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No. 12 Louisville hosts No. 24 Memphis Thursday
By: Brian Graham - StatFox
Published: 1/9/2014  at  6:29:00 AM
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MEMPHIS TIGERS (10-3)

at LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (13-2)

KFC Yum! Center - Louisville, KY
Tip-off: Thursday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Line: Louisville -10, Total: 148.5

No. 24 Memphis renews its rivalry with No. 12 Louisville in a fourth different conference when the two ranked teams clash on Thursday night.

These schools have met as members of the Missouri Valley Conference, Metro Conference and Conference USA, and will meet Thursday as rivals in the newly-formed American Athletic Conference. The Cardinals have had the upper hand in this series since 1999, going 9-4 SU with four straight victories, but the Tigers are 7-2-1 ATS in the past 10 meetings. Memphis has played well this season with a 10-3 record, highlighted by a win over then-No. 5 Oklahoma State on Dec. 1, but is coming off a 69-53 blowout loss at home to Cincinnati on Saturday when the team shot a dismal 33% FG. Louisville hasn't been home since Dec. 17, finishing a four-game road trip with a 3-1 SU mark (2-2 ATS), capped off by an 83-76 win at Rutgers on Saturday. Both teams are averaging over 80 points per game, and while the Tigers are 5-1 ATS (4-2 SU) away from home this season, the Cardinals are 9-0 SU (5-2 ATS) at the KFC Yum! Center. Both schools have positive betting trends for this matchup, as Memphis benefits from being in a group of quality underdogs (60% to 80% win pct.) going 116-66 ATS (64%) since 1997 off an upset loss by 15+ points as a favorite and facing a winning team. But Louisville is 12-2 ATS off a no-cover where the team won straight up as a favorite over the past two seasons. There are no significant injuries for either team.

Can Louisville outlast its long-time rivals by double-digits on Thursday night? For the latest college basketball picks, check out The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts selections every week throughout the entire 2013-14 season. The StatFox Experts have been rolling in college basketball Best Bets this season with a 62% ATS (141-87-5) mark, including a stellar 67% ATS (109-53) record since Nov. 23. StatFox Zach is leading the way at 67% ATS (30-15-1) on Best Bets this season, including 75% ATS (24-8) since Nov. 22, while StatFox Scott is 61% ATS (27-17) for the season and 68% ATS (19-9) since Dec. 2. StatFox Gary is 60% ATS (27-18-2) for the season and 70% ATS (19-8) since Dec. 3, while StatFox Brian is 61% ATS (28-18-1) for the season and 66% ATS (21-11) since Nov. 26. StatFox Dave is 60% ATS (27-18-1) for the season and 77% ATS (10-3) since Dec. 18.

Memphis has been a very efficient offense this season with 80.5 PPG (35th in nation) on 47.3% FG (64th in Div. I) and 16.5 APG (19th in nation). But the Tigers shoot horribly both from three-point land (29.2%) and the foul line (65.4% FT). They have also struggled on the glass, especially on the road where they are getting outrebounded by 4.6 RPG in six non-home games. But despite shooting 52% FG with a +6 rebounding advantage in last year's meeting with Louisville, Memphis lost that game 87-78 because the Cardinals made 38 free throws, compared to just 14 for the Tigers, who had five players foul out. Memphis also committed 24 turnovers, which could be a huge factor in this contest too, as Louisville forces 17.9 TO per game this season (5th in nation). The Tigers will need senior PG Joe Jackson (15.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.5 APG), to make better decisions with the basketball, having more turnovers (7) than assists (6) over his past three games. Jackson has done a great job on offense though, scoring in double-figures in all but one game this season, a loss at Oklahoma State back on Nov. 19. Jackson lit up the Cardinals last year with 23 points on 7-of-9 FG (3-of-4 threes) and eight assists, but he also committed eight turnovers. Fellow senior, SG Geron Johnson (8.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.5 APG) also had trouble in that loss with five turnovers, but still contributed 12 points and eight rebounds off the bench before fouling out. Johnson has been wildly inconsistent in his past four games with scoring outputs of 10 points (4-of-8 FG), one point (0-for-7 FG), 19 points (8-of-15 FG) and seven points (2-of-13 FG) in Saturday's loss to Cincinnati. PF Shaq Goodwin (12.3 PPG on 66% FG, 6.6 RPG) had more fouls (5) than points (4) against Louisville last season, and he has struggled in his two conference games, scoring a mere 5.5 PPG on 4-of-9 FG. The Tigers' other double-digit scorer is SG Michael Dixon Jr. (11.4 PPG, 46% FG), who has 14.7 PPG on 49% FG in his past three contests.

Louisville packs quite a scoring punch with 84.9 PPG (15th in Div. I) on 47.4% FG (62nd in nation) and 35.7% threes. But the defensive numbers are also strong, as the team allows only 62.4 PPG on 39.5% FG, including 57.3 PPG on 38.7% FG at home. While the Cardinals create nearly 18 turnovers per game, they commit only 10.1 TO per game (18th-fewest in nation). Most offensive sets involve senior combination guard Russ Smith (17.7 PPG, 4.9 APG) who has exploded in his two games in the new conference, averaging 23.0 PPG on 48% FG (6-of-11 threes), 5.0 APG and 2.5 SPG. Smith shot poorly (3-of-11 FG, 1-of-6 threes) in last year's win at Memphis, but was 12-of-12 from the foul line to finish with 19 points and four assists. Senior F/G Luke Hancock (8.9 PPG) was a key contributor off the bench against the Tigers, tallying 11 points (3-of-5 threes), three steals and three rebounds in just 23 minutes. Although Hancock has been ice-cold this season with a career-low 35% FG clip (28% threes), he looks like he's snapping out of his funk with 15.5 PPG on 50% FG (5-of-12 threes) in his two conference games. PF Montrezl Harrell (11.8 PPG, 7.9 RPG) had a horrible offensive game against Memphis last year with three points (0-for-4 FG) in 31 minutes, but he still tallied six boards (four offensive) and two steals in the win. This season, Harrell is making 65% of his field goals, but just 55% of his free throws. The team's other main scorers are SG Chris Jones (12.6 PPG, 2.9 APG) and SF Wayne Blackshear (10.0 PPG, 3.1 RPG), who are both knocking down threes regularly, with Jones at 39% and Blackshear at 43% for the season.

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