Game Preview: Memphis Tigers battle Michigan State in Auburn Hills

“Survive and advance” is the theme for March.  The University of Memphis Tigers escaped with a narrow two-point win over the Saint Mary’s Gaels 54-52 in the NCAA Tournament Round of 64.  With the win, the Tigers earned their first tournament and Top 25 victory under head coach Josh Pastner.

The prize for this accomplishment is facing the Michigan State Spartans in Auburn Hills, MI just 80 miles from the MSU campus.  If The Tigers can get on a roll, the Spartans cross-state rival the Michigan Wolverines fans could become temporary Tigers fans.  Michigan plays VCU in the same building prior to Memphis-Michigan State.

The Spartans defeated Valparaiso in 65-54 in their opening round game of the NCAA Tournament.  Derrick Nix had a monster game scoring 23 points and grabbed 15 rebounds 9 of which were offensive.

The Tigers will enter the game as a prohibitive underdog. The Tigers played their best basketball this season when they played with a chip on their shoulder.  The last time Memphis played Michigan State in the tournament the Tigers defeated the Spartans on their way to the Final Four.

Chris Crawford long range shots have to return in order for Memphis to advance. Photo by Justine Ford.

Chris Crawford long range shots have to return in order for Memphis to advance. Photo by Justine Ford.

How the Tigers can advance to the Sweet 16:

Exploit the Spartans weakness.

The Tigers are one of the fastest teams in the country.  The guard play of Joe Jackson is the reason why.  The Spartans biggest weakness is their guard play.  If Jackson, Gerron Johnson and Chris Crawford are able to push the tempo and force turnovers it will be a long day for the Spartans.

Play with no fear.

All season the Tigers have been checking items off of their list that they have never accomplished.  The latest checked item on their list was never having won a NCAA or Top 25 game under Pastner.  In order for the Tigers to advance to the Sweet 16, they will have to play forty minutes of basketball like they play in their first twenty minutes in the Saint Mary’s game.

Team play.

There is no time like the present to have just average games.  If Chris Crawford, Johnson and Adonis Thomas can all have just their average game at the same time, the Tigers would win most games in blowout fashion.  It has been very rare this season when every member of the team has clicked at the same time.  The Tigers are capable of defeating the Spartans, but can they execute their game plan with perfection?

Make free throws.

The Tigers have been a good free throw shooting team for most of the season.  However ,they have not been shooting free throws well of late.  The Tigers have a history of not receiving favorable calls in most games and the recent history of not shooting free throws well means the Tigers need to take care of business early.  The team needs to experience a blowout victory to eliminated any chances of ending their season prematurely.

ON TV: Memphis vs. Michigan State airs Saturday at 1:45 pm on CBS

Terry Davis covers the Memphis Tigers for MemphiSport. To reach Terry, email him at Follow him @Terryd515.



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