paul Delaney at point guard. The Blazers have won nine of 10 since, including six in a row (6-0 ATS) to move into second in C-USA. Delaney leads the nation in field goal percentage (58.9) among all guards and is the only guard in the nation ranked among the Top 25 players overall.
The Blazers' last win, Saturday's 85-56 victory over Southern Miss, was pretty notable too. For one, UAB set a school record for three-pointers made with 15, shooting better than 55 percent from behind the arc. And afterward, Southern Miss guard Courtney Beasley told a local paper (Hattiesburg American) that UAB was a better team than Memphis. USM coach Larry Eustachy and guard Jeremy Wise also picked the Blazers to end the Tigers' streak.
"UAB's starting five is as good as Memphis, and I think they will beat Memphis here on Thursday," Eustachy said to reporters.
Needless to say, the Memphis players will use that as extra motivation. Although Tigers coach John Calipari had some fun with the quote.
"If they shoot that way against us, we'll get back here to Memphis as quick as we can," Calipari said. "If they (shoot) 15 of 27 from the three, we're losing too."
But UAB is squarely on the NCAA bubble, so it needs this win more. And the Blazers do lead C-USA in field-goal percentage and were the last team in conference play to beat Memphis - 80-74 in Birmingham on March 2, 2006. In guard Robert Vaden, UAB has a big-time player who can light it up from outside, and forward Lawrence Kinnard leads C-USA in double-doubles this season.
The Blazers are 12-0 at home this year (6-5 ATS) and the school is asking fans to wear gold shirts and also will be handing them out - calling it a Gold Rush. It's on national TV - ESPN2.
I'm not going to predict anything this time, but the Blazers gave Memphis its biggest scare last season in Birmingham. I'm just saying …