The regular season has come to an end, and just like that, it’s March, and conference tournament season is upon us. American Athletic Conference heavyweights Cincinnati and Wichita State faced off (no pun intended, Jarron Cumberland) in Wichita, Kansas, to wrap up the season and it was every ounce as exciting as we could’ve hoped for.
Cincinnati was able to hang on to defeat Wichita State on Sunday 62-61, capturing the AAC regular season title. Jacob Evans rose to the occasion and scored a game-high 19 points on 7-16 shooting to go along with seven rebounds. Kyle Washington added 11 points and seven rebounds. The Bearcats played their usual brand of hard-nosed defensive basketball to come away with the win on the road against the No. 11 team in the country. After two Gary Clark free throws with 3:27 left in the game, Cincinnati held the Shockers to just two baskets. Star point guard Landry Shamet played well for the Shockers, recording 16 points, six rebounds, and five assists on 5-11 shooting. Shaquille Morris had 16 points and a game-high eight rebounds.
With the win on Sunday, Cincinnati and Wichita State secured the top two seeds in the conference tournament. Cincinnati will have a bye for Thursday’s first round of games and will play in the quarterfinals on Friday against the winner of UConn versus SMU. Wichita State, also with a first round bye, will play on Friday against the winner of Tulane versus Temple.
Tulsa finished the regular season with a couple of wins to clinch the fourth seed and a crucial first round bye. They beat Temple convincingly at home on Sunday 76-58 in their regular season finale. Senior Corey Henderson Jr. had 21 points on 6-13 shooting while going 5-8 from deep. Martins Igbanu added 16 points on 4-5 shooting from the field and shooting 8-9 from the charity stripe. Quinton Rose had 17 points shooting 7-15 from the floor, but nobody else on the Owls scored in double digits.
While many are saying that the AAC is a three-horse race, Tulsa is a dark horse. They play good defense, have won eight of their last nine games and earned themselves a first round bye for a reason. Even though they’re a top four team in the conference, they don’t get the credit that they deserve and because of that, I’m picking them as my dark horse team to win the conference crown. The Golden Hurricane will play the winner of Memphis versus USF in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Houston closed out the regular season strong with wins against SMU and UConn. Houston, in control of the third seed, will have a first round bye and then play the winner of UCF versus East Carolina in Friday’s quarterfinals. Senior guard Rob Gray has been scorching hot for the Cougars. Over the last four games, he has averaged 24.5 points, 7.5 assists and 2.5 turnovers while shooting 60 percent from the field and 52.6 percent from deep in less than 33 minutes per game. Gray’s electric play may be enough for Houston to make a deep run in this tournament where, as we all know, anything can happen.
Sean Janos is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.