March Madness is finally here. After the UConn women’s team wrapped up conference tournament play with its third-straight American Athletic Conference championship, the UConn men’s basketball takes a shot at winning its first-ever American Athletic Conference tournament title and will look to lock up an NCAA tournament bid, either by winning it all and taking the automatic bid or winning enough to impress the selection committee. Prior to the start of the conference tournament, the DC sports staff picked their favorite to win the American as well as how the Huskies will fare.
Tyler Keating: As impressive as top three seeds Temple, Houston and Tulsa have been all year, I’m taking No. 4 Cincinnati to win the AAC Tournament. The Bearcats will be riding high after closing the regular season with a strong home victory over SMU, and their hard-nosed defense will be a consistent factor as they attempt to rip off three wins in three days.
Considering that Cincinnati is scheduled to play UConn in the quarterfinals on Friday, this means I think the Huskies will go winless in the tournament. In two meetings this year, the Bearcats have shown that they can bring UConn’s already shaky offense to a grinding halt while hitting enough big shots to pull out the victory in the end. It will certainly be a close game, but I definitely do not trust the Huskies in crunch time.
Josh Buser: With this year’s tournament completely up for grabs, I think Tulsa has a great chance to claim the conference title. The veteran leadership of seniors and leading scorers James Woodard and Shaq Harrison will be a huge asset, and Tulsa has proved that they can compete with anybody in The American - owning at least one win over every team in the conference except Memphis, coincidentally, their opponent in the quarterfinal.
I think UConn will survive its matchup with Cincinnati in a hard-fought battle, but the Huskies have been far too inconsistent to trust beyond that. UConn has struggled to win three games in a row this season, only doing so once in conference play (all against teams in the bottom half of the conference). I think the slugfest with Cincinnati will leave UConn vulnerable and they will lose in the semifinal to Temple a day later.
Courtney Akerley: As the conference tournament approaches, it is hard to be confident when deciding who will take the title. With SMU out of the rankings, I think Cincinnati will be the one taking home the championship. Caupain and Clark are strong players for the Bearcats, leading the team in points and assists. Cincinnati began their season with an eight game winning streak, and I believe the Bearcats have what it takes to finish out their season strong and win the championship.
With that being said, I predict that the UConn Huskies will be one and done in this year’s conference tournament. Even though our guards can compete with pretty much anyone in the league, our posts are going to be pushed around by Cincinnati’s forwards, Ellis and Clark. It is not looking too good for the Huskies this season.
Shahan Kamal: When I look at bracket, I can’t help but see Temple taking the tournament. They’ve been the best team in conference play this season, which means that they’re ready for some dogfights in Orlando. I can see them losing to either of Houston or Connecticut, but it seems too unlikely in my eyes, especially seeing that they managed to avenge their loss to Houston with a win on the road. I think it’ll come down to Houston and Temple, with Temple taking the title.
Looking at the Huskies, it’s tough to be confident in picking their matchup with Cincinnati on either side. Cincinnati has beaten them twice, but those were both close games that could’ve gone either way. On the other hand, Cincinnati has the mental advantage over Connecticut with those two wins. I think that the Huskies will play one of their best games of the season in upending the Bearcats, but will ultimately fall to Temple in the semifinals in a hard-fought battle.
Matt Barresi: Houston is the most desperate of the true contenders and that always bodes well in postseason play. By no means are any of the American teams truly safe for NCAA tournament play at this point, but Houston is the only team that definitively needs to win the whole thing to go dancing. You could put Tulsa in that class as well but many projections have them right on the outside and the committee’s made stranger decisions before. Plus, if you want to give Tulsa the same need as Houston, Kelvin Sampson can handle Frank Haith. Houston some talent and they’re playing well, it’s within their grasp. Temple won the conference and is likely to be in the dance. The winner of UConn-Cincinnati round three has to feel a lot better about themselves as well. I just see that need to win combined with talent and coaching being enough for Houston to take it.
As for UConn, they’re incredibly capable and the most talented team in the tournament. The saying is “third time's the charm,” and I believe it. They failed to execute in all the games that made up the sweeps to Cincy and Temple. I think they’re well aware of that. I see them making a finals run and if they knock off Houston or another team in the championship, I would not be surprised. It’s been said all year, but they have the talent to get it done.
Tyler Keating is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Josh Buser is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Courtney Akerley is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Shahan Kamal is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matt Barresi is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.