AAC Bracket Watch: 03.12.14 EditionPosted by CD Bradley on March 12th, 2014
Last week we declared that all five of the AAC contenders were locks to make the NCAA tournament. We still believe that to be the case, but there have been whispers that maybe, just maybe, SMU’s spot isn’t completely safe. The Mustangs have been one of college basketball’s best stories, but it would surely ruin the ending if their name isn’t called on Sunday.
Otherwise, barring a massive upset (Ken Pomeroy projects the bottom five AAC teams have, collectively, less than a 1% chance of winning the AAC title), the only drama this weekend in Memphis as it relates to the tournament is seeding. Can Louisville, which swooped into the #1 overall seed in both 2009 and 2013 after everybody in front of them lost, grab the last #1 seed with similar carnage this year? Could Cincinnati? Does Connecticut have a chance to earn a protected top 4 seed? Let’s peruse these resumes one last time.
Cincinnati: 26-5 (15-3), 7-5 vs. RPI top 50, RPI #15, KenPom #18, Bracket Matrix #4 (3.86). The Bearcats won a coin flip for the top seed in the first American tournament after they equaled the Cardinals in every single tiebreaker. Their prize is a possible semifinal matchup with hometown Memphis. Adding another road win against a top 50 team plus a neutral court finals victory over, say, Louisville would put them squarely in the mix for a 2 seed.
Louisville: 26-5 (15-3), 6-5 vs. RPI top 50, RPI #23, KenPom #2, BracketMatrix #4 (3.89). They trial Cincinnati in the bracket projections by little more than the coin-toss margin that dropped them to a #2 seed in the conference tournament. Could they (or Cincinnati) really get a #1 seed? It’s hard to imagine. It would probably require a non-top 4 ACC team winning that league, Wisconsin losing in the Big Ten, Villanova losing in the Big East, and San Diego State losing in the Mountain West. As noted above, similar wackiness got them there in 2009 and 2013, but it’s a big ask. Rick Pitino said if they win the AAC, they’ll get a #2 seed, and that seems like the right answer.
UConn: 24-7 (12-6), 5-6 vs. RPI top 50, RPI #28, KenPom #30, BracketMatrix #6 (6.30). The Huskies got humiliated by Louisville on Saturday, and get to follow that up by opening the AAC tournament against Memphis on the Tigers’ homecourt. But that just means they have the most to gain; winning the league would almost certainly require three RPI top 50 wins, including one on the road. If they could pull that off, with wins potentially over #1 Florida, Cincinnati twice, at Memphis twice and Louisville, they could make a compelling case for staying close to home with a top 4 seed.
Memphis: 22-8 (12-6), 5-7 vs. RPI top 50, RPI #30, KenPom #38, BracketMatrix #7 (7.48). Some in the host city for the AAC tournament are wondering why its Louisville getting all the national love when Memphis swept the Cardinals this year. The Tigers have resume weaknesses the Cardinals lack. They have the bad loss (to RPI #157 Houston), the nationally televised blowout loss (at Oklahoma State in November, later avenged on a neutral court) and, other than at Louisville, no road wins of note. The computers also suggest that the Tigers are the fifth-best team in a five bid league. And yet they have the great advantage of hosting the AAC tournament; if they can take advantage of the homecourt advantage, it could be very beneficial to their seeding come Sunday.
SMU: 23-8 (12-6), 4-5 vs. RPI top 50, RPI #46, KenPom #26, BracketMatrix #10 (9.35). So are the Mustangs safe? They only have wins over the RPI top 100 (very good ones, though, over #15 Cincinnati, #38 Memphis and a sweep of #28 UConn), and two losses outside of it (to #215 USF and #164 Temple). They’re hampered by a putrid non-conference RPI strength of schedule at #301; the few chances they had out of conference they couldn’t cash in (a three-point neutral court loss to Virginia in November could loom large). Still, ESPN’s Bubble Watch locked them up a week ago, and while we wouldn’t advise taking another loss to Houston on Thursday, it’s hard to imagine them left out of the field.