Marshall (21-12) at Memphis (25-8)
Saturday, March 10, 11:30 a.m. (ET)
The Sports Network
By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: FedEx Forum (18,119) -- Memphis, Tennessee. Television: CBS. Home Record: Marshall 13-3, Memphis 17-2. Away Record: Marshall 5-7, Memphis 7-4. Neutral Record: Marshall 3-2, Memphis 1-2. Conference Record: Marshall 9-7, Memphis 13-3. Series Record: Memphis leads, 10-2.
GAME NOTES: The tournament hosts and top-seeded Memphis Tigers did what was expected of them in making the Conference USA Tournament championship, as they will face an unlikely foe in the sixth-seeded Marshall Thundering Herd, with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line.
Marshall has reached its first ever C-USA Tournament title game after putting up an impressive run over the past few days. It started with a 18-point victory over 11th-seeded SMU in the first round, then the Herd took third- seeded Tulsa to triple overtime in the quarterfinals, ultimately winning 105-100 in the longest game in tournament history. MU kept rolling in Friday's semifinals versus second-seeded Southern Miss, winning 73-62, improving its overall record to a 21-12. Despite a great season, the Herd seem unlikely to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, so a win today is a must if they want to dance.
In winning the C-USA regular season title, Memphis earned a first-round bye and the right to host the tournament. The Tigers breezed through their first two games, beating UTEP in the quarterfinals 65-47, and destroying UCF 83-52 in the semifinals. They have also owned this tournament in recent years, raising the championship trophy in five of the past six seasons. Memphis' record is now a fantastic 25-8, and it appears destined for the field of 68 regardless of today's outcome.
Memphis leads the all-time series against Marshall, 10-2, which includes wins in both matchups this season by a combined 27 points.
After a back-and-forth opening stanza, Marshall pulled away against Southern Miss in the second half of its semifinal game to take away the 11-point triumph. The Herd was red-hot in the win, shooting 54.3 percent from the floor, while they held the top-flight Golden Eagle offense to a lowly 33.3 percent shooting overall. Damier Pitts led the squad with 24 points, Dennis Tinnon tallied a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds, and DeAndre Kane followed up his career-high 40-point effort against Tulsa with a solid 14 points and seven assists. All three tournament games thus far for the Herd have been improvements upon their yearly scoring output, as they net 70.8 ppg. Kane has been getting things done all season long, ranking fourth in the conference in scoring with 16.7 ppg. Pitts has been a great second option, pouring in 14.3 ppg, and Dennis Tinnon has been a double-double machine, averaging one on a nightly basis with 10.0 ppg and 10.0 rpg.
Memphis's 31-point victory in the semifinals was never in doubt as it shot 45.5 percent from the floor and connected on 27-of-36 from the free-throw line, all while holding UCF to just 16 made field goals. Four players tallied double figures in the win, paced by Wesley Witherspoon with 15 points. Will Barton continued to prove why he was named Conference USA Player of the Year in recording 10 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. On the year, he tallies a league-best 18.3 ppg, while also contributing 8.0 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.5 spg, and a field goal percentage of .518. The Tigers possess plenty of scoring depth behind Barton, as they pace C-USA in points per game (75.1), scoring margin (+11.7), and field goal percentage (.492). Tarik Black puts up 10.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.6 bpg, and a conference-best field goal percentage of .683. Joe Jackson has been stellar as well, contributing 10.9 ppg and 3.8 apg.
Marshall's run has been amazing, and it has been playing its best basketball of the year at the best possible time. However, Memphis has been flat-out dominant of late, and with the home crowd by its side, it will hoist the championship trophy once again.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Memphis 78, Marshall 68
03/10 10:32:34 ET