As the American Athletic Conference tournament is set to begin on Thursday, the number of story lines is endless. The Helmsman sports desk has highlighted which games they are looking forward to watching the most.
The matchup I am looking forward to the most is Temple against Cincinnati in the semifinals. The Bearcats defeated the Owls at Temple 72-68, in the regular season. Temple closed out the regular season upsetting UCF, and with their eyes set on a NCAA tournament bid, knocking off Cincinnati could be all they need to make it happen.
The Bearcats have already secured a NCAA tournament bid, and not having that extra motivation could swing momentum in the Owls’ favor for an upset.
In the first game, Temple was leading at half-time by 14 points, but a Bearcat rally proved costly in the second half for the Owls. Cincy guard Jarron Cumberland led all scores with 25 point in the game while also totaling eight rebounds. The thorn in Temple’s side was rebounding, as Cincy secured 46 boards to the Owls’ 22.
This time around, Temple will need to fight on every possession and not give Cumberland and the Bearcats any second chance opportunities, and with the added motivation, their fight will be stronger.
Temple guard Shizz Alston Jr. and forward J. P. Moorman II were hard to handle for the Cincy defense the first game, as the two combined for 38 points in the game along with seven of the teams nine three-point shots.
The duo can be a force behind the arc with the three-point shot, and getting both hot early will force the Bearcats to play from behind. While Cincy did make a comeback last game, pulling it off a second time will be harder against a Temple team coming into the tournament with this kind of momentum at their backs.
The game to watch out for in the AAC tournament is not the championship game, but for the Houston Cougars. They will need to see a potential Memphis vs. UCF quarterfinal match up. The way Houston is playing, they will take care of USF or UConn, but their last loss was against the Knights. The Tigers held their own at the Fertitta Center in a 90-77 loss Jan. 6.
Forget about Memphis having home court advantage, Penny Hardaway’s team should be wary of UCF coming off a 67-62 lost against Temple in which they gave up 18 turnovers (average 13 per game) and shot 36 percent from the field (average 42 percent). They had Aubrey Dawkins have a 36 point and 11 rebound game in which they were plus 12 on the boards and still were derailed by those turnovers and overall team shooting.
The Knights also have that horrendous 20-point loss at FedExForum on Jan. 27 that will add onto their motivation. The Tigers will have to rely on their AAC First-Team player, Jeremiah Martin, to lead the way against UCF. Martin only scored 10 points in their first matchup in Memphis and improved to 25 points in the 79-72 loss in Orlando, Florida on Feb. 16, but Martin needs to be the team’s leading scorer for a win over UCF. Martin has been the team’s leading scorer for seven straight games, starting with a win against ECU on Feb. 10.
To keep it simple, Memphis needs Martin to keep being Martin, and UCF needs to stay focused and have history in the back of their minds.
Without a doubt, his tournament be a fun one to watch. Houston has been the best team in the conference. Cincinnati, Temple, and UCF are right behind the Cougars and rounds out the top four teams who received a bye for the tournament. Memphis vs. Houston will by far be the best matchup in the tournament.
Even though the Cougars are the majority favorite to win that game, I would not count out the feisty Tigers. Houston will lose to Memphis in a close battle. The Tigers will be led by Jeremiah Martin, all-AAC first team player, who is scoring the ball at 19.7 points per game. Memphis did not have the opportunity to play the Cougars at home this season, and the Tigers are a different team when they play at FedExForum.
They shoot the ball at high rate. They hustle for every loose ball and create more turnovers on their opponents. Houston is led by Corey Davis Jr. who is also an all-AAC first team member. He averages 18.2 points per game and shooting a close 40 percent from deep.
The Cougars blasted the Tigers in Houston 90-77. The hometown team will look for revenge from earlier in the season. Memphis has the only chance to compete against this high-octane team in Houston besides the Cincinnati Bearcats. It will be a legendary performance from Martin and Davis for sure, but do not count out Tyler Harris and Kyvon Davenport for Memphis and Armoni Brooks and Nate Hinton for Houston. This tournament contest will be the best one in conference history.
The game I want to see during the American Athletic Tournament is Memphis versus Houston. There are some reasons why this could become an interesting battle between the two.
Memphis has only played Houston once, and it was in early January as both teams played in their second conference game of the season. It was such an early matchup, and both teams will have confidence walking into this potential contest.
The Tigers are at home for every game they will play in this tournament, and if they lose once, it is the final game of the year. Memphis will most likely be playing not to lose, and Houston is the top-seeded team in the conference.
Memphis must beat UCF before meeting Houston. The Tigers beat the Knights by 20 points in their first face off, so they had success. This is almost a different UCF team now. The Knights beat the Cougars in Houston. Houston has beaten the second seeded Cincinnati twice this season creating an interesting discussion at the top of the conference standings.
Here is the scenario: If Memphis does not overlook Tulane, they will play UCF. If Memphis can beat a strong UCF team, they get a shot at Houston. If the Tigers can unleash their full potential and slip past Houston, they are in the final. The most likely opponent in the final would be Cincinnati, so, if Memphis can win the game the against Houston, they will have what it takes to win against whoever shows up on Sunday. They will then win the AAC and be in March Madness.
Joshua A. Vinson:
The game I think everyone should want to see is Cincinnati and Memphis facing off for a third time this season. Yes, Cincy got the best of the Tigers both at home and up in Ohio. Nevertheless, in both contests, Memphis made it competitive and showed they could contend with the Bearcats, though they did not win either game.
But this game has one ongoing story line that needs an ending: Who is the best player in the American Athletic Conference?
Jeremiah Martin said he was the best player in the AAC, however, it was announced Wednesday that the young kid out of Wilmington, Ohio, Jarron Cumberland, was named the conference player of the year.
Just imagine if for the last time we can see Martin vs Cumberland to lay it all on the line to determine who is the real undisputed champion. This is not wrestling, but this should be a game to remember.