The AAC Women’s Basketball Tournament begins this Friday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, which is practically a home game for the obviously favored UConn Huskies.
Cincinnati (16-13 overall, 7-9 conference), which earned the 7th seed, plays an opening round game against 10th-seeded Houston (11-18 overall, 4-12 conference) on Friday.
Here are executive summaries of the 11 teams in the field. The championship game is Monday evening on ESPN2. I wouldn’t set aside time for the game, unless you feel like watching the Huskies pummel some team that doesn’t belong on the same court with them.
1. UConn (29-0, 16-0)
The best team in the country. They have the best coach and the best players. They can walk out every night and pick the score. Most of the teams they play do not have a player as good as any player on the UConn roster. They are the four-time defending national champions. They have won 103 consecutive games. They have won 101 consecutive games by double digits.
The Huskies are led by four players who are each arguably the best at their positions in college basketball: 6’3 sophomore shooting guard Katie Lou Samuelson, 6’1 sophomore power forward Napheesa Collier, 6’0 junior point guard Kia Nurse and 5’11 junior small forward Gabby Williams. The long and lithe Samuelson is basically Jerry West incarnate. Collier is a smooth, versatile low-post player similar to UConn legend Rebecca Lobo. Nurse is a Stocktonesque facilitator who can drive like Sheryl Swoopes. Gabby Williams has never played a bad game. She is a steady presence on both ends of the floor who reminds me of Ohio State legend Katie Smith.
2. Temple (23-6, 13-3)
The Owls are an excellent team. They will make a nice run in the NCAA tournament and are the most likely runner-up in this tournament. Still, they are no match for UConn. On Feb. 22, UConn beat them by 45 points.
Temple coach Tonya Cardoze has cultivated a winning culture in North Philadelphia. The Owls play excellent defense, out-rebound most of their opponents and score consistently on offense. Power forward Donnaizh Fountain is a front-court force. The Owls’ backcourt of Feyonda Fitzgerald and Aliyah Butts is a high energy pair who plays well at both ends of the floor.
3. USF (22-7, 11-5)
A long and lanky European-laden roster that scores as well as any team not named UConn in the AAC. Six-footers Kitja Laska, Maria Jespersen and Arianda Pujol are all lights out shooters. A defensively suspect team that can get overwhelmed by strong competition, USF is the most likely of the top three teams in the field to get knocked off in the quarterfinals.
4. UCF (19-10, 9-7)
Senior guard Zykira Lewis is an outstanding scorer who excels behind the arc. Junior guard Aliyah Gregory is an excellent scorer as well, one that plays great defense and is an adept playmaker. UCF’s fortunes go up and down with the play of Lewis and Gregory.
5. Tulane (16-13, 7-9)
Tulane’s sizeable front court, led by 6’2 sophomore Harlyn Wyatt, presents a mismatch for several teams in the tournament, including its quarterfinals opponent UCF. Tulane has a great backcourt combination of Kolby Morgan and Leslie Vorpahl, two of the top scorers in the AAC.
6. SMU (16-13, 7-9)
Sharpshooting guard McKenzie Adams torched UC for 32 points earlier this year. She has not put up another performance like that in 2016-2017, but she has had flashes of greatness all year. 6’3 Center Alicia Froling is one of the most imposing front-court presences in the AAC.
7. Cincinnati (16-13, 7-9)
The Bearcats are a feisty, intense team led by juniors and seniors. Shanice Johnson, Ana Owens and Bianca Quisenberry are among the best at their positions in the conference and have had few bad games. If UC can return to midseason form, they can play with anyone in this conference, except UConn.
8. Memphis (14-15, 7-9)
Junior guard Brea Elmore is a slick and speedy scorer who leads the team in steals and assists. The team’s leading scorer and rebounder, Cheyenne Creighton, is long and athletic and presents matchup problems for the league’s less athletic front-courts.
9. Tulsa (9-20, 5-11)
I have no idea how this team beat Cincinnati.
10. Houston (11-18, 4-12)
Coach Ronald Hughey has juggled his lineup on numerous occasions this year. Ten different players have started for the Cougars’ women’s basketball team this season. Freshman guard Jasmyne Harris, who leads the team in scoring (11.4 ppg), has only started four games. 5’11 sophomore guard Serithia Hawkins is a real stalwart in the Cougars lineup. She has started every game this year for Houston and leads the team in rebounds. 5’6 junior guard Chyanne Butler is a consistent contributor as well, averaging 8.8 points per game and leading the team in assists.
11. East Carolina (11-18, 2-14)
The Pirates are a young and a small team. They have six freshman on their roster, including three who post significant minutes. Senior forwards Kristen Gaffney (15.2 PPG) and Bre McDonald (11.4 PPG) are the team’s clear leaders and their top scorers.
Chalk except for Tulane over UCF in the 4-5 matchup.