Saturday December 12th, 2020
Memphis Tigers vs Auburn Tigers
Holiday Hoopsgiving - Atlanta
Network: ESPNU, Auburn Radio Network
Have you ever gone to a concert where you were just as excited or even more excited for the opening act compared to the headliner?
I think a lot of Auburn fans have this mindset as Auburn Basketball returns to the court for the first time in a week as they head up to Atlanta to take on Memphis.
This is the first time Auburn has played in Atlanta since the 2014 SEC Tournament which resulted in a firing of a certain head coach and the hiring of Bruce Pearl.
This is only the second time Auburn and Memphis have met, the only other time since January 2, 1953, a game won 78-64 by Auburn in Memphis.
The last time we saw Auburn, they knocked down a SEC-tying 22 3-pointers in a 90-81 win over South Alabama improving their record to 2-2 on the season.
Get to Know Memphis
Last season, Memphis had a tumultuous season as they dealt with eligibility issues with James Wiseman who played just 3 games but went on to become the 2nd pick in the NBA Draft.
Penny Hardaway had his monster recruiting class last year but Memphis finished just 21-10 last season. This year, most of that group returned to school and are a year older and still extremely talented.
Things didn’t start well this season either as Memphis went 1-2 in the Crossover Classic with losses to Western Kentucky and VCU. Memphis returned home and come in to today’s game on a 3-game winning streak.
Memphis is a very physical team as well as a good defensive team, something that will be a challenge to Auburn this afternoon. Memphis is only allowing 63.3 PPG so far this season.
Sophomore guard Landers Nolley (#3) leads the way averaging 15 PPG so far this season. Nolley was given a waiver after transferring from Virginia Tech last season where he averaged 15.5 PPG and was on the All-ACC Freshmen team. Nolley is shooting 41% from 3-point range this season.
Memphis 2nd leading scorer so far this season is sophomore guard Boogie Ellis (#5). This season, he is averaging 12.8 PPG and is a 41.9% 3-point shooter.
The other guard that will start for Memphis is sophomore Lester Quinones (#11) averaging 10.2 PPG along with 5.5 RPG.
Memphis is full of rim protectors in the paint and it will be a great challenge for the Tigers to score in the paint, something that has been an issue for Auburn this year. Memphis is led by sophomore forward D.J. Jeffries (#0), averaging 11.8 PPG and 6.3 RPG this season.
At center will be freshmen Moussa Cisse (#32) who averaged 9 blocks per game in his senior year of high school. This season, he is averaging 8.5 PPG, 8 RPG, and just over 2 blocks a contest.
Other players to keep an eye on today are the team leaders in steals: junior guard Alex Lomax (#2) and sophomore guard Damion Baugh (#10) who have both started games so far this season.
Keys for Auburn
Justin Powell was a wild card coming into this season as he hadn’t played much in the last 2 seasons. But early indicators would say that Bruce found himself a gem in Kentucky. He’s averaging 14.5 PPG so far and is 50% from 3-point range this season.
Powell had quite the home debut last time out leading Auburn with 26 points along with 9 assists.
.@jtpowell241’s 26 pts vs. South Alabama tied Eddie Johnson for the Auburn record for most points in a home debut by a freshman. Johnson had 26 pts vs. Western Carolina 47 years to the day of Powell (Dec. 4, 1973).— Cody Voga (@CodyVoga) December 7, 2020
Auburn will need his 3-point shooting to remain hot if they want to get out of Atlanta with a victory.
Jamal Johnson will face his former team today as Johnson began his career at Memphis while Tubby Smith was the head coach. Johnson left after the coaching change and is averaging 10.3 PPG so far this season.
The biggest question will be how Auburn’s big men far against the Memphis front line. Jaylin Williams has dealt with foul trouble in a couple games already that has limited his scoring but Auburn needs him to play without fouling today. This will be a tall task against this group as we mentioned earlier.
This is a matchup of two young but extremely talented teams. Memphis has won their last 3 games, but each of those teams have a 200+ KenPom ranking. They do have the best win of the two teams beating Saint Mary’s (#65) on opening day.
I’m not extremely confident in this pick but I’m choosing to Barn Hard as folks always say to do.