Tonight in Downtown Memphis the American Athletic Conference tips off it’s inaugural conference tournament. Tonight’s double feature matchups showcase four teams with losing records both overall and in the conference. But we’ve known all season long that this conference was very top heavy.
Tomorrow things will really get going as the Tigers take on a UConn team (at 8pm CST on ESPNU) that has already beaten them twice this year. However in the first game things were tight until the Tigers collapsed in the final 5 minutes. The second time the game went to overtime. These are two teams that know each other well at this point.
The key to defeating UConn is no secret: Stop AAC Player of the Year Shabazz Napier. In the first matchup Napier had 17 points and 10 assists. In the second he had 34 points and 4 assists. Not that they don’t have other talented guys but I think it’s fair to say UConn wins and loses with Shabazz Napier.
But let’s be honest, unless Memphis makes the finals of the AAC Tournament, their position in the NCAA Tournament is pretty set in stone. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi currently has the Tigers as a 7 seed and barring an extended run I think that’s about where they are locked in.
The main reason the Tigers need to at least win their first game against UConn is because they need some more momentum headed into the NCAA Tournament. The SMU win at home in the regular season finale was big but I think finding redemption against UConn would be much bigger for the team’s confidence going forward.
Chances are if they beat UConn they won’t beat Cincinnati in the next round though. Whether we want to admit it or not the two teams just don’t match up well. However Memphis is a team that undoubtedly feeds off of crowd energy and I would imagine with them hosting the tournament there will be plenty of excitement going around. I think if Memphis does find a way to beat both UConn and Cincinnati they could move up as high as a 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. If they were to advance past Cincinnati they would ultimately find themselves facing a team in the finals that they’ve already beaten be it Louisville or SMU.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. UConn is going into the AAC Tournament already slated as a 5 seed by Joe Lunardi (which is just silly to me) and they too have a lot to play for.
My prediction isn’t anything exciting but I think Louisville and Cincinnati meet in the finals and Cincinnati beats them in a dog fight comparable to the first time the two teams met this year.
Click on the image below for a full bracket.