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No. 15 Cincinnati hosts No. 20 Memphis Thursday
By: Robert Livingston - StatFox
Published: 3/6/2014  at  4:32:00 AM
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Fifth Third Arena - Cincinnati, OH
Tip-off: Thursday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Line: Cincinnati -4.5, Total: 128

Now tied for first in the American Athletic Conference after holding a lead for most of league play, No. 15 Cincinnati will face another tough test on Thursday night as it hosts No. 20 Memphis.

The Bearcats have seen their conference lead slip away having lost three of their past five to SMU, Louisville and Connecticut (2-3 ATS in that span). They are now 2-5 ATS since the start of February, putting their AAC record at 13-3 SU and 7-9 ATS. Cincinnati is 12-11 ATS overall and 8-4 ATS at home, where it has lost just once all season, to the Cardinals. The Bearcats are also 7-1 ATS this season in home games after allowing 65 or fewer points in two straight contests. Memphis is coming off a strong 72-66 home win against Louisville on Saturday, bouncing back from a disappointing 77-68 road loss at 7-point underdog Houston two days earlier. Since 1997, the Tigers are 21-3 ATS coming off an upset win against a conference rival. They are now 15-11 ATS overall this season, including 9-4 ATS in non-home games (5-4 ATS on the road) with a 9-7 ATS mark (11-5 SU) against league opponents. When these two teams met at the FedEx Forum earlier in the year on Jan. 4, Cincinnati cruised to a 69-53 victory as 5.5-point underdogs, holding the Tigers to 33% shooting (2-of-17 threes) and forcing 16 turnovers. The Bearcats, in that contest, shot 44% from the field and hit 6-of-11 (55%) three-pointers, improving their record in this series since 1997 to 9-5 SU. But Memphis has the 8-5-1 ATS edge during this timeframe, including a 5-1 ATS mark at Cincinnati.

Which team will pick up the key conference win 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 stellar 59% ATS (245-171-13) mark, including a hefty 61% ATS (213-137-7) record since Nov. 23. StatFox Brian is on an amazing Best Bets run of 25-4-2 (86% ATS) since Jan. 17, is at 74% ATS (50-18-2) since Nov. 26 and a robust 70% ATS (57-25-3) in Best Bets for the season. StatFox Dave is 67% ATS (36-18) since in Best Bets Dec. 18 and 62% ATS (53-33-1) this season, while StatFox Scott is 73% ATS (8-3-1) since Feb. 16 and 58% ATS (48-35-3) for the season. StatFox Gary is 58% ATS (41-30) on Best Bets since Nov. 22 and 54% ATS (45-38-2) for the season.

Memphis has an impressive offense that averages 78.6 PPG (30th in Div. I) on 48.6% shooting (16th in nation), set up by the teamís strong passing of 17.8 APG (3rd in Div. I). The Tigers willingness to share the basketball makes up for their lack of quality outside shooting (33.8% threes) and subpar foul shooting (65.5% FT). With 38.0 RPG, they outrebound their opponents by 2.9 RPG and give up 69.9 PPG (168th in nation) on 42.9% shooting and 29.8% threes (20th in Div. I) on the defensive end. Memphis also loves forcing opponents into mistakes on defense with 8.8 SPG (8th in nation) and 4.9 BPG (47th in Div. I) leading to 15.0 forced turnovers per game (25th in nation). PG Joe Jackson (14.0 PPG, 4.6 APG) was the only Tigers starter to reach double-digits in the teamís Jan. 4 loss to Cincinnati, scoring 13 points (6-of-13 FG) with five rebounds, but he turned it over five times while recording only two assists. He has struggled lately though, averaging 5.0 PPG on 3-of-14 shooting in the teamís past two games. Jackson is joined in the backcourt by sharpshooter SG Michael Dixon Jr. (12.0 PPG, 40% threes), who has scored in double-figures in 10 straight contests, and has made at least half of his shots in five straight games, knocking down 61% FG (9-of-19 threes) during that timeframe. Dixon needs to improve upon his 4-of-12 FG in the first meeting with Cincinnati to help his team avoid being swept. Senior SGs Geron Johnson (9.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.8 APG) and Chris Crawford (8.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.0 APG) also log key minutes in the backcourt, and both players shot horribly in the Jan. 4 defeat to Cincinnati, combining for 12 points on 4-of-24 FG (1-for-10 threes). Down low, opponents have to watch out for PF Shaq Goodwin (12.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.9 BPG) and freshman SF Austin Nichols (8.9 PPG, 4.2 RPG), and like the rest of their teammates, they will also need to improve after combining for just eight points (3-of-9 FG) and seven rebounds in the first meeting.

Cincinnatiís slow-paced, one-man show offense doesnít put up flashy numbers with 68.4 PPG (250th in Div. I) on 42.3% shooting (273rd in nation). The Bearcats make their name on the defensive end where they hold teams to 57.2 PPG (3rd in Div. I) on 39.1% shooting (15th in Div. I), forcing 14.6 turnovers per game. The only important name to know on offense is senior SG Sean Kilpatrick (20.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.6 APG), who leads the team in scoring and passing. He scored 18 in the first meeting to start a streak of 15 straight games of scoring 16+ points, where he's averaged 21.9 PPG. Kilpatrick was horrible in Saturday's loss at Connecticut with 16 points on 4-of-16 shooting and seven turnovers. The only other double-digit scorer for Cincinnati is senior PF Justin Jackson (11.0 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 3.0 BPG, 1.7 SPG), the teamís top rebounder, though heís averaging just 5.5 PPG on 25% shooting in the teamís last two times out. He contributed 13 points and game highs in both blocks (seven) and rebounds (eight) in the win at Memphis. Jackson gets help on the glass from PF Titus Rubles (7.0 PPG, 6.6 RPG), while SF Shaquille Thomas (6.9 PPG) can play either forward position and stretch defenses a bit, scoring 10 points with four rebounds and three assists in that Jan. 4 meeting, when he drained the only three-pointer that he attempted.

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