Auburn Hills — Memphis coach Josh Pastner was spirited Wednesday during his news conference advancing the Tigers' second-round NCAA Tournament game against St. Mary's after it was suggested his team isn't "battle-tested."
The Tigers will play St. Mary's, which won a play-in game Tuesday night, on Thursday at The Palace of Auburn Hills. St. Mary's is from the West Coast Conference — the same conference of which Gonzaga, a No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed, is a member — while Memphis dominated Conference-USA.
"To say we haven't been battle-tested is ridiculous," Pastner said Wednesday.
The Tigers are 30-4 this season, one of only two teams in the NCAA Tournament with 30 or more victories (Gonzaga is 31-2). Memphis, however, has lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament the last two years. The Tigers lost to Arizona, 77-75, two years ago and St. Louis, 61-54, last season.
"We want to advance, we are expected to advance," Pastner said. "We didn't get the job done (last year against St. Louis). I recognize people are going to be on me if we don't advance in the tournament, and I'm OK with that."
Pastner, whose team won a third straight C-USA Tournament, said his team has a "great mindset" heading into Thursday's game.
The Tigers' success this season has come from its overall speed. Memphis ranks fourth nationally in assists, averaging 17.2 a game, and is 16th in field goal percentage (47.9 percent).
And evidence of their quickness? They're ranked 27th nationally in pace, averaging 71.5 possessions per game.
Memphis has three players with 100 or more assists — Joe Jackson (163), Geron Johnson (114), and Chris Crawford (112).
"We really do a good job of making the extra pass," Pastner said. "We do a good job of making the extra pass, but also the hockey assist."