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Memphis Notes: First Look

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Now that we have set our markers on expectations heading into this weekend let's start compiling files on our next opponent. Once again we don't think it is prudent to theorize on what we need to do hang banner number 12. That would be precisely the wrong thing to do. Instead everyone should get in the mindset of who we are playing, giving them their due respect, and discuss what our guys need to do get themselves prepared and ready for the next game. Because I always think it's not good karma to look past an opponent thinking about banners, instead of taking it game by game.

Looks like bruin95 has already gotten the ball rolling with an initial look at our match-ups vs. Memphis. Here are the capsule notes on Memphis from Sportsline.com:

Go-to guys: Memphis has multiple go-to scorers. Sophomore reserve guards Willie Kemp and Doneal Mack can score from the perimeter, junior guard Antonio Anderson can score off the drive and junior forward Robert Dozier can produce inside, but no two players are more valuable to the Tigers than their first-team all-conference selections -- junior guard Chris Douglas-Roberts and freshman point guard Derrick Rose. If the game is close and the Tigers need a basket, the ball will be in their hands.

Strengths: Memphis has the No. 1 RPI and was tested outside the well-cushioned conference schedule. The Tigers are deep and versatile, and their interchangeable parts fit together well. Rose is the closest thing to a complete player on the roster, but the Tigers have many different skills and talents in their playing rotation. They're capable of winning with defense and rebounding, even when they're not shooting well, because they can make the most of a fast, intense tempo and create easy shots.

Weaknesses: You'd be picking nits calling freshman Derrick Rose a weak spot. He plays heady and now has a full season under his belt. But this is still a sum-of-parts team. Take one or two pieces out of the Memphis puzzle and cracks in the foundation can be exposed, especially if Dorsey disappears or finds foul trouble. Opponents prefer to play zone and take their chances with the Tigers erratic 3-point shooting. The Tigers have been one of the nation's worst free-throw shooting teams all season.
Well I think it's a good bet we are not going to see any zone on Saturday. I think Coach Howland will be doing on defense what has been working for him the whole season. I do believe we are going to see some shifts in defensive matchups. As I mentioned earlier this today, I don't think DC will be guarding Rose all day on Saturday. We will probably start out with DC on Rose, RW/CDR and JS/Anderson. However, I think we may see Howland switch our best defender - RW - on Rose and LRMAM take on CDR and DC on Anderson. Anderson IMHO would be the best defensive matchup for DC. He is not their shooter and he could be the optimum target for DC to lock down. Then again DC could be just fine on Rose early on and Howland could decide to stay on with that matchup.

I see some out there have already gotten back to the old talking point of how JS needs to drain some threes for us to have a chance. However, I don't see JS 3 pointers as the key for our chances (although they will certainly help) on Saturday. I think for us to win this game we have to do three things:

First, as Coach Howland already mentioned in his "Final 4 Sit down" w the WWL, we will have to rebound. I think we cannot afford to give the tough Memphis frontcourt any edge in rebounding. We need to control the boards on defensive end, making sure they don't get any second chance points.

Second, just like we did in Oakland we need to lock down on perimeter and make sure CDR and Rose don't get any kind of dribble penetration. This is why I think we will see LRMAM locking up on CDR while RW handling Rose. Sure we will probably see JS chip in here and there, but I think LRMAM could draw a huge chunk of the defensive assignment on CDR.

Lastly, we must control the tempo on Saturday. We can't do what Rick Bares did last Sunday and try to get into a shoot out with these guys. That simply will not work. We will have to be patient and methodical on offense and run the clock.  We need to do what we can to run the ball through Kevin Love and make sure he gets early touches. Also, it would be imperative for RW and DC to be aggressive in terms of driving to the rim from our half court sets, creating opportunities for themselves or their team-mates. JS actually did a really good job in this area against Xavier. We will need more of the same in this game.

For more notes on the Tigers' roster let's go back to Sportsline.com:
--Rose may be a freshman, but he's not playing like one. With 27 points, five assists and four rebounds against Michigan State and 21 points, nine assists and six rebounds against Texas, Rose earned the South Regional MVP award. Rose made 17 of 26 shots from the field and 13 of 15 free throws, and often proved to be the catalyst for Memphis' decisive runs and responses.

"He's got a will to win," Memphis coach John Calipari said. "... He's got to improve, got to get on the range a little bit and get that stroke right, but he also has the mental capacity and the mental toughness and the intelligence to be unique and special. And it sets him apart. He's been that way since we got him, so it's nothing I've done with him. He just has a will to win. It may be with a defensive stop. It may be with a rebound that he nicked his head on the rim as he went to get it. It may be outrunning the entire field when he started behind everybody. It may be a steal, a dive, a tip out of nowhere, and then again it may be a drive baseline and dunk on their team. But he's got that will to win, and he's got an innate intelligence that when you give him something, when you teach him something, it's his -- he owns it. You no longer own it. When you give it to him, it's his. And that's, you know, it's just unique. He's a unique player."

--Douglas-Roberts, a first-team All-American, would have been the leading candidate for Region MVP if it had not been for Rose. Against Michigan State and Texas, Douglas-Roberts scored 25 points in both games and came through at the free-throw line by making 25 of 29. In the final 1:35 in both games he combined to make all 10 of his free throw attempts.

--Anderson doesn't make as many headlines as Rose and Douglas-Roberts, but he remains a key to Memphis' success with his all-around play, especially on the defensive end. In the Michigan State game, Anderson played tough defense on senior guard Drew Neitzel, who came in averaging 14.1 points per game and didn't score a basketball until he rattled in a 3-pointer with 1:43 left in the game. For the week, Anderson also combined for 19 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and three steals.

--Dorsey remains unpredictable and contributed only six points and four rebounds against Michigan State but he also remains capable of controlling a game inside -- as he did against Texas, when he came through with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
I think Coach Howland also might try to go "big" to take on the physical Tigers frontcourt. I wonder if we will see Howland throw multiple different combination (LRMAM-KL-LMR, LRMAM-KL-AA2, LRMAM-KL-JK or others) at the Tigers to make sure they don't have any kind of advantage on the boards and also slow down the tempo on offense.

Couple of other statistics notes on the Tigers. They are not a great 3 point shooting team hitting at 35.1 (same percentage as us) from behind the three. And they are not very good in FT shooting. Although they really stepped up at the FT line during last few games:
--The Tigers shot less than .600 from the free-throw line for most of the season, but coach John Calipari insisted he wasn't worried about it because he knew his team would come through when it counted most. The Tigers have proved his point in their past two games, making 26 of 35 free throws (.743) against Michigan State and 30 of 36 (.833) against Memphis.

"I never worried about it because I know my guys are mentally tough and they've got good mechanics," Calipari said.

--Memphis also took good care of the ball against Michigan State and Texas, combining for 16 turnovers in two games. Over the past three games, the Tigers have committed 21 turnovers while recording 50 assists.
I am looking forward to further breakdown on Memphis numbers from bruinhoo, as he has been doing for all of our opponents (Xavier i.e.) throughout this tournament.

But from the initial look I think it would be a huge mistake to even entertain the notion of getting into a shoot out with Memphis and looking to force three pointers from Shipp and co. That would only help the Tigers to get on a roll, just like they did in their previous two games.

We need to keep doing what we have done through entire the season. We have to stay patient on offense, run our sets, run the clocks, and work through Kevin Love. Meanwhile on defense hopefully we can sustain the level of intensity we showed against Xavier for the entire 40 mins. If we come into Saturday and play our brand of Ben Ball we are going to be all right.

GO BRUINS.