The 7-5 Wichita State Shockers open their American Athletic Conference play against the 8-5 Memphis Tigers Thursday night.
The Shockers, who were picked to finish eighth in the conference, play their first five conference games against teams picked to finish in the upper-half of the preseason poll.
Wichita State’s first five games include a road game at Memphis (picked fourth), hosting Temple (sixth), at Houston (third), and then back home against UCF (first), and Cincinnati (second).
Memphis, who defeated Florida A&M by 31 points last Saturday, have won three-straight games while scoring at least 90 points in each one of their last five games.
The Tigers lead The American in scoring offense (85.1) but are also ranked last in the conference for scoring defense (77.2). Averaging 85.1 points per game, Memphis is on track to set a new conference scoring record which was previously set by Wichita State last season (82.8).
Memphis also ranks ninth nationally for forced turnovers per game (18.4) and ranks in the nation’s top-10 for pace, averaging 76.3 possessions per game.
The Tigers are in their first season under Penny Hardaway, who played for the Tigers in the early 90’s before embarking on a 14-year NBA career. Wichita State nor Gregg Marshall has never faced Hardaway.
Memphis guard Jeremiah Martin, who was named first team preseason all-conference, averages a team-high 14.8 points and ranks in the top-20 nationally at 2.46 steals per game.
Along with Martin, Memphis has two more Tigers averaging 14.5 or more points per game. Guard Tyler Harris also averages 14.8 points per game and forward Kyvon Davenport averages 14.5 per game.
Head Coach Gregg Marshall said that he likes the way Memphis has been playing, but it will be a challenge for the Shockers after seeing how Wichita State handled playing against VCU.
“I know that Memphis is playing really hard and fast. I like the way they’re getting up and down the court,” Marshall said. “They’re really getting after it defensively and doing some run and jump and pressure hes got a good group of athletes and they’re playing really hard.”
Memphis has former Wichita State commit Alex Lomax, who averages 25.6 minutes per game, 6.5 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game.
“[Lomax] starts some games and now he’s coming off the bench. He’s just making winning plays, he’s a winner,” Marshall said. “He gets on the floor for loose balls, he plays really hard and he’s a floor general. He’s a guy that’s going to help his team win.”
If Wichita State pulls off the win against Mempis, they will start conference play 1-0 for the ninth-consecutive season.
Tipoff is at 8:35 p.m. and will be broadcasted on the CBS Sports Network with Rich Waltz and Pete Gillen.