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AAC Tournament First Round: What to Watch

Cincinnati might not be playing Thursday, but there are still some story lines worth tuning in for.

NCAA Basketball: Connecticut at Temple Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The regular season is finished and now everyone in the American Athletic Conference starts with a blank slate. Eleven teams are headed to Hartford with their eyes on a golden ticket to the NCAA Tournament. The Horizon League’s UW-Milwaukee proved that literally anyone has the ability to crash the dance, so even Tulane and USF can enter the weekend with the tiniest sliver of hope.

Round one of the American Athletic tournament features Connecticut and Temple — two teams that nobody picked to be playing on day one at the beginning of the season. Injuries and general under performance have them fighting for their lives and needing to pull of the magical four wins in four days feat to make the NCAA tournament. Here’s what you should be watching on day one of the AAC tourney.

NCAA Basketball: Southern Methodist at Temple Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Temple vs. East Carolina

  • ECU on defense - The Pirates defense improved steadily throughout the season and ended up the 61st best defense in the country according to KenPom. That defense proved to be the difference when ECU outscored Temple 41-26 in the second half of their most recent matchup; a game the Pirates won easily, 78-64.
  • Andre Washington - The 7’1” senior transferred from Wake Forest after his junior season and has blossomed at ECU. He’s averaging 7.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and an amazing 3.0 blocks per game this year.
  • Obi Enechionyia - The junior started the season as one of the hottest players in college basketball, but cooled significantly once the conference season began. He’s put together three solid games in a row, and will undoubtedly be the key to any long run in the tournament for the Owls.
  • Daniel Dingle - The fifth-year senior is likely to play the final game of his college career either Thursday or Friday. He’s been a key contributor in his senior season, and will undoubtedly leave everything on the floor this weekend, should he make it there.
NCAA Basketball: Cincinnati at Tulsa Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Tulsa vs. Tulane

  • Run it Back: Tulane only recorded three conference this wins this season; two against SUSF and one against Tulsa just a few days ago. The Green Wave will be looking to repeat that result.
  • Cameron Reynolds - Reynolds averaged 25.5 points per game against Tulsa in the regular season. The junior guard has the ability to put Tulane on his back and pull out a win by himself.
  • Sterling Taplin - Taplin has routinely taken clutch shots for Tulsa all season long. If the game is tight, look for No. 4 to take the big shots.
  • Martins Igbanu - The Tulsa freshman has progressively gotten better throughout the season. He’s averaging 13.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game over his last four, and his become a key contributor the Tulsa offense.
  • Bonus Round - This is the game Bearcats fans should be most interested in. The winner will play Cincinnati in the quarterfinals on Friday.
NCAA Basketball: Connecticut at South Florida Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

UConn vs. USF

  • Homecourt Advantage: The Huskies are essentially playing a home game in Hartford, so look for a raucous crowd to be overwhelmingly pro-Huskies.
  • One Sided: South Florida is absolutely terrible. The Bulls already lost to Connecticut by 21 points at home and 46 points on the road. Watch the game for about eight minutes and then just keep on living your life.
  • Vance Jackson - He missed the season-finale against Cincinnati on Sunday with concussion symptoms, but UConn hopes he’ll be ready to play for the tournament. Watch for the Huskies to play him in limited minutes against USF so they can fully utilize him against Houston on Friday.
  • Elder Statesmen - While UConn does have plenty of young, talented players, it’s surprising to see that three of their main rotation players are seniors. Amida Brimah, Rodney Purvis and Kentan Facey could all play their last college games this weekend.