Memphis OK minus James Wiseman

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Was it a bird? A plane? James Wiseman might enjoy the comic-book corollary to his blur of a Memphis career. We hardly got to know the big man, although he did offer some personal insight to the Athlon preseason magazine.

“I’m a Marvel person, lot of superheroes,” he said. “I like comic books.”

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He wasn’t around long enough to debate Marvel vs. D.C. Comics. He had barely registered at the university, or in the box scores, before withdrawing. He played a game, the NCAA issued an improper-benefits suspension, his lawyer finagled an injunction, he played two more games, the suspension was upheld and he bolted—Shazam!—into the real world.

He had told Athlon that learning “as much as possible about the NBA” was his goal this season. Mission accomplished. He is expected to go high in the June draft.

With him, Memphis went 2-1, losing to Oregon—which shot 48.3 percent from the field—in Portland. He averaged 19.7 points and 10.7 boards. The Tigers, however, had recovered well after Flash, their superhero 7-foot-1 center left the picture.

Memphis won its next 10 games after losing Wiseman. Only three of those foes connected on better than 40 percent of their shot attempts. Precious Achiuwa and D.J. Jeffries re-established the team’s foundation, and the four-guard combo of Alex Lomax, Damion Baugh, Boogie Ellis and Tyler Harris—combining to average nearly 32 points—served as a dependable complementary quartet.

They pushed the tempo, with 78.3 possessions a game, 12th in the nation. Saturday, the Tigers lost to Georgia, 65-62, on their own court as the 6-9, 225-pound Achiuwa went for 20 and 15. The post has not been such a glaring issue.

What they needed was Jeffries, whose absence, from a supposed illness, was not announced until just before the opening tap. Any punter who took Memphis and gave the 7.5 points probably would have liked to know if the 6-7 freshman’s 12.2 points and 4.8 boards were in play.

Memphis will need Jeffries on Thursday night, in what the Rat’s abacus foretells as the week’s most entertaining game when the Tigers tee it up at Wichita State on ESPN2. Even with Jeffries, the selection here is the Shockers, 11-0 at home this season and winners of 16 of their past 17 inside Charles Koch Arena.

That one defeat at Koch? To Memphis, 85-88, in late February. Not this time. Memphis does rate high in a couple of defensive metrics, but we do not like Damion Baugh’s penchant to turn it over or the Tigers’ poor touch (18-for-35) at the line in their past two games.

Wichita is smart with the ball, has shut-down defensive abilities and possesses more experience. Sophomore guard Erik Stevenson has tallied 46 total points in his past two games. Most impressive is the Shockers’ 8.5 extra scoring chances per game, third-best in the country.

That hiccup last season that caused Wichita to miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time in eight seasons is a distant memory. It is in the NCAA’s top 10 NET rankings, and it will be 14-1 after this one. Veteran Vegas oddsmaker Kenny White—as he does with selections below—installs Wichita as a 5-point favorite. WICHITA STATE

Wednesday

Stony Brook at Vermont -9: The America East opener for both is tricky, because the Catamounts have dominated it. But the Seawolves were a strong cover (13-4) away from home last season, and they are 10-4 ATS this season. STONY BROOK

Saturday

Texas Tech at West Virginia, Total 132.5: The 12th-rated adjusted defense, according to KenPom, at the country’s No. 5 adjusted defense. The team that’s 14th in defensive efficiency, at No. 15. Enjoy two hours of rams slamming horns? Through Sunday, the Red Raiders had allowed 58.8 points in their past six, the Mountaineers 58.3 in their previous four. UNDER

Syracuse at Virginia, Total 116.5: ‘Cuse’s first trip to Charlottesville since January 2018, when it lost 68-61. Sophomore guard Buddy Boeheim, the Orange boss’s kid, has gone 16-for-31 from beyond the arc in his past three games. The swift return of senior swingman Braxton Key — 33 points, 17 boards in his past two — from wrist surgery has been a boon to the Cavaliers. OVER

Lamar at Houston Baptist, Total 159.5: Ten consecutive Baptist games finished with combined totals of more than 160 points, and the Huskies lead the nation with 83.3 possessions a game. Lamar can be coaxed into sprinting. OVER

Last week: 1-5

Season: 17-22

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About the Author

Rob Miech

Veteran sportswriter Rob Miech covers soccer and does features for Gaming Today. He has written about college hoops for the Las Vegas Sun, CBS SportsLine and the Pasadena Star-News. He is the author of four books, including Sports Betting for Winners.

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