If you follow Jon Rothstein (and you definitely should), then you know that it is March. With March comes conference tournaments and the Cincinnati Bearcats are set to take part in the American Athletic Conference’s version this weekend. As we know, the Bearcats are the No. 1 seed in the tourney thanks to their win over Wichita State on Sunday and subsequent regular season league title.
But there is a lot more information you’ll need for the whole event, which starts on Thursday and goes through Selection Sunday. Well aren’t you lucky that you found yourself here, because this is your one-stop shop for all things AAC Tournament.
Thursday, March 8
- 12 p.m. ET - No. 9 SMU Mustangs vs. No. 8 UConn Huskies (ESPNU)
- 2 p.m. ET - No. 12 USF Bulls vs. No. 5 Memphis Tigers (ESPNU)
- 7 p.m. ET - No. 10 Tulane Green Wave vs. No. 7 Temple Owls (ESPNU)
- 9 p.m. ET - No. 11 East Carolina Pirates vs. No 6 UCF Knights (ESPNU)
Friday, March 9
- 12 p.m. ET - SMU/UConn winner vs. No. 1 Cincinnati Bearcats (ESPN2)
- 2 p.m. ET - USF/Memphis winner vs. No. 4 Tulsa Golden Hurricane (ESPN2)
- 7 p.m. ET - Tulane/Temple winner vs. No. 2 Wichita State Shockers (ESPNU)
- 9 p.m. ET - East Carolina/UCF winner vs. No. 3 Houston Cougars (ESPNU)
Saturday, March 10
- 1 p.m. ET - SMU/UConn/Cincinnati winner vs. USF/Memphis/Tulsa winner (CBS)
- 3:30 p.m. ET - Tulane/Temple/Wichita State winner vs. East Carolina/UCF/Houston winner (CBS)
Sunday, March 11
- 3:30 p.m. ET - Championship Round (CBS)
How Did We Get Here
Before the season started, it was preordained that Cincinnati and conference newcomer Wichita State would be the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the conference. The order just depended on who you asked. Right now, the Bearcats have the upper hand, having defeated the Shockers this past weekend to earn the outright AAC regular season crown. If you’ve followed along all year, you know that Cincinnati is a team with Final Four aspirations, sporting a 27-4 overall record and a 16-2 mark in conference play. It is also ranked No. 4 in the country by KenPom.
Wichita State (24-6, 14-4 AAC) had won seven-straight games before losing on Sunday. Despite the setback, this has been a stellar first year for the Shockers in the conference, as the No. 5 team in the country in adjusted offense ended up with the No. 2 seed thanks to All-AAC first teamers Landry Shamet and Shaquille Morris.
While UC and Wichita State did what we expected, Houston was the surprise darling of the conference, upsetting UC once and finishing the year at 24-6 overall and 14-4 in league play. High-scoring guard Rob Gray (18.5 PPG) is the only non-UC/WSU player on the All-AAC first team and forward Fabian White was placed on the all-rookie squad.
After those three, there is quite a gap, with SMU the next highest ranked team according to KenPom at 87. (WSU ranks 17th and Houston is 22nd). However, Tulsa earned its way to the No. 4 seed by virtue of a 12-6 record against the conference. With just one more win, the Golden Hurricane will record their third 20-win season in four years under Frank Haith.
A number of the teams grouped in the middle of the bracket seeding had aspirations akin to Houston, but injuries derailed them. Memphis lost Jeremiah Martin, the conference’s leading scorer; UCF is without defensive maestro Tacko Fall and SMU probably had the worst blow, as AAC Player of the Year candidate Shake Milton has not played since the end of January. The Mustangs ended up 6-12 in conference play because of that, but they actually have more wins against top 25 teams (three) than anyone else in the conference.
Then there’s Temple and UConn, who have both been powerhouses before but have fallen into the middling programs range. Tulane, East Carolina and USF are all bogged down at the bottom, despite some minor improvements from the Green Wave and the Bulls.
Here’s how the final standings shook out.
As you might expect, the top three teams in the conference (UC, WSU and Houston) are the only teams that are being given a real shot at winning this tournament. In fact, according to TeamRankings.com, there is a 94.4 percent chance that one of those three will win. SMU (2.2 percent) has the highest chance outside of that top three.