Wednesday will start the first ever American Athletic Conference tournament in Memphis, TN.. Most consider the American Athletic Conference to be a bit top heavy, but there should be some interesting battles throughout the tournament.
Louisville and Cincinnati shared the regular season title, although Cincinnati has the No.1 seed thanks to a coin toss Saturday in the KFC Yum! Center.
Let’s take a look at each game and how I predict the tournament to go.
Wednesday at 7pm- No.10 USF vs. No.7 Rutgers on ESPNU
Rutgers beat South Florida twice this season, once on the road 79-69 and then once at home in a close one 74-73. The Scarlet Knights shot better than 85-percent from the free throw line while shooting a total of 48 free throws combined. This will be the story of this game, as I expect it to be physical.
Rutgers win 72-66.
Wednesday at 9:30pm- No.9 UCF vs. No.8 Temple on ESPN2
Temple beat UCF last week in their only matchup of the season, 86-78 in overtime. Both teams struggled in conference play, but UCF did win their final game of the regular season against Houston, 104-83.
UCF will pull this one out, 81-77.
Thursday at 1pm- No.6 Houston vs. No.3 SMU on ESPNU
SMU has beaten Houston twice this season, not in dominating fashion though. Coach Larry Brown has SMU playing smart basketball and shooting 49-percent from the floor.
SMU wins by forcing turnovers, 70-63.
Thursday at 3pm-No.7 Rutgers vs. No.2 Louisville on ESPNU
The Louisville Cardinals have beaten Rutgers twice this season, the last time in a blowout 102-54 at home. Luke Hancock went 6-8 from three in that game, scoring 25 points.
Louisville will coast, 88-67.
Thursday at 7pm- No.9 UCF vs. No.1 Cincinnati on ESPNU
Cincinnati beat UCF handily in both their games this season. The last one on Feb. 19th the Bearcats won 77-49 on the road. Kilpatrick had 23 points in that game while making six threes.
Cincinnati wins, 77-66.
Thursday at 9pm-No.5 Memphis vs. No.4 UConn on ESPNU
UConn beat Memphis twice this season, even at Memphis on Jan. 16th. In the game at UConn last month the two teams battled in overtime, but the Huskies pulled out the victory 86-81. In that game senior guard Shabazz Nappier scored 34 points and PG Ryan Boatright had 21, combined they had seven made threes.
Memphis fans will be packing the FexEx Forum for what could be the best game of the tourney. It will be the loud fans against two solid senior guards.
Memphis will win in overtime, 78-75.
Friday at 7pm- No.3 SMU vs. No.2 Louisville on either ESPN or ESPN2
Louisville beat SMU twice this season including an amazing game in Dallas where the Cardinals won 84-71 last week. Russ Smith had 26 points, six rebounds and five assists to lead the Cards. SMU had 23 turnovers, several thanks to Louisville PG Chris Smith who had six steals.
SMU will not be able to handle the way Louisville is playing defense right now. Cardinals win, 81-71.
Friday at 9pm-No.1 Cincinnati vs. No.5 Memphis on either ESPN or ESPN2
This is gonna be another fun game. Expect a lot of fouls and free throws.
Cincinnati beat Memphis twice this season thanks to Kilpatrick who had 18 in the first game and 34 on March 6th (Senior Night for Cinci). Cincinnati shot a total of 38 free throws in that game, which is half the amount they took when they played at Memphis earlier in the season.
Cincinnati will win in overtime, 81-79.
Saturday at 6pm- No.1 Cincinnati vs. No. 2 Louisville on ESPN
A game full of history.
This will be a testing game for both before the NCAA Tournament. Does Cincinnati have the depth to go far in the tourney? Is Louisville’s defense as dominating as it needs to be to head to a third straight Final Four?
Cincinnati beat Louisville on the road earlier in the season by three. The Cardinals returned the favor by beating the Bearcats in Cincinnati on Feb.22nd by one.
This game will be decided by how well Louisville can contain Kilpatrick. He scored 28 points a few weeks ago, but was forced to shoot some ill advised shots due to the way the Cards were playing him. Louisville will want to play smart and stay calm. Mick Cronin will want his Bearcats to smack Louisville in the mouth quickly.
Louisville will win their first and only AAC Tournament Championship, 77-71.
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