Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.
Twenty-four straight hours of college hoops is the dream scenario for those of us who are diehard fans of the sport. Fortunately, it’s not a dream as ESPN brings back its Tip-Off Marathon for the fourth consecutive season. Games got started at 12:01 AM EST this morning and go all the way till approximately 1:00 AM EST later tonight. If you can’t sit in front of your TV for all twenty-four plus hours, then make sure you at least watch these four games.
Belmont @ #14 Memphis – 12:00 PM EST on ESPN HD (***)
- Memphis brings high expectations into the 2011-12 season (Coaches Poll #9). They return all five starters from last year’s team, several key reserves, and add McDonald’s All-American Adonis Thomas. Josh Pastner has put together an incredible amount of talent that is going to get a stiff test in its first game of the season against an experienced Belmont team. The Tigers need to greatly improve their turnover percentage (21.9% in 2010-11), three point shooting (32.9% in 2010-11), and defensive rebounding percentage (34.3% in 2010-11) in order to live up to those lofty expectations this season. Pastner’s squad showed promise on the defensive end last year ranking 23rd and 25th in block percentage and steal percentage, respectively. They need to maintain that defensive toughness while still trying to improve on the offensive end.
- Belmont gave Duke all it could handle last Friday night in the opener at Cameron Indoor Stadium, losing 77-76. Turnovers (17), missed threes (6-19), and the Blue Devils’ Mason Plumlee’s great work on the defensive glass (10 defensive rebounds) proved to be the difference. Still, the Bruins showed excellent offensive balance in the loss with five players scoring in double figures. Although the FedEx Forum is another difficult place to play, it’s a bit closer to home for Rick Byrd’s team and they have already experienced the ruckus of the Cameron Crazies. Belmont needs to get off to a better start from the three-point line and limit turnovers to have a chance in this one.
- This game will hinge on turnovers and second-chance points. Belmont forced Duke to turn the ball over 19 times in the first game and ranked second in the nation last season in defensive turnover percentage. As previously mentioned, Memphis turns the ball over a lot. Memphis guard Joe Jackson in particular turned the ball over on 29.1% of his possessions last season. Look for the Bruins to put all kinds of pressure on a still-young Tigers team to create easy baskets. At the same time, Belmont relies heavily on second chance points. The addition of the 6’7” Thomas to the Memphis lineup should certainly improve their defensive rebounding percentage. If Thomas and the rest of the team can hit the glass hard in his first game, it will limit Belmont’s chances to pull an upset on the road.