Let’s make something clear first. I am not predicting an upset here. I don’t do silly things like prognosticate. All I am saying is that it is a realistic possibility. I still stand by the 1-in-15 estimate from Monday. Vegas says Memphis is a 12-13 point favorite, and if you know anything about Vegas’ accuracy, then 1-in-15 is a good estimate based on the spread. All that means is that Oral Roberts must play one of its best 4 or 5 games of the year while Memphis plays one of its 4 or 5 worst. Clearly, if Memphis plays to its ability, there will be no suspense in this one. But here’s what has to happen for the upset to occur.
When Memphis has the ball…
Memphis ORU Offense Defense Adj. Eff. 39 128 Shooting 105 54 Turnovers 159 201 Rebounding 5 72 Free Throws 85 14 3FGA/FGA 131 278 Block % 92 79
I’ve seen people compare a bunch of raw stats between the teams to suggest this is going to be a really close game. While Memphis does not play in a very good conference, their overall schedule was significantly tougher than Oral Roberts. But these stats do tell an accurate story of the Memphis offense. They don’t shoot all that well, and commit turnovers with surprising frequency. Their specialty is crashing the boards. I mentioned Monday that a zone is surprisingly effective. Even if ORU doesn’t play zone, they should do everything in their power to encourage players not named Rodney Carney to shoot jump shots.
When Oral Roberts has the ball…
ORU Memphis Offense Defense Adj. Eff. 121 7 Shooting 97 2 Turnovers 144 67 Rebounding 40 65 Free Throws 76 274 3FGA/FGA 246 104 Block % 5 8
Memphis wins with defense. John Calipari runs so many bodies out there that his players can be very aggressive. This results in sending opponents to the line far too often, but pays dividends in every other area. Memphis has the 8th best block rate in the country, but Oral Roberts is 5th best at avoiding blocks. ORU has some athleticism and decent size. They won’t be intimidated by Memphis. Furthermore, their frontline gets to the line in heavy doses, especially Caleb Green who is among the best in the nation at that (301 FTAs, 73.2 FTRate).
So here’s the recipe for an upset:
1) ORU must make a few threes. They have a couple of 40+% 3-point shooters. Slashing two-guard Ken Tutt will get a bunch of minutes. Chris Riouse is a role player off the bench and his role is strictly to shoot 3-pointers. They aren’t going to get the volume of good looks they’re used to (Memphis has the 6th best 3-point FG defense), so they’ll have to make some tough shots.
2) Get to the line a bunch. Caleb Green averages 20 a game, and a lot of those points come at the line. He should be able to get his usual production.
3) Force Memphis into jumpers. Memphis is a decent 3-point shooting team, but if they are allowed to slash to the hoop, the defense is in trouble. Even if the penetration results in a miss, it usually means second and third opportunities. East Carolina hung with Memphis for 35 minutes playing a zone. ORU may well stick to a man defense, but it better be a soft man.
Even if Oral Roberts accomplishes all of those things, they still need Memphis to be off their game. But if fellow conference-dominators GW and Gonzaga taught us anything yesterday, it’s that the lack of competition over a prolonged period can take its toll.