AAC Tournament: Friday Recap/Saturday PreviewPosted by CD Bradley on March 15th, 2014
With the semifinals of the AAC Tournament in the books, we take a look at a few of the big takeaways from Friday, as well as storylines to keep in mind on Saturday.
What went down on Friday
- Russ Smith came out on fire and never really let up, dropping a career-high 42 points (on 14-22 shooting, including 5-7 from three) on Houston in another impressive Louisville victory, 94-65. While the scoring outburst was impressive, it’s on the defensive end that Rick Pitino’s team is separating itself; in its four-game winning streak, they have forced more than 20 turnovers and held their foes under 40 percent shooting three times each. The Cardinals have now won their past three games by an average of 41 points and have people talking about the potential of the Cards grabbing a #1 seed. While that remains unlikely, with the way they are playing right now, no one wants to see them in their bracket on Sunday.
- For about 10 minutes of game time in the second half, UConn exposed Cincinnati’s Achilles heel: The Bearcats can’t shoot. They rank outside the top 200 in both two-point field goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage this season. From 14:00 to 4:00 on the game clock, the Bearcats shot 1-of-14 from the field with two turnovers, scoring two points and turning a four-point lead into an eight-point deficit. They then almost crawled out of the hole they had dug, scoring 13 points in the last 3:30 on three three-pointers, a dunk, and two free throws. Down two with 11 seconds left, they got the ball where they wanted, into the hands of star guard Sean Kilpatrick. He got to the basket and had a great look, putting up a layup that touched every part of the rim before rolling off. And so UConn was able to hold on to a valuable win, while Cincinnati goes in search of a jump shot before the big tournament starts next week.
What’s on tap for Saturday
- The first AAC title game is set, and it’s a rematch of the 2011 Big East title game: Louisville vs. UConn. We discussed Louisville’s seeding possibilities above, but getting less attention is what UConn might be able to achieve this weekend. While the Cardinals have been pummeling the league’s weaker teams, the Huskies have beaten down host Memphis and taken out top-seed Cincinnati. They now have seven wins over the RPI top 50, with three over Memphis (two in Memphis) and two over Cincinnati to go along with non-conference wins over Harvard and #1 Florida. Adding a win over a red-hot Louisville team would put them in a very strong position to get a top-four protected seed and stay close to home. But therein lies the rub; this is the team that just beat UConn by 33 seven days ago. Add in the 12-point win in Storrs, and the Cardinals are responsible for Uconn’s only two double-figure losses this season. The Cardinals remain the favorite, just as they entered the tournament, but no team in the league has as much motivation as the Huskies as they seek to avenge last weekend’s beating with a title on the line.