Memphis or FAU? How to pick 8 vs. 9 matchup in 2023 March Madness bracket

When the NCAA Tournament bracket is revealed, the 8-vs-9 matchups are typically the hardest to decide. This year’s Field of 68 presents one of the trickiest of such matchups in recent memory.

After winning their respective conference tournament titles, the 9-seed FAU Owls will take on the 8-seed Memphis Tigers, a game where one of the nation’s most under-the-radar juggernauts takes on a bigger program with a former NBA superstar roaming the sideline.

No team in college basketball has won more games than FAU, which is one of four teams in the field with 30 or more wins. The Owls dominated Conference USA all season and captured the conference tournament title with a 22-point victory. Memphis is fresh off of a thrilling run to the American title, capped by an upset win over Houston, which earned a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament. The battle-tested Tigers are clicking at the right time, which could bode well on the tournament stage.

Both FAU and Memphis enter the tournament riding great momentum, which should make for a thrilling meeting in the Round of 64. Here is everything you need to know about the game, including rankings, key players, season breakdowns and more.

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Memphis vs. FAU odds

Memphis vs. FAU will be played Friday, March 17, the second day of the Round of 64, and tip off at 9:20 p.m. ET. According to BetMGM, Memphis opened as the betting favorite.

Below are details of the game, including betting odds, time, TV and venue.

  • Odds: Memphis -2.5
  • Date: Friday, March 17
  • Time: 9:20 p.m. ET
  • TV: TNT
  • Arena: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

Memphis (26-8, 13-5 American)

Things continue to trend upward for the Tigers under head coach Penny Hardaway, who leads his alma mater to the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive year.

Memphis is an experienced team that has seen a bit of everything this season. The Tigers largely took care of business in the American, with two of their five conference losses coming to regular-season champion Houston and two coming in overtime. Memphis’ other conference loss was a seven-point decision at Tulane.

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The Tigers got their revenge with a 40-point victory over Tulane in the AAC semifinals and then earned a 10-point win over Houston in the conference championship.

Memphis largely avoided bad losses this season and picked up wins over tournament teams Auburn, Texas A&M and Houston. In an instant classic, the Tigers suffered a three-point road loss to NCAA Tournament overall 1-seed Alabama. This team shouldn’t be fazed by the tournament stage.

  • NET ranking: 23
  • KenPom ranking: 19
  • Quad 1 record: 4-4
  • Quad 2 record: 9-3
  • Quad 3 record: 7-1
  • Quad 4 record: 6-0
  • Offensive efficiency ranking: 26
  • Defensive efficiency ranking: 35

Key players

Kendric Davis, G, fifth year (6-0, 177): 21.8 ppg, 5.7 apg, 3.7 rpg

DeAndre Williams, F, fifth year (6-9, 205): 17.9 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.9 apg

Keonte Kennedy, G, Sr. (6-5, 180): 9.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.2 spg

Elijah McCadden, G, fifth year (6-5, 195): 7.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.5 apg

Alex Lomax, G, fifth year (6-0, 190): 6.7 ppg, 3.2 apg, 2.4 spg

FAU (31-3, 18-2 C-USA)

Losing isn’t something that the Owls have done much of this season.

After dropping a buy game to Ole Miss early in the year, FAU ran off 20 straight victories, with 11 weeks passing before its next loss. The Owls dominated Conference USA, with their second loss coming on the road by four points in early February.

Despite playing in a one-bid conference, metrics favor FAU, which comes in at 13th in the NCAA’s NET ranking. The Owls took care of business all season, going 23-0 against Quad 3 and Quad 4 opponents.

FAU continued to take care of business with a 22-point win in the C-USA title game. With 31 wins, FAU is tied with Houston and Charleston for the most victories in college basketball.

  • NET ranking: 13
  • KenPom ranking: 26
  • Quad 1 record: 2-1
  • Quad 2 record: 4-2
  • Quad 3 record: 11-0
  • Quad 4 record: 12-0
  • Offensive efficiency ranking: 32
  • Defensive efficiency ranking: 36

Key players

Johnell Davis, G, Soph. (6-4, 203): 13.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.5 apg

Alijah Martin, G, Soph. (6-2, 210); 13.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.5 apg

Vladislav Goldin, C, Soph. (7-1, 240): 10.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 0.4 apg

Nicholas Boyd, G, Fr. (6-3, 175): 9.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.5 apg

Jalen Gaffney, G, Jr. (6-3, 185): 4.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.5 apg

Memphis vs. FAU prediction

This matchup is as close to a toss-up as there can be, with each team riding momentum and bringing impressive resumes.

There is an argument to be made that FAU is under-seeded as a 9, as the Owls have quietly been one of the best teams in college basketball all year. Don’t let the classification of their key players fool you; each of their top performers has made use of the NCAA’s COVID-19 hardship waiver, making some of them third-year sophomores.

While Johnell Davis was named C-USA Sixth Player of the Year, he enters the tournament having started each of FAU’s last seven games. He averaged 16.7 points in the C-USA Tournament. Davis’ backcourt mate, Alijah Martin, earned C-USA Tournament MVP after finishing with 30 points and 11 rebounds in the title game.

If you’re a fan of guard play, you’ll be a fan of this one.

Memphis is led by fifth-year guard Kendric Davis, who ranks 10th in college basketball with 21.8 points per game this season. Davis averaged 28.0 points and 5.3 assists in the American Tournament, including a game-high 31 points in the title game.

After Davis, it’s DeAndre Williams, the most experienced player in all of college basketball. Davis, 26, has put up averages of 17.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per game this season.

With respect to experience, Williams and guard Alex Lomax both took the floor for Memphis in last year’s tournament. As this is FAU’s first tournament appearance since 2002, transfer guard Jalen Gaffney is the only player on the roster with NCAA Tournament experience from his time at UConn.

History of 8 vs. 9 matchups in NCAA Tournament

As closely contested as 8-9 matchups are, it’s rare for a win by the 9-seed to be considered an upset. Last year, 9-seed Memphis earned a win over 8-seed Boise State.

Last year’s tournament favored 9-seeds, which went 3-1 against 8-seeds in the Round of 64. 

In this game, Memphis will be favored given the strength of its schedule and its stars, but the game is close to a toss-up given FAU’s season-long dominance and balanced attack. The Owls’ 31 wins should not be taken lightly.

Below is a breakdown of the wins 9-seeds have enjoyed over 8-seeds over the last 10 tournaments.

Year Result
2022 Memphis 64, Boise State 53
  TCU 69, Seton Hall 42
  Creighton 72, San Diego State 69
2021 Wisconsin 85, UNC 62
2020 No tournament
2019 UCF 73, VCU 58
  Baylor 78, Syracuse 69
  Oklahoma 95, Ole Miss 72
  Washington 78, Utah State 61
2018 Alabama 86, Virginia Tech 83
  Kansas State 69, Creighton 59
  Florida State 67, Missouri 54
2017 Michigan State 78, Miami 58
2016 Butler 71, Texas Tech 61
  Providence 70, USC 69
  Uconn 74, Colorado 67
2014 Pittsburgh 77, Colorado 48
2013 Temple 76, NC State 72
  Wichita State 73, Pittsburgh 55
2012 Saint Louis 61, Memphis 54
2011 Illinois 73, UNLV 62