After their road loss to Houston, the Tigers are in a must-win situation heading into Saturday’s showdown against Louisville.
The No. 21/22 ranked Memphis Tigers (21-7, 10-5 AAC) are in a situation they would have preferred to not be in.
When the NCAA committee decides which team will make the tournament, the committee takes a in-depth look at bad losses. Bad losses can either have a team out or on the edge of getting a bid into the tournament.
As for the Tigers, they suffered a bad loss to sixth place Houston Cougars (14-14, 6-9 AAC) in front of their home crowd on Thursday night. Daniel House scored 19 points on Memphis en route to an 77-68 home victory.
Two other players for the Cougars scored in double figures: TaShawn Thomas (16) and Jherrod Stiggers (14).
As a team, the Tigers shot 46.7 percent (28-of-60) from the field. Three of the four senior guards for Memphis (Joe Jackson, Chris Crawford, and Geron Johnson) combined to score 15 points on 4-of-15 shooting (26.6 percent).
Michael Dixon Jr. had a solid game with 19 points.
The loss to the Cougars proved Pastner’s point that the American Athletic Conference is not a pushover league.
“I just think the American is an amazing league. It’s one of the best leagues in the country,” Pastner said. “From top to bottom, you gotta be really good. If you have a off night, then you are going to get beat.”
Memphis can’t afford to take an breather now as the No.7 ranked Louisville Cardinals (24-4, 13-2 AAC) awaits them. Coach Rick Pitino has his team playing great basketball before March rolls around.
Louisville is currently on a seven-game winning streak. Their last lost was at home against 13th ranked Cincinnati Bearcats. Besides their win against the Bearcats on Feb.22, the Cards have defeated each of their opponents by double figures.
As a team, Louisville averages 82.3 points a game. Their defense is solid with only giving up 61.6 points a game.
With the guards for Memphis in zombie mode, they will have to break out of their slump to help their frontcourt get an signature win.
Speaking of the frontcourt, freshman forward Austin Nichols has scored in double figures in the last two games. In the overtime win against Temple, Nichols had 17 points, 12 rebounds, and seven blocks.
Before foul trouble doomed Nichols against Houston, Nichols score eight of Memphis first 11 points en route to an 12-point, four rebound performance.
Nichols seems more comfortable than he was at the beginning of the season.
“I think I am just being more aggressive. Just going to the hole and attacking the big men,”Nichols said. “I gotta continue to stay aggressive.”
With the way the AAC is shaping up, this conference is going to have five teams in the tournament. The Tigers are now in a situation where they will almost have to win out to get at least a four seed and try to avoid a fifth or sixth seed, where the potential upsets take place.
“At this time of the year, every possession is a sense of urgency and it’s critical. If we want to do what we want to do, then we have got to be so ready.”
The game between Memphis and Louisville is slated for Saturday at 1 p.m. CST at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, TN. The game will be televised on CBS.