What: #25 FAU (31-3, 18-2) vs. #24 Memphis (26-8, 13-5)
When: Fri. March 17th, @ 9:20 PM
Where: Nationwide Arena
Series: Tigers lead 1-0 all-time against the Owls. This is their first matchup since 1993.
TV : TNT
Radio : FoxSports 640
Live Stats : Here
Line: FAU +2
FAU at a Glance
Offense - 79 PPG, 47% FG, 37% 3PT
Defense - 65 PPGA, 40% FGA, 32% 3PTA
Rebounding - 39 RPG Owls, 33 RPG Opponents
It has been 21 years in the making: FAU is going dancing to March Madness.
This is the second time FAU qualified for the NCAA Tournament and their first since 2002. That year saw the Owls, placed at the 15-seed after winning the Atlantic Sun Tournament, bravely compete against 2-seed Alabama which saw them lead 40-38 at halftime before falling 86-78 when the final buzzer horned at Greenville, S.C. Guard Earnest Crumbley led the team with 18 points, while center Raheim Brown finished with a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double.
The Owls dominated for a majority of the Conference USA Tournament in Frisco, Texas. They blew Western Kentucky out of the water, outsmarted Middle Tennessee in a 68-65 nail-biter, and shut down a high-powered UAB offense to clinch their first and only C-USA Championship before moving on to the American Athletic Conference next season.
Returning home to Boca Raton with their spot in the NCAA Tournament already secured, all FAU had to worry about was which part of the bracket they would be placed in and who will they face in the first round. They found all that out on Selection Sunday alongside fans during a watch party in The Burrow, finding themselves with the 9-seed while being matched up with 8-seed Memphis in the East Region of the tournament bracket.
"After the selection show, the staff immediately goes to work gathering information on Memphis and preparing," head coach Dusty May said. "We just have to refocus on the preparation but fortunately, our guys love to practice so it's easy once we get to get down to where we're in the business part of it."
Heading into March Madness on a seven-game winning streak, various outlets have them ranked within the top 30 of the country from 25th to as high as 10th entering the tournament.
- RPI 10th
- Net 13th
- KenPom 22nd
- AP Top 25 25th
- USA Today Coaches Poll 25th
Sophomore guard Alijah Martin dominated throughout the C-USA Tournament. He bagged Tournament MVP after putting up averages of 18.7 points, 8 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and an assist on 48.8% shooting overall and 42.9% from deep. This includes a 30-point explosion against UAB to lead the Owls to the title.
Vlad Goldin (pictured) would be key to the Owls maintaining their defensive game-plan. They were successful in suffocating opponents to 57.3 points on a horrendous 32.3% shooting from the field and 20.8% from three throughout the tournament with Goldin being at the forefront with a game-saving block in the final seconds during their semifinal against the Blue Raiders.
"If Vlad stays out of foul trouble, we've proven to have one of the best defenses in the country. When he's in foul trouble, we're out of our rotation, and then we take a little bit of a drop off," May said. "We need his seven-foot-one, he's got great instincts, and he's improving daily."
The Owls have received plenty of support from former players of past FAU rosters, stretching from the 2002 team who made the program's first appearance in March Madness to the 2011 squad who won the Regular Season Title in the Sun Belt.
"It's awesome to see the guys that aren't around anymore, living in other states, still follow these guys and they're proud of this team and this university. It's really cool and it's a great way to connect with guys that played here in the past," May said. "Anytime there's a championship team, you have an excuse to come back and bring everyone back. It's easy to rally around those guys so hopefully, this will be a pivotal moment to get everybody back together."
If they beat Memphis, FAU could face either 1-seed Purdue or 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson in the Round of 32 at an undetermined time on Sunday.
Memphis Team Site: Here
Memphis at a Glance
Offense - 80 PPG, 48% FG, 36% 3PT
Defense - 72 PPGA, 40% FGA, 31% 3PTA
Rebounding - 36 RPG, 35 RPG Opponents
Regardless of what happens Friday night, FAU will get a very good test of where they stand with AAC opponents taking on a dangerous Memphis squad before playing them twice a year in The American starting next season.
The Tigers are riding on high momentum, pulling off a 75-65 upset against No. 1 Houston to win the AAC Championship after putting away UCF 81-76 and annihilating Tulane 94-54.
Entering the matchup on a three-game winning streak, various outlets have them ranked within the top 40 of the country from 37th to as high as 15th entering the tournament.
- RPI 15th
- Net 23rd
- KenPom 19th
- AP Top 25 24th
- USA Today Coaches Poll 37th
A majority of the Tiger offense comes from the dynamic duo of All-AAC First Teamers Kendric Davis and DeAndre Williams, combining for 39.9 of the team's 79.8 points per game. Davis leads the squad in scoring with 22.1 points a night, good for 9th in the country while his total points of 728 for the season places him in the top 5 as one of the best offensive guards competing in the NCAA Tournament. On the other hand, Williams is a double-double machine with 11 on the season (tied-40th in the nation) while crashing the boards at will.
"They have two guys that score a majority of their points, that have the ball in their hands the majority of the game, so we have to do a great job on the roll guys to take away cuts, layups, offensive rebounds, and then we just have to challenge everything right by the two main guys and not give them anything easy," May said.
The Tigers are no slouch on defense either. They are very good at making teams struggle with their shooting with defensive stats at 40% from the field (18th in the country) and 31% from beyond the arc (35th in the nation), which happens to be one of FAU's best strengths with their tremendous depth in the backcourt.
"They change defenses and it's super aggressive. They rely on turning you over so if we value the ball, we don't get sped up and we play with great pace, then we'll have a chance to score enough points to win. If we're throwing it all over the gym and we've giving them live ball turnovers which turn into dunks and energizing plays, then we'll be in trouble," May said.
FAU should look to exploit Memphis' weakness in committing turnovers. They give up the ball 13.5 times per game, which puts them in the bottom 100 as one of the worst teams in that category. Keeping the Tigers out of rhythm with intense ball pressure at the defensive end will help the Owls on their journey to pulling off a victory in Columbus.