Although Saint Louis University will be making its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2000, head coach Rick Majerus has done this a time or...eleven before.
No. 9-seeded SLU (25-7) faces basketball powerhouse and C-USA regular and postseason champion Memphis (26-8) on Friday evening in Columbus.
Majerus sports a 10-1 record lifetime in opening-round matchups, but beating Memphis will be a tough task.
"They're athletic, long," Majerus said. "Kind of a UMass on steriods. A variety of scorers, they play good "D", transition. We've got to get back, we've got to take care of the ball, we've got to value the possessions, we got to be careful of our shot selection."
Although Memphis head man Josh Pastner is 30 years his junior, Majerus sees some similarities.
"He's worked his way up from an AAU coach," Majerus said. "He's kind of like I was. He sort of hung around and got hired and worked his way through and I admire him for that."
Pastner may be ten NCAA appearances behind his Friday counterpart, but for the Billiken players, this will be their first go-around. Does it have the future Hall of Fame coach nervous?
"Definitely," Majerus said. "Experience counts in everything. . .Memphis is a good team, we've got a good team. They know it's a challenge. They're going to be overwhelmed by the media attention, the media day, the fans."
His players, however, don't believe they'll get that taken away from the task at hand.
"I don't think the guys are too nervous at all," sophomore Dwayne Evans said. "We've produced all year on the court and this is just another game."
As far as personnel is concerned, Will Barton, the C-USA Player of the Year, and forward Tarik Black are two top-level players that the Billikens haven't seen much of this year. Senior forward Brian Conklin likened Barton to Washington's Terrence Ross and Black to UMass' Sean Carter.
"We have a way to cover [Barton]," Evans said. "We've devised a plan to lock him up. I know it'll be a challenge for me and I look forward to that, but it's nothing we can't handle as a team."
Black, who suffered a minor forearm injury in the C-USA tournament final, also presents a unique look for SLU's defense.
"He had some pretty monstrous jams on [the film]," Evans said. "It was a result of people not boxing out and there are a lot of teams that just turned and looked at the boards. . .along with a bunch of other guys who are really athletic so it's not just him."
The important factor according to junior wing Cody Ellis, is staying with what has worked all year long.
"They get up and down really well," Ellis noted. "I think if we control the pace of the game then we should be fine. . .We've got to run what's made us successful this year and it's kind of hard to put in some new stuff in such a short amount of time. So basically just running what we've been running all year."
According to Synergy Sports, both of these teams are in the top 15 in offensive efficiency, and whoever dictates the flow of the game will likely have the upper-hand in the matchup.
If Memphis is able to get out in transition, they'll be successful. Synergy suggests that the Tigers run 20.5 percent of their possessions in transition and shoot an astounding 66.3 percent in such cases.
As senior guard Kyle Cassity put it, "They're not as good in the halfcourt game as they are up-and-down."
Referencing Majerus' record in opening NCAA games, "Hopefully that's 11-1 come Friday night," Cassity said.