AAC M5: 03.27.14 Edition

Posted by Ross Schulz on March 27th, 2014


  1. Connecticut should feel right at home in Madison Square Garden tomorrow night. Having played in the Big East for three decades, the Husky program has all kinds of history in the building. Under Jim Calhoun, Connecticut cut down the nets in the Garden a total of seven times after winning the Big East Championship. Calhoun’s squad also won an NIT title in the building in 1988. Perhaps most improbably, MSG was the start of its incredible NCAA Championship run in 2011. Throw in the 2009 six-overtime game, and you get the point. But even more recently than that, UConn secured two victories at the Garden in November versus Boston College and Indiana. With all of this history and recent familiarity, the advantage for UConn will extend well beyond having the most fans in the stands tomorrow night.
  2. While the Huskies may have the fan advantage at the East Regional at Madison Square Garden, attendees will have to pay a pretty penny to see the first NCAA tournament game in the Garden in 53 years. Nosebleed section tickets were going for around $435, while front row seats reached a total of between $3,000-$5,000. One site offered eight club sideline tickets in Section 6 for $12,500. That’s per ticket, not total. The average price for a ticket for tomorrow night’s double-header, according to Tiqiq.com, is $1,753. A ticket to Suite 11 on www.greatseats.com had an asking price of $61,600. “The Final Four is less expensive right now,” Jay Mullarkey, vice president at TicketNetwork, said. “This is really big.”
  3. Last year at this time Louisville’s Kevin Ware was preparing for what turned out to be one of his best games in the Sweet Sixteen in Indianapolis. We all know the story of the devastating injury that came next for him in the regional final two days later. One year removed from that emotionally draining day, the Cardinals are returning to Indianapolis for the Sweet Sixteen but Ware is nowhere to be found. According to his mother, Ware has trouble watching his teammates play as he sits out the rest of the season with a medical redshirt. But since the coaching staff and Ware himself have made few comments on the matter, it’s led to speculation that there’s more to the story and some fans question whether he, like his best pal Chane Behanan, has worn a Louisville uniform for the last time.
  4. Louisville may be the team better equipped to win a national title, but Tim Sullivan said Kentucky’s size will make a victory on Friday night a tall task for the Cardinals. In the first meeting, Kentucky hauled in eight more rebounds, scored 11 more second chance points, and drew 25 fouls on the Cardinals. And if anything, the Cardinals have gotten smaller since that game with the departure of Chane Behanan occurring after that game. Of the 16 teams remaining, UK ranks first in rebounding percentage and drawing fouls. The Wildcats left an impression on Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall. “These guys are like a total eclipse when you go in there,” he said. If it’s worth anything, at least Louisville won’t be surprised by anything they see.
  5. The key for a Louisville victory rests with Montrezl Harrell, who would be playing for Virginia Tech (or not playing, as it were) if it weren’t for the firing of former coach Seth Greenburg. His development in the wake of Chane Behanan’s departure has morphed the Cardinals from a nice team with limited potential into the second betting favorite to win the national championship. Harrell (along with many of the Louisville players) struggled in the team’s first two NCAA tournament games, but Louisville fans hope he will reawaken in a big way to hold serve against the massive Kentucky front line.
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AAC Roundtable: Conference Tournament Preview

Posted by Mike Lemaire, Will Tucker & Ross Schulz on March 12th, 2014

As we head into the postseason, RTC AAC Microwriters Mike Lemaire, Will Tucker and Ross Schulz preview the very first American conference tournament through the prism of three key questions.

Louisville has the look of a team peaking at the right time. In the past week, they became the first team to beat SMU at home and then smashed UConn. Is there any reason to think the Cardinals won’t cut down the nets in Memphis?

  • Mike: The Cardinals deserve to be the odds-on favorite for the AAC Tournament because of the way they have played down the stretch but they certainly aren’t bullet-proof. They proved that at the beginning of the month when they lost to Memphis and scraped past Cincinnati by one point. Montrezl Harrell and Russ Smith are two of the best players at their positions in the country and the Cardinals are more balanced than the Bearcats or anyone else for that matter. But if Chris Jones and Luke Hancock struggle and the opposition lock down Smith and Harrell, the Cardinals could lose to a team with more to gain.
Will the defending champs notch the first AAC crown as well?

Will the defending champs add the first ever AAC crown to their impressive resume?

  • Will: The Cardinals continue to be a very poor free throw shooting team, and players they’ve traditionally considered automatic from the stripe are trending in the wrong direction. Russ Smith, whose free throw accuracy has decreased from 80 to 70 percent this season, hit 6 of 11 in the past three games, while Luke Hancock – an 82 percent shooter – has completed only 10 of 17 over the same time frame.

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AAC M5: 01.21.14 Edition

Posted by CD Bradley on January 21st, 2014


  1. Louisville, Cincinnati, and Memphis were ranked in both the AP and Coaches Polls released Monday, while Connecticut was among those also receiving votes in both polls. SMU also received votes in the AP Poll for the first time this season and for what we’ll assume is the first time in many years. Louisville was ranked the highest of the three in both polls, at #9 in the Coaches Poll and #12 in the AP Poll. Cincinnati, despite being the only undefeated team in AAC play, came next at #15 and #16, respectively. Memphis, which lost at home to UConn last week, dropped to #22 and #23, respectively.
  2. Louisville coach Rick Pitino had a pretty nice 2013 as you have no doubt heard. Hall of Fame election and induction. Horse in the Kentucky Derby and winning a Breeder’s Cup race. Son hired at Minnesota. The centerpiece of all of that success was a national championship team that, except for a bumpy week in January and one weird February night in South Bend, was pretty clearly the best in the country all year. This season has proven to a be a bit more of a challenge, but Pitino isn’t slowing down a bit. The latest piece of evidence was an impressive road win Saturday at Connecticut led by a stifling defense. It’s that defense that has been the hallmark of back-to-back Final Fours for Pitino and the Cardinals, and if they are to make it three in a row, the defense will have to approach the unmatched efficiency of those teams.
  3. The other major reason for Saturday’s win was the play of Montrezl Harrell, who had 18 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. The Courier-Journal‘s Jeff Greer (the new Louisville beat writer, and a great Twitter follow) broke down the sophomore forward’s offensive game and how it is evolving. Of major interest is the recent increase in jump shots, particularly around the free throw line; Gorgui Dieng’s ability to hit those shots last year was a key component in making the national championship offense run. If Harrell can consistently knock down those shots as well as remain effective on the block, it should open up the Cardinals sometimes stagnant offense. That could be crucial come March.
  4. UConn hosts Temple tonight, and might have to make due without starting guard Ryan Boatright, who traveled to Illinois after a family death. If he is absent, it might mean more playing time for freshman Terrance Samuel, who along with senior Lasan Kromah and sophomore Omar Calhoun would have to fill in for Boatright’s 31.6 minutes per game. Samuel, by comparison, has played six minutes in the Huskies’ last five games. Still, it can’t hurt to provide a little experience to a young player, and it’s not likely to make much of a difference against a 5-11 Temple team rising a six-game losing streak.
  5. Larry Brown didn’t have much interest in junior college players when he was the head coach at Kansas in the 1980s, and had success without them, winning a national championship in 1988. Both times and Brown have changed; a quarter century later, he’s now the head coach at SMU, and junior college players are playing a key role in the program’s renaissance. Yanick Moreira, an Angola native who couldn’t speak English when he received Division I scholarship offers in 2010, went the junior college route and said it was the right choice. It has certainly worked out for SMU, which is blending Moreira with Division I transfers and top-ranked high school recruits into the school’s best team in 20 years.
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