In many cases, a loss is its own pain and punishment, but on Saturday at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tennessee, the Marshall Thundering Herd might have suffered something worse: a loss that was too substantial for the NCAA Tournament's selection committee to ignore.
Marshall entered Saturday morning's tilt with a legitimate chance of getting into the NCAA Tournament not just with a win, but with a close loss to Memphis on the Tigers' home floor. The Thundering Herd owned a number of valuable wins in non-conference play, especially a triumph at Cincinnati, a team that made the final of the Big East Conference Tournament this past week in New York. Marshall needed to show well for the selection committee; a close loss to a hot opponent would have sent a pretty good message to the 10 men gathered inside that war room in Indianapolis.
However, Marshall instead picked the wrong day to fall apart, getting smashed by the Tigers in a 26-point bloodbath. The Thundering Herd was never seriously in this contest, and so while Memphis defended its Conference USA Tournament championship from last year, Marshall - though still very much on the bubble - is probably going to have to go to the NIT. The enormity of the margin of defeat, not the defeat itself, is what will cost the Herd immensely.
Memphis has been whacking opponents by fat margins over the past three weeks. The Tigers lost at home to UTEP three weeks ago and, instead of wilting, have used that stumble as a point of motivation. They've rolled through Conference USA ever since, demonstrating to many pundits that they're ready for the NCAA Tournament this year. Memphis has not won an NCAA Tournament game since the 2009 edition of the Big Dance, but in many people's eyes, the Tigers are ready to make a run to the second weekend. Their seeding will likely improve to the point that they will not have to face a No. 1 seed in the round of 32.
The stats tell the story of a lopsided contest. Memphis hit 59 percent of its shots, getting to the rim with regularity. Marshall hit only 36 percent of its attempts and got outscored by 17 points (25 to 8) at the foul line. Memphis's Joe Jackson hit 10 of 11 foul shots, while teammate Farrakohn Hall hit all five of his field goal attempts. Memphis rolled to a 45-27 halftime lead and was never seriously threatened.