Strength Vs. Strength: All Tigers Matchup Promises to Be a Fast-Paced Affair

Dave StanleyCorrespondent IFebruary 15, 2017

Memphis and Missouri...Tigers versus Tigers...speed versus speed. 

In a game not exactly starving for story lines, these two teams find themselves bracing for a potential shootout for the ages. 

On paper, anyway.

Not to mention that it is the Missouri coach, Mike Anderson, who last defeated coach John Calipari and these Memphis Tigers three years ago when Anderson was the coach at University of Alabama-Birmingham. 

Say what you will, but this one has the Cinderella-deficient press salivating. We're talking about a tournament which has seen the Sweet 16's weak link, the Arizona Wildcats, be the one with twenty-five straight NCAA appearances. 

All things considered, this matchup conceivably gives both teams reason to be worried.  Mizzou's bread and butter, the full court press, is what Memphis excels at beating. 

"If guys want to press us, have at it," senior forward Robert Dozier told the Memphis Commercial Appeal this week.  He has a point, given Memphis' systematic dismantling of Maryland this past Saturday during the second round. 

The Terrapins pressed even more once the game got out of hand, but to no avail as Memphis' lead grew to 29 points on a Doneal Mack three-pointer. 

However, unlike Maryland or the emotionally charged Cal St. Northridge Matadors, Mizzou actually has the size and athleticism; two adjectives almost exclusive to Memphis over the past four years, to actually trump the blue and gray's offensive savvy. 

Of course, given the mid winter, low scoring, slow-paced battles against Tennessee and Tulsa, this Memphis squad has proven that it has the patience to grind one out if need be. 

Both teams enter this elite Sweet 16 relatively hot.  Much has been made of Memphis' 27-game winning streak, and Mizzou has won 13 of their past 15, with a Big 12 conference title to boot.  No small feat, considering a little old player (of the year?) named Griffin and a small school named Oklahoma in your conference. 

While Memphis' strength is holding opponents' field goal percentages' to abysmally low depths, Mizzou is currently shooting 47.3 percent from the floor.  Both teams boast a plus-16 average margin of victory, with near-identical field goal and free throw percentages. 

The latter could prove to be dubiously more important, given last year's title game collapse for the Memphis squad. 

But ultimately, it will boil down to who plays the best.  Granted, that pedestrian statement might sound a bit over-simplified, but it is an observation not to be overlooked, especially with this year's Memphis squad, which tends to play to the level of its competition.

If they play a sub-mid major school, then they tend to be guilty of the cardinal sin of "looking to the next opponent."  (See: Cal St. Northridge).  However, if they play a high and mighty, traditional power, such as a Maryland, for instance, then the nation's collective head is turned and wonders why they aren't in a power conference. 

"One game at a time."

"We just come to play."

"If we can just execute."

Whatever cliche these Mid South and Mid West Tigers espouse this Thursday, at the end of the day, it will come down to, well, "who wants it more."

Taking to the fact that the rest of the field in Glendale, Ariz., is significantly less experienced, senior shooting guard Antonio Anderson offered his insights to the Memphis Commercial Appeal this week.

"It's just a whole different atmosphere, but they're a great team, and they're going to come to play regardless of whatever the situation may be, and we have to be prepared for that."