Written by Adrian Beecher
Orlando, FL- Thursday the action gets started in downtown Orlando in the 2018 American Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament. As teams wrapped up their regular season’s over the weekend, the final bracket was put entirely inline.
Getting things started Thursday with a noon tipoff will be ninth-seeded SMU (6-12,16-15) against eighth-seeded UConn (7-11, 14-17). Both have had their struggles this season and need an unprecedented run in the tournament to get an auto bid to the NCAA Tournament. The problem with that though, the winner of this one gets a Friday date with top-seeded Cincinnati, who just capped the regular season off with a win on the road over No. 11 Witchita State (14-4, 24-6).
The 2 o’clock tip gives us the 12 vs. 5 matchup between USF (3-15, 10-21) and Memphis (10-8, 19-12). Though the Tigers have struggled in their last ten matchups, tallying only a 6-4 record, they should make it into the quarterfinals with ease. Don’t totally dismiss the Bulls though, who are riding momentum into the tourney coming off back-to-back conference wins for the first time this season. Winner gets a date with fourth-seeded seeded Tulsa (12-6, 19-11).
Game 3 will give us our first evening matchup of the tourney as tenth-seeded Tulane (5-13, 14-16) faces off with seventh-seeded Temple. These two present statistically, the most evenly matched game of day 1. Area’s where they differ, Temple (6.8 pg) ranks 3rd in the conference in steals, where Tulane (5.1 pg) is 8th. The Green Wave, however, has the upper hand in the blocks category, rankings 2nd in the conference with 4.1 blocks per game, while Temple is just 7th in the conference with 3.3 per game. The winner will get a shot at 2nd seeded Witchita State as the Shockers make their first AAC tourney appearance in the first evening matchup of day two.
The final matchup of day one pits “Orlando’s Hometown team”, 6th seeded UCF (9-9, 18-12) against 11th seeded ECU (4-14, 10-19). The Knights nearly knocked off 11th ranked Wichita State in their 2nd to last game of the season and finished out strong with a win over Tulane. The Pirates on the other hand, have had no such luck. They come into this one riding a five-game losing streak and rank dead last in the conference in scoring defense. UCF looks to take this one in stride with their 2nd ranked in conference scoring defense. The winner earns a late night matchup against third-seeded Houston in the quarterfinals.
The semifinals will take place at 1:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. EST on Saturday, March 10th. Then on Sunday, March 11th, a ticket will be punched to the NCAA Tournament and a Champion crowned in the AAC Mens Basketball championship game. The championship game is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. EST on CBS.