AAC Tournament: Wednesday Recap/Thursday PreviewPosted by Will Tucker on March 13th, 2014
With the first round of the AAC Tournament in the books, we take a look at a few of the big takeaways from Wednesday night, as well as story lines to keep in mind on Thursday.
What went down on Wednesday
- Rutgers completed a three-win sweep of South Florida, making the Bulls the only AAC team who failed to beat the Scarlet Knights this season. It was a frustrating loss for USF fans, whose team missed six consecutive free throws in the second half and couldn’t quite get over the hump. Victor Rudd had 22 points and seven rebounds but ended his USF career on a low note, losing an offensive rebound on a missed Rutgers free throw that all but sealed the deal for Eddie Jordan’s club.
- UCF won, in spite of Donnie Jones. From the moment when Isaiah Sykes nailed a long three while getting hit in the face late in regulation, Temple seemed destined to let another close game slip away. But Jones kept the Owls in the game, inexplicably benching his best player and hot hand for the first three minutes of the first overtime and two minutes of the second overtime. Sykes had amassed 32 of his career-high 36 points in regulation, including six crucial points in the closing minutes, but it was senior forward Tristan Spurlock who saved the day with his defense in overtime, highlighted by two blocks in 20 seconds. For Temple, it was a merciful end to a season full of near misses.
- What the bottom half of the AAC lacks in quality, it makes up for in parity. Rutgers, USF, UCF, and Temple all displayed glaring weaknesses last night, but they also treated viewers to some very entertaining basketball. The games were each decided by four points, and one went to double overtime. Three players scored 25 or more points in the Temple-UCF game, and the teams combined to hit 18 three-point shots. Even USF was uncharacteristically exciting, shooting 46 percent and coming within a botched rebound of a chance to win on the final possession. Watching these teams get trounced by the league’s top half this season has been tedious, but seeing them play amongst themselves in a single elimination format was undeniably fun.
What’s on tap for Thursday
- The schedule gets more interesting, beginning at 1:00 PM with a matchup of Texas rivals SMU and Houston. The AAC Microsite writers unanimously identified Houston as our sleeper pick to steal a game from a top-five seed.
- Sacrificial lambs UCF and Rutgers lost to their Thursday opponents by an average of 23 and 27.5 points, respectively, during the regular season. That statistic is slightly misleading in the case of Rutgers, who only lost by single digits to Louisville in the Yum! Center, but that was in early January, when Rick Pitino’s team was playing its worst basketball of the season. Look for Louisville and Cincinnati to roll into the semifinals.
- The game of the day tips off at 9:00 PM, when Memphis takes on UConn in what’s quickly developed on its own into one of the best rivalries in the AAC. The Tigers may be the lower-seeded team, but one look at the blue-clad crowd in the FedEx Forum will quickly dispel any notion that the cards aren’t stacked against the Huskies. Memphis will be desperate to avoid a three-game sweep at the hands of newly anointed AAC Player of the Year Shabazz Napier.