AAC play is just getting underway, but the stakes are already high for Memphis (6-5, 0-1 AAC)) and Wichita State (9-3) as the two prepare to square off at noon ET Saturday on CBS. Both were among the three AAC teams who secured NCAA Tournament bids last season, and a win here would go a long way toward helping both teams get back to the Big Dance. With resume-boosting opportunities scarce in the AAC, games against quality foes are especially critical.
Wichita State’s scheduled AAC opener at ECU was wiped out Wednesday just hours before tip because of COVID-19 issues for ECU. That means the Shockers will be playing their first game since Dec. 22, when they beat Prairie View 102-66. They will hope that leading scorer and preseason AAC Player of the Year Tyson Etienne can pick up where he left off against Prairie View as he scored 20 points on 6 of 11 shooting in what amounted to one of his most efficient outings during an inconsistent start to the season.
Memphis played without its top three scorers in an 85-84 loss at Tulane on Wednesday night as freshman center Jalen Duren and senior forward Deandre Williams were both out due to COVID-19 protocols and freshman wing Emoni Bates was sidelined with a finger injury. Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said after the loss that he was hopeful at least two of the three will be back against the Shockers. Regardless of who is on the floor, the Tigers will need to step it up defensively after allowing Tulane to shoot 55% from the floor.
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Memphis vs. Wichita State prediction, picks
Both teams are off to disappointing starts, and home court advantage hasn’t been a huge help to Wichita State, which has home losses against Kansas State and North Texas. With the Shockers playing their first game since Dec. 22, expect some rust. If Memphis gets a couple players back who missed the Tulane loss on Wednesday, the Tigers should look more like the team that beat No. 19 Alabama by 14 points than the one which lost to Tulane. Prediction: Memphis 81, Wichita State 77
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