AAC Weekend Preview: College GameDay Comes to the AAC

Posted by CD Bradley on January 18th, 2014

Heading into a busy weekend of action, here are some key thoughts from a number of scheduled games around the AAC.

Shabazz Napier (left) and Russ Smith have been the two best players in the AAC this season, and they will square off Saturday night.

Shabazz Napier (left) and Russ Smith have been the two best players in the AAC this season, and they will square off Saturday night.

Game of the Weekend: ESPN’s College GameDay has something special planned for its 10th season premiere — broadcasting its morning and evening shows from the sites of two different games. While both involve AAC teams (more on that in a moment), it’s the nightcap that matters most here, with Louisville visiting UConn. Both teams are coming off Thursday night victories – UConn got a big win at Memphis, while Louisville won big over Houston – and the two preseason favorites need this game. For Louisville, it would bolster a weak resume with no decent road wins. For UConn, a win would get them back over .500 in AAC play after starting 0-2. In addition to all of that is the showdown between the conference’s two best players: Shabazz Napier, the only player in America leading his team in scoring, assists and rebounds, and Russ Smith, following up his spectacular junior season with an even better senior campaign.

Best of the Rest:

  • Cincinnati, picked to finish fourth in the preseason, sits atop the AAC at 5-0. It will look to keep its spotless record with a visit to South Florida, a team trying to right its season without its best player. Junior point guard Anthony Collins has been troubled with left knee problems all year, and is now considering sitting the rest of the year and applying for a redshirt. Without him, the Bulls have lost five of seven.

  • SMU has gotten off to the kind of start – 12-4, #29 in KenPom, #40 in RPI – that has some thinking the Mustangs might crash the Big Dance for the first time in two decades. If they are going to manage that, winning games like Saturday’s road trip to UCF will be crucial. The Knights got off to a decent start against a weak slate, but have stumbled out to a 1-3 start in AAC play.
  • Rutgers and Houston will both be looking to get back above .500 in AAC play when the Scarlet Knights visit Houston on Sunday. Rutgers will try to get a winning streak going, coming off a win over UCF, while Houston will be trying to forget the blowout it suffered at Louisville.

We thought non-conference games were over: So the other half of the ESPN College GameDay split-site spectacular will feature a Big Five showdown between Temple and LaSalle at the Palestra. The Owls will probably welcome the step outside of AAC play after losing their first five conference games; with a win over LaSalle, they could get to 3-0 in Big Five games this year with Villanova looming on February 1.

A longstanding city series renewed in an iconic arena provides some explanation for a mid-January non-conference matchup, but the reasons for the two other games involving AAC teams this weekend are far less clear. Memphis hosts LeMoyne-Owen, whatever that is… which is apparently a Division II school located six miles away. We doubt the Tigers will have much trouble snapping its two-game losing streak. Perhaps even more baffling is why SMU, some 31 hours after tipping off in Orlando at UCF on Saturday, will host Hofstra on Sunday night. Yeah, we don’t know either. But much like the roadtrip to America’s theme park capital, a visit from a 6-11 CAA team is one SMU has to win for its March to matter.

CD Bradley (69 Posts)

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