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Memphis: Know Your Sweet Sixteen Opponent

While we wait for ghtd36's Better Know an Opponent piece tomorrow (probably), let's take a look at the numbers.  And buckle your safety belts; this is a long flight.

Memphis: 33-3

Memphis Opp
Points Per Minute
1.86 1.44
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.11 0.85
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.28 1.05
2-PT FG% 50.3% 39.3%
3-PT FG% 32.9% 29.7%
FT% 69.5% 58.3%
True Shooting % 54.3% 45.7%
Memphis Opp
Assists/Gm 14.2 9.6
Steals/Gm 8.9 5.8
Turnovers/Gm 12.5 15.5
Ball Control Index
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.84 0.99
Memphis Opp
Expected Offensive Rebounds/Gm 12.6 13.3
Offensive Rebounds/Gm 13.4 11.2
Difference +0.8 -2.1
  • Where Memphis is good: Everything associated with defense.  FG% defense, steals/turnovers, defensive rebounding, etc.
  • Where Memphis is not as good: For a team with Memphis' size, they only rebound reasonably well instead of amazingly well.  And they turn the ball over a lot.
  • We'll take a look at their NCAA tourney stats in a bit.
Player AdjGS* GmSc/Min Line
Tyreke Evans (6'6, 219, Fr.) 14.50 0.51 16.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.9 APG, 2.1 SPG, 3.6 TOPG
Robert Dozier (6'9, 220, Sr.) 13.87 0.46 12.7 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.6 BPG, 2.1 TOPG
Shawn Taggart (6'10, 238, Jr.) 11.63 0.47 10.5 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.4 BPG
Antonio Anderson (6'6, 214, Sr.) 11.51 0.34 10.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.5 SPG, 2.2 TOPG
Doneal Mack (6'5, 181, Jr.) 6.83 0.27 8.9 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 1.2 APG
Roburt Sallie (6'5, 186, So.) 5.20 0.35 5.7 PPG, 1.6 RPG
Wesley Witherspoon (6'8, 200, Fr.) 3.43 0.25 4.1 PPG, 2.2 RPG
Willie Kemp (6'2, 184, Jr.) 2.83 0.21 3.0 PPG, 1.3 APG
Pierre Henderson-Niles (6'8, 300, Jr.) 2.56 0.20 2.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG
Chance McGrady (6'2, 183, Sr.) 0.86 0.33 0.7 PPG
Preston Laird (6'2, 180, Fr.) 0.74 0.45 0.9 PPG
Matt Simpkins (6'9, 215, Fr.) 0.67 0.12 1.4 PPG

* AdjGS = a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds.  It does the same thing my previous measure of choice did (it takes points, assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls into account to determine an individual's "score" for a given game), only the formula is more used and accepted.  The "adjustment" in Adjusted Game Score is simply matching the total game scores to the total points scored in the game, thereby redistributing the game's points scored to those who had the biggest impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

  • First of all, in Memphis' main rotation, there is one guy under 6'5.  Eesh.
  • Put simply, Tyreke Evans will turn the ball over.  He's going to play aggressively and occasionally make a stupid play.  If his A-TO ratio is under 1.0, Mizzou has a very good chance in this game.
  • And for that matter, the same goes for the entire team.  Their BCI is high because of their high number of steals (and solid assist totals), but this team is turnover prone, and Mizzou will have to take advantage of that.
  • Memphis is tall but not necessarily huge.  Neither Taggart nor Dozier are extreme bangers inside, which will help Mizzou at least a bit.  However, while Dozier is a solid offensive rebounder (his OR% is the same as Leo Lyons'), Taggart is absolutely outstanding in the category.  Keeping him off the boards and holding Memphis to one-and-done possessions will be crucial.
  • Memphis is pretty streaky, but they're simply not a very good 3-point shooting team.  If Roburt Sallie really has seen the lightbulb go on in the last couple of games, and if it's going to stay that way for the rest of the tournament, then they've got a serious long-distance threat.  But if he comes down from his super-human shooting in KC, it will be hard for Memphis to go on one of those 3-point tears that usually doom Missouri.  In most circumstances, the more outside shots Memphis takes, the better for the opponent.
  • Pierre Henderson-Niles' dimensions remind one quite a bit of Texas' Dexter Pittman, but he is not nearly as offensively skilled.  Calipari still might choose to play him a hair more than his typical 12.6 minutes per game if his size is causing a smaller Missouri team problems, but we'll see.

What does Pomeroy have to say?

Mizzou is #7 in KenPom's rankings, and while that's great, Memphis is far and away #1, mostly because of defense. 

  • They have the #25 most efficient offense in the country and #1 most efficient defense.
  • The average Memphis game is about four possessions slower than the average Mizzou game.  So much for the "both teams are fast-paced" meme.  Memphis only looks fast--they don't play fast.
  • Teams shoot horribly from inside the 3-point line against Memphis (a thought that gives nightmares to scarred Mizzou fans thinking about how many layups their boys have missed this year), and overall Memphis allows the single worst Effective FG% in the country.
  • They block a lot of shots (#8 in the country) and pick a lot of pockets (#11 in steals--Mizzou is #3).
  • Their offense is not very 3-point based (though they do take a lot of them), and they don't necessarily rely on passing and assists for their offense.  Lots of driving and close to mid-range shots.
  • Their bench does not provide a ton of support, and while they're not very experienced, what they are is tall.  Very tall.  They are #24 in Effective Height (which basically just looks at the average height of the tallest guys) and #2 in Overall Height (which measures everybody's average).

This is a long, lean team that relies on its talent and athleticism to win games.  Of their three losses, two (Xavier, Georgetown) came against teams who maybe weren't as athletic as them, but were more physical, and the other came against a unique, athletic Syracuse team.  I'd say Mizzou is more like Syracuse than XU/Georgetown, but really none of them are tremendously comparable.

Memphis vs Real Opponents (i.e. major conference teams or NCAA tourney teams)


Memphis Opp
Points Per Minute
1.76 1.59
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.03 0.93
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.17 1.17
2-PT FG% 47.3% 43.6%
3-PT FG% 29.8% 29.5%
FT% 65.8% 67.7%
True Shooting % 50.4% 49.5%
Memphis Opp
Assists/Gm 15.0 9.8
Steals/Gm 8.8 6.0
Turnovers/Gm 14.6 14.4
Ball Control Index
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.63 1.10
Memphis Opp
Expected Offensive Rebounds/Gm 13.9 13.0
Offensive Rebounds/Gm 15.3 10.6
Difference +1.4 -2.4
  • Memphis' "real" regular season opponents: Chattanooga, Seton Hall, Xavier, Georgetown, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Gonzaga, and of course CS-Northridge and Maryland.  Memphis went 7-3 against these ten teams.
  • Disclaimer: a lot of these games were played earlier in the season, when Tyreke Evans was still learning the ropes.  He's a better player now, but that doesn't render these numbers entirely void.
  • Suddenly Points Per Shot and True Shooting % are almost equal, and Memphis relies on BCI (a bit) and rebounding (a lot) to win games.
  • 14.6 turnovers per game.  That's a lot.
Player AdjGS* GmSc/Min Line
Robert Dozier 13.15 0.42 11.2 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 1.7 TOPG
Tyreke Evans 12.44 0.44 14.7 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 3.9 APG, 2.0 SPG, 4.0 TOPG
Shawn Taggart 12.10 0.44 10.0 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 1.1 TOPG
Antonio Anderson 9.22 0.25 7.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 5.3 APG, 1.5 SPG, 3.0 TOPG
Doneal Mack 7.42 0.31 9.5 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 1.4 APG
Roburt Sallie 7.27 0.50 8.0 PPG, 1.6 RPG
Wesley Weatherspoon 3.04 0.19 4.2 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.6 TOPG
Pierre Henderson-Niles 2.92 0.25 2.7 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.0 TOPG
Willie Kemp 2.17 0.18 3.4 PPG
Matt Simpkins 0.39 0.08 0.5 PPG
Preston Laird 0.20 0.39 1 minute
Chance McGrady -0.52 -0.52 2 minutes
  • Again, Evans is a better player now than he was against early teams like Chattanooga and Xavier, but the numbers aren't that different.  He's still the same well-rounded, athletic, talented player who turns the ball over a bit too much.
  • Antonio Anderson could be the key player to watch.  He's had decent shooting games and horrible ones.  Decent assist-to-turnover games and horrible ones.  He handles the ball as much as anybody on the team, and he could make or break Memphis.

    And no, he's not this guy:

    That's Anthony Anderson.
  • Evans is the main name for Memphis now, but really the trifecta of Evans, Dozier and Taggart are equally important from a per-minute standpoint.  Slowing down any one of them could do good things for Mizzou.

Memphis vs NCAA Tournament

Memphis Opp
Points Per Minute
2.13 1.75
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.24 1.02
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.52 1.21
2-PT FG% 58.9% 45.1%
3-PT FG% 44.7% 37.5%
FT% 67.4% 66.7%
True Shooting % 64.9% 52.6%
Memphis Opp
Assists 40 19
Steals 20 16
Turnovers 27 24
Ball Control Index
(Assists + Steals) / TO
2.22 1.46
Memphis Opp
Expected Offensive Rebounds 20 25
Offensive Rebounds 19 21
Difference -1 -4
  • Considering neither CS-Northridge nor Maryland are gigantic teams, the rebounding numbers there are a little surprising (and encouraging).  They've been strong on the defensive glass, but they haven't been getting just a ton of second-chance opportunities.
  • Thanks to Mr. Sallie, the 3-pointers have fallen for Memphis thus far.  Sallie was 13-for-19 from 3-point range over the weekend--the rest of the team was just 8-for-28.  Again, we'll see if this is a permanent upward trend for the sophomore (and former Husker), or just a couple of hot games, soon to return to the norm.
  • Again, the BCI is high because of an impressive 40 assists and 20 steals--the turnovers number is still too high for a team about to play Missouri.
  • Meanwhile, they've strangely only forced 24 turnovers of their own.  Again, Northridge did a lot more against Memphis than anybody thought they were capable of doing, and it showed that there might be room for JT Tiller and Zaire Taylor to drive, and it might be possible to get Evans, Doneal Mack, and Wesley Weatherspoon into foul trouble.
Player AdjGS* GmSc/Min Line
Roburt Sallie 24.66 0.84 24.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.5 SPG
Tyreke Evans 14.53 0.50 17.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 5.0 APG, 2.5 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 4.5 TOPG
Robert Dozier 13.35 0.39 11.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.5 SPG
Shawn Taggart 13.12 0.49 11.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.0 SPG
Antonio Anderson 10.75 0.29 7.5 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 10.0 APG, 2.0 SPG, 4.0 TOPG
Willie Kemp 4.24 0.61 3.5 PPG, 1.0 APG
Pierre Henderson-Niles 2.71 0.32 1.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.0 BPG
Doneal Mack 1.98 0.11 9.0 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 2.0 TOPG
Preston Laird 0.34 0.34 1 minute
Chance McGrady 0.00 0.00 1 minute
Wesley Witherspoon -0.28 -0.03 0.5 PPG, 2.5 RPG
  • Dozier and Anderson have been relatively unimpressive in the tourney thus far, while Evans and Taggart have posted averages quite comparable to their regular season numbers.
  • The difference, of course, has been Sallie's explosion.  Everything Kimmie English has been for Mizzou, Sallie has meant even more for Memphis (English has actually had much higher per-minute averages, but Sallie has played many more minutes).  They needed almost every one of his 35 points to beat Northridge.

Keys to the Game

No surprises here.

  1. The 3-pointer.  Will Roburt Sallie go off again?  What about Kim English?  Tyreke Evans or Antonio Anderson?  Will Matt Lawrence bring his long-range shot with him to Glendale after leaving it at home during the trip to Boise?  Neither team is great at the long-ball, and both teams are good at preventing opponents' long-ball success.  Regardless, we know that both teams will still take a lot of 3's, and the team with the 3-pt % closest to 50% will have a significant advantage here.

  2. The offensive rebound.  When you look at Memphis' losses and near-losses, two numbers stick out in regard to trying to figure out why Memphis lost/almost lost.  The first one is rebounding.  Xavier outrebounded them, 44-40.  In a 1-point Memphis win, Tulsa outrebounded the Tigers, 43-25.  Neither Memphis nor Missouri is full of great natural shooting ability, and there will likely be a lot of missed shots in this game (and therefore lots of rebounding opportunities).  Mizzou has to do a better job of grabbing the boards than they have in either of the first two NCAA Tourney games.  Leo Lyons had 4 rebounds against Marquette--inexcuseable.  He needs at least 7-8 on Thursday.

  3. The turnover.  The other trend from Memphis' worse games is turnovers.  Memphis had 20 turnovers against both Syracuse and Georgetown.  They can get confused by sturdy defenses, and I expect Mike Anderson to vary the defensive looks he throws at Memphis from possession to possession.

    Meanwhile, Memphis is also very good at forcing turnovers.  Mizzou has taken care of the ball tremendously well in the tourney, and they must continue to do so.  They need to force at least 18-20 Memphis turnovers while keeping their own numbers under about 12-14.  Winning the turnover battle means getting to take more shots, and Mizzou's going to need every opportunity it can get.


When it's time to make a prediction, I usually do a little math.  I try to figure out Mizzou's and its opponent's likely points per possession, and then try to figure out the most likely pace.  Points Per Possession x Possessions = Points, right?

Looking at how both teams have performed over the year as a whole and most recently, this should be a damn close game.  Mizzou will most likely average somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.04-1.08 points per possession (we'll say 1.06), while Memphis will be anywhere between 1.05 and 1.10 (we'll say 1.08).  Both teams are streaky, and either could end up in the 1.15 or 0.95 neighborhood, but those are the safest bets.  Memphis games are usually played at about a 66-possession pace, while Missouri is closer to 70-72.  We'll say there are 69 possessions in this game...which makes for a prediction of Memphis 75, Missouri 73.  I'll say this, though: the way this team has played in clutch situations (think Texas, Kansas, Marquette), in a one- or two-possession game, I really like our chances.  We'll stick with a reverse jinx attempt, though, and say 75-73 Memphis.