Coming off their first-round win over Dayton last weekend, the Memphis Tigers are set to take on Boise State in the quarterfinal of the NIT Thursday night.
The Broncos, who defeated SMU in their first-round matchup, are led by senior guard Derrick Alston Jr, a 6’9” (!!) guard who knocks down 38% of his threes while also relying on his length to make his opponents’ lives difficult. The Broncos lineup features a balanced attack that includes eight players who average at least eight points or more per contest. The Broncos are an experienced group and will surely be a tough test for these Tigers.
In the second half of their matchup with Dayton, Memphis showed yet again why many thought they could have been an NCAA tournament team. They dominated the glass offensively, forced the ball out of star point guard Jalen Crutcher’s hands and ran away with the win. Clad in their crisp white Memphis State uniforms, they looked pretty good while doing it, too.
“We can get to the championship and win it if we play this way,” Penny Hardaway said. “Crashing the glass like that, it’s a huge advantage for us because it adds to our points. Second opportunities are what you want as a coach. We’ve seen Houston do it to us and we’ve learned from that.”
Every year in the NIT, there are teams who clearly seem unmotivated to be there. Whether it be due to an NCAA tournament snub, an injury to a key player or a myriad of other factors, sometimes teams struggle to ramp up fully for the second most prestigious yearly college basketball tournament. Memphis quelled any concerns that they may lack interest on Saturday, seeming locked in from the word go. They are just thankful they get to keep playing, and they do not want their ride to end in the quarterfinals.
“If we’re going to be in anything, we want to win it,” Hardaway said. “We obviously felt, like many other teams, that we should have been in the NCAA tournament. We didn’t do that, and we have the opportunity to still win a championship. We’re building who we are, our culture, our system, we’re basically stamping that right now. It would be beautiful to end that with a championship.”
They will get their first chance to keep on building on that culture Thursday night, with the winner then advancing to take on the winner of NC State and Colorado State. Tip-off against the Broncos is set for 8 p.m.
DeAndre Williams and Lester Quinones trap a Dayton guard during the first round of the NIT. The Tigers would go on to win 71-60 against the Flyers and face Boise State in the quarterfinals on Thursday.