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AAC Tournament Quarterfinals: What to Watch

Day two of the AAC tourney is here. Of course you’re watching the Bearcats, but there’s other things to keep an eye on.

NCAA Basketball: Cincinnati at Tulsa Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Apparently I forgot to mention that you should watch for empty seats yesterday. The city of Hartford emphatically told the American Athletic Conference that it has better things to do than watch East Carolina play Temple.

Personally, I’d rather see the games played in one of the team’s actual gyms than watch games held in a massive, mostly empty arena with apathetic golf clappers in attendance. Yesterday’s games were brutal watch, but they’ve set up some interesting match-ups in the quarterfinals. Let’s take a look.

NCAA Basketball: Southern Methodist at Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

East Carolina vs. SMU

  • Point Spread: Somehow SMU is just a 17-point favorite against ECU. Consider the following.
  1. SMU beat ECU by 31 points on the road and 40 points at home.
  2. ECU just played 40 minutes of basketball yesterday.
  3. SMU hasn’t lost a game since Jan. 12.
  4. SMU just beat Tulsa by 23 points and Memphis by 41 points, two teams significantly better than ECU.
  5. ECU averaged just 45 points per game in the previous two meetings against SMU.
  6. ECU isn’t good at basketball.

Lesson: I think you can safely give the points here.

Note: I am not responsible for your gambling losses.

  • Kentrell Barkley: The sophomore guard for ECU played the best game of his career yesterday against temple. He scored 26 points and added 16 rebounds and three assists. He did all of that on an injured knee. In the postgame press conference his coach said the following, “There was a minute we weren’t sure he was going to play......Literally he was dragging...He looked like The Mummy walking into the locker room”. Then Barkley said, “ My right knee...I think I have tendonitis in it and when I jump too much, it’s like a sharp pain”. So, yeah, give the 17 points.
  • Semi Ojeleye: The newly minted AAC Player of the Year has had an amazing season for the Mustangs. The transfer from Duke averaged 18.5 points and 6.5 points per game in his first season at SMU. ECU simply doesn’t have an answer for him on defense.
NCAA Basketball: Central Florida At Memphis Mark Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Memphis vs. UCF

  • Tacko Fall: If you haven’t been paying attention to the AAC, then you might not be aware of 7’6” UCF sophomore. Fall shot 72.8 percent from the field during the regular season and averaged 11.5 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. His presence in the paint has the ability to alter a team’s entire offensive strategy, which helped him win AAC Defensive Player of the Year. See their most recent game against Cincinnati as proof.
  • Youth vs. Experience: he Knights have three seniors that play an important part in their rotation in Matt Williams, Tanksley Efianayi and Nick Banyard. Don’t expect them to go away quietly. Meanwhile, the Tigers are primarily led by freshman and sophomores that have under performed as a team since conference play began.
  • The Lawson Brothers: K.J. Lawson just won AAC Rookie of the Year while Dedric Lawson was named to the AAC First Team. The pair averaged a combined 31.6 points and 18.2 rebounds per game. The Memphis offense is entirely dependent on how these two play.
NCAA Basketball: Cincinnati at Tulsa Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Tulsa vs. Cincinnati

  • Pat Birt: Birt led the Golden Hurricane to their 66-60 first round victory over Tulane with 15 points and three rebounds. Birt has struggled against the Bearcats this year though, averaging just five points per game in 37 minutes.
  • Fatigue: The hardest part about winning four times in four days is winning the second game. Tulsa just had to play 40 minutes of basketball while Cincinnati enjoyed its longest break since December. Look for the Bearcats to wear Tulsa down throughout this one.
  • Pace: Tulsa narrowly lost to the Bearcats on Feb. 1, after it held an 11 point lead with just six minutes remaining. The key to its success in that game was that it slowed the tempo and held the game to a total of 59 possessions. The fewer shots Jacob Evans, Kevin Johnson and Jarron Cumberland get to take, the better chance Tulsa has of pulling off the upset.
  • Troy Caupain: Caupain had a relatively pedestrian regular season. His points per game, shots per game and assists per game all decreased from his junior to senior season. He’s a true gamer though, and I fully expect him to show up in a big way over whatever remains of Cincinnati’s season.
NCAA Basketball: Connecticut at Houston Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

UConn vs. Houston

  • Lack of Depth: Watch for the starters of these two teams to play the vast majority of the minutes. Both UConn and Houston have solid rotations, but they go six or seven deep and stop there. That obviously becomes a bigger liability for the Huskies since they just had to play yesterday while Houston rested.
  • Rob Gray: The Cougars have beaten UConn twice already this year, in large part because of the play of Rob Gray. Gray is a dynamic scorer that has the ability to break down defenses, score at the rim and knock down three pointers. Houston will go as far as he can take them.
  • Rodney Purvis: Senior guard Rodney Purvis would not accept a loss to USF last night. Purvis scored 30 points and added six rebounds to lead the Huskies to victory. He played 39 minutes without committing a single turnover. That’s either extreme focus and determination, or the fact the Huskies were playing the 7-23 Bulls.
  • Transition basketball: These two teams like to get up and down the court. Look for a high scoring game with the team that shows they are best able to get back on defense to play again Saturday.