The NCAA season has reached it first round of the postseason. With the regular season now in the books, we are in the heart of the conference tournaments. As of today, Thursday, March 9th, all but one conference tournament will be underway. Several tickets have already have been punched, with more to come each and every day in the coming week.
One of the tournaments that will be tipping off for the first time on Thursday will be the American Athletic Conference Tournament. Here at INSC we have you covered, with predictions down below. This tourney will conclude on Sunday, March 12th.
You can check out the seedings and a link to the bracket below.
(9) East Carolina
(11) South Florida
So we know Cincinnati and SMU are going dancing. But can Houston do enough to work their way off of the bubble and earn a spot? What about the other eight teams? Can they run the table and earn an automatic qualifier into the biggest tournament of the year? Let’s find out.
The opening round will consist of three games, with the winners moving into the quarterfinals to take on the top three seeds. Those games include Temple vs East Carolina, with the winner getting SMU, Tulsa vs Tulane with the winner facing Cincy and finally UConn vs USF for the chance to play Houston. I am calling for the following: Temple 69-66, Tulsa 73-72 and UConn 74-64.
SMU will open up their tournament with a game against Temple. SMU is one of the teams I am the most high on as we move into mid-March. They have about three or four weapons who they can trust with the ball late in the ball game. Whether it is to hit a big free throw or three, the ball does not need to be in one given person’s hands. So give me the Mustangs 82-69.
Game two of the quarterfinals will see UCF and Memphis throwing punches against one another. This one is going to be a good one. Both teams have similar attributes that make them attractive picks here, so trying to differentiate them is a little hard. While one team has a slight edge here, the other has a slight edge elsewhere. When all things are considered, I give the slight nod to Memphis. So that is who I am rolling with, 71-69.
Next up we have Cincinnati squaring off with Tulsa. Despite their opening round victory, Tulsa simply is not that good. And this game has them up against a team that is likely looking at something like a five seed in the NCAA Tournament. So this one should not be much of a competition. Give me Mick Cronin’s club, 80-67.
Thanks to their opening round win, UConn will face off against the likes of Houston. Houston is far from a dominant team, hence their bubble status. But they do know how to knock down threes pretty darn well. That is the chief difference in this one, as UConn is more along the lines of average beyond the arc. All things considered, Houston moves on 74-67 to help in their efforts to get that bid.
Memphis is tasked with the challenge of facing off with SMU in the semis. As you could probably guess based on what I said above, I am pretty high on the SMU bandwagon. Sure they may be hard to watch at times, given they do not always play to their talent level. But at the end of the day, they are still the more talented club. I expect them to come out a little sloppy here against a decent Memphis club, before pulling away towards the end. Give me SMU 77-69.
Semifinals game two will then have Cincy and Houston going toe-to-toe. Houston is a team that I would likely have in the play in games right now if the NCAA Tourney started today. A win in this one would likely bump them into the next batch of teams, placing them in the 11 seed territory. A loss here will not be a killer, but it would not help their standing either. Unfortunately for Houston, I have just that happening. Give me Cincy 73-71 in a back and forth game.
So that puts the conference’s top two clubs up against one another in the title game. We know Cincy and SMU are going to the Big Dance one way or another, but this game likely determines who gets the better draw. They are extremely close in the overall rankings, and could very well end up with the same seed number. But in this one, I give the edge to SMU, by the slimmest of margins, 72-71.
So what do you think? Who will emerge with a NCAA Tournament bid? Will it be an upset, or will the top seed claim their auto bid? Tell us in the comments!