The American Athletic Conference tournament opened up on Thursday with two first-round games. On Friday afternoon (2 p.m., ESPN2), No. 5 UConn will open up in the quarterfinals against the No. 4 Cincinnati.
UConn and Cincinnati have played twice this season and the Bearcats won both times by a combined six points. In the all-time series between these two schools, UConn leads 12-8 dating all the way back to the 1994-95 season.
UConn (21-10) is coming off a win against UCF on Sunday. Cincinnati (22-9) is coming off a big win against SMU.
I talked with David Wysong, who will also be in Orlando covering the tournament this weekend, to get his thoughts on the third matchup of the season between these two rivals.
Here is what he had to say:
Zampini: Cincy picked a big win against SMU to end the regular season, how do you feel about how the Bearcats are playing heading into the conference tournament?
Wysong: Cincinnati has had such a crazy year. Some games they look like they can beat anyone and others they look like they could lose to anyone. SMU was an extremely good win, we were stagnant on offense but did what we had to do defensively. If we can improve our offense and continue to play defense at a high level, we’ll be hard to beat.
What do you think Cincinnati has to do in the AAC tournament to cement a spot in the NCAA tournament?
I hope we already have one but to be safe we probably need to make it to the championship, which means we would need to win two games in the tournament. I hope if we lose to UConn though the committee realizes how good of a team they are.
Who is a player on Cincinnati that you expect to step up in the tournament?
Octavius Ellis, his scoring has been down but there were high expectations for him this season. He is a senior and I know the passion he plays with will drive him to end his UC career on a high note.
Your thoughts on the AAC conference tournament in general and how many teams in the AAC do you think will get into the NCAA tournament?
The conference tournament will be extremely tough. The American is one of the most underrated conferences in the county. I think there’ll be only three or four teams to make it but there should be five.
Cincy has beat UConn twice already this year. We always hear about the cliche that it is hard to beat a team three times in a season, but what is your prediction for this game?
Because of that cliche it is extremely hard for me to pick UC. I’m hoping they realize the severity of the situation though and come out and get the win. I think they win with their signature defense, 67-61.