Men’s basketball to meet struggling Memphis Tuesday night

Austin Hannon, Staff Reporter

After holding on in the last seconds to beat No. 14 Houston 83-82, the Alabama Crimson Tide (8-1) are on a four-game winning streak.

The Crimson Tide are No. 6 in the new AP Top 25 poll released on Monday.

Alabama’s next opponent is the Memphis Tigers, whose 5-4 record is a shock to most in the college basketball sphere.

The Tigers started the season ranked 12th. But after four consecutive losses, Memphis has completely dropped out of the rankings.

Memphis was expected to contend for a national championship this season because of its influx of young talent.

The Tigers had the No. 1 recruiting class in the country in 2021, signing five-stars Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren. They also picked up four-star tandem Josh Minott and Johnathan Lawson. Bates and Duren are Memphis’ leading scorers, averaging 11.2 and 10.4 points per game respectively.

Memphis ranks 20th in the country in offensive rebounding rate, averaging an offensive rebound on over 35% of misses.

“Obviously, defensive rebounding was a major problem against Houston,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said. “Memphis actually has a higher offensive rebounding rate than Houston did, so that’s a huge point of emphasis.”

But it hasn’t been smooth sailing for the young team. After starting 5-0 against rather weak competition, Memphis has lost its last four games to No. 11 Iowa State, Georgia, Ole Miss and Murray State. Georgia was picked to finish last in the SEC this season and is currently 4-5.

NBA legend Penny Hardaway is in his fourth year coaching the Tigers. The four-time NBA all-star returned home to coach his alma mater in 2018 and has a 63-32 record during his tenure. He led Memphis to a National Invitation Tournament championship last season.

The Tigers play their home games at the FedExForum and have an average attendance of over 13,000 this season. 

“I’ve never coached there in that building,” Oats said. “I’ve been there for some Memphis Grizzlies playoff games. It’s a nice place. It’s a good opportunity for guys to play in an NBA arena. That’s their actual home arena they play in. We’re looking forward to it. We like playing big games in that type of environment against some NBA-level talent.”

The Crimson Tide already won in Seattle against No. 5 Gonzaga, but this is the team’s first “true” road game.

Amid the Tigers’ struggles, it may make them more dangerous.

“Memphis’ talent level is really high,” Oats said. “Maybe the most talented team, like one through 11, that we’ve seen all year. And they’re going to get this thing righted at some point. I think we’re going to get their best shot. It’s a home game for them and they’re desperate, so our guys have got to understand that. We’ve got a great opportunity to get another quality win on the road here at Memphis.”

The Crimson Tide and Tigers will tip off at 8 p.m. CT on Dec. 14. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN.