Memphis Tigers vs. #7 Syracuse (6 pm, ESPN2)


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• Despite not placing a single player on the preseason All-Big East team (first or second units), the Orange have risen to a ranking of seventh in the country. They won their first 13 games before losing to the Pitt Panthers last Saturday. Senior forward Wesley Johnson leads the team in scoring (17.1 points per game) and is also the club’s top rebounder (8.8). Junior point guard Scoop Jardine is averaging 8.6 points and 5.4 assists while three other Syracuse players — Kris Joseph, Arinze Onuaku, and Brandon Triche — are averaging at least 10 points per game. The Orange’s biggest wins of the season came against North Carolina on November 20th and at Florida December 10th. The Tigers will be Syracuse’s final nonconference foe of the season.


• It’ll be hard to find a greater disparity in coaching experience under the same roof. Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim — already a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame — has won 812 games and has coached the Orange every day Josh Pastner has been alive. The 32-year-old Tiger coach enters tonight’s game needing 802 wins to catch Boeheim.

• This will be the fourth meeting between the Tigers and Orange. The Tigers opened the 2002-03 season against Syracuse at Madison Square Garden. Freshman Jeremy Hunt managed to steal the spotlight from Orange frosh Carmelo Anthony that night as Memphis won, 70-63. (Syracuse went on to win the 2003 national championship.) Syracuse has won the last two contests, on November 19, 2004 (again in New York City) and on December 20, 2008 at FedExForum. Roburt Sallie hit four of six from downtown in the 2008 game and tied for U of M scoring honors with 12 points.

• It’s a basketball truth — actually a pair of them — as old as Dr. Naismith’s peach baskets: teams that shoot and rebound win. The Tigers have shot under 40 percent in four games this season and lost three of them (the only win came against Arkansas State). The Tigers have been outrebounded in four games this season and lost three of them (the only win came against Arkansas-Little Rock). If Roburt Sallie and Doneal Mack can hit from long range and Will Coleman and Pierre Henderson-Niles can control the defensive glass, Memphis has a chance.

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