AAC Bracket Watch: 02.12.14 Edition

Posted by CD Bradley on February 12th, 2014

We have now entered a dangerous period for the five AAC contenders, which to this point look to have secured spots in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. We’ve written a lot about how the conference has five good and five bad teams, with a vast gulf in between the two tiers. Between now and February 21, there will be only one game between those top five teams: Memphis at UConn on ESPN at Noon on Saturday. During the same period, there will be 12 games between teams in the top half of the standings and those in the bottom half. And therein lies the danger, because any loss by a top-half team to a bottom-half team would do great harm to the losing team’s resume for seeding purposes. So far, those top five teams are 26-2 against their less successful league mates, and reaching the end of this period at 38-2 would be in their individual and collective best interests.

Cooper Neill/Getty Images Larry Brown and celebrates with SMU fans after his Mustangs beat Cincinnati to shake up the league standings.

Larry Brown and celebrates with SMU fans after his Mustangs beat Cincinnati to shake up the league standings. (Cooper Neill/Getty)

A key reason for this odd period of haves vs. have-nots was a scheduling decision that has worked out about as well as the AAC home office could have hoped. In the 15 days from February 22 to March 8, the top five teams will play each other eight times. Those games – which include three straight Saturday CBS appearances for Louisville (at Cincinnati, at Memphis, UConn) – will determine which team wins the league and will go a long way toward determining seeding for what appear to be five tournament-bound teams. That, too, has to have exceeded conference officials’ most optimistic expectations, but here we are.

  • Cincinnati: 22-3 (11-1), 5-3 vs. RPI top 50, RPI #14, KenPom #24, BracketMatrix #3 (3.45). The Bearcats finally dropped an AAC game, getting run out of a lively Moody Coliseum by SMU over the weekend. They still have the best profile among AAC teams – possessing no bad losses, and of their five top 50 wins, one on a neutral court (Pittsburgh at MSG) and two on the road (Louisville and Memphis) – as reflected by the fact that the Bracket Matrix still shows them with the highest average seed. They still have games vs. Louisville, at UConn and Memphis to go.
  • Louisville: 19-4 (8-2), 3-4 vs. RPI top 50, RPI #34, KenPom #5, BracketMatrix #5 (5.45). The Cardinals’ profile remains an odd one, thanks largely to their weak non-conference schedule. They have routinely routed inferior teams, but have also repeatedly blown chances at quality wins, which explains the wide gap between their KenPom and RPI rankings. Even the bracketologists are split, placing them at seeds from #4 to #7 this week. They have the most chances to improve their resume, but also the most difficult path: Their last five games include contests at Cincinnati, at Memphis, at SMU and UConn.
  • Memphis: 17-5 (7-3), 3-5 vs. RPI top 50, RPI #28, KenPom #30, BracketMatrix #7 (6.93). Memphis took advantage of the last opportunity for any AAC team to earn a quality win outside of the conference, overcoming a 12-point second-half deficit to beat Gonzaga on Saturday. Along with wins at Louisville and over Oklahoma State on a neutral court (although the latter is quickly losing its luster), as well as the fact that the Tigers have no bad losses, Memphis remains in good shape. Like Louisville, Josh Pastner’s team has one game left against each of the other contenders: at UConn, Louisville, at Cincinnati and SMU.
  • SMU: 19-5 (8-3), 3-3 vs. RPI top 50, RPI #40, KenPom #21, BracketMatrix #9 (9.68). At the end of January, the Mustangs possessed only one good win (UConn, at home, a month earlier) and had just suffered a terrible loss to USF. Their NCAA Tournament hopes appeared to be on life support. February has been a considerable improvement. In the past 10 days, the Mustangs have beaten both Memphis and Cincinnati by double figures, moving off the bubble probably for good. Adding a quality road win would help, and they still have chances to do that with games at UConn and Memphis.
  • UConn: 18-5 (6-4), 2-4 vs. RPI top 50, RPI #31, KenPom #25, BracketMatrix #7 (6.96). On December 9, the Huskies were 9-0 and ranked in the top 10 after a series of dramatic wins. They have since regressed to the mean, and now find themselves with the fewest top 50 RPI wins (two) among the AAC contenders. Of course, one of those victories remains the best win anyone in the league can claim, a 65-64 buzzer-beating victory over a Florida team rolling toward a #1 seed. They added another win at Memphis, and that pair is enough to keep them solidly in the field right now. They would still be well-served to add another quality win (or two, or three) before Selection Sunday, and they get three home shots at one, with Memphis, SMU and Cincinnati visiting before a March 8 road trip to Louisville.
CD Bradley (69 Posts)

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