It’s championship week, and time for the predictions for the AAC Tournament. It’s March, the best, wildest time of the year for college hoops fans. With that being said, the crew at Last Word on Sports is giving you predictions for all the conference tournaments with championship week kicking off in full force. With less than a week before Selection Sunday, it’s time for March Madness. As for the American Athletic Conference, it’s not a secret who the best team is.
2020-2021 AAC Tournament Predictions
Favorite: Houston Cougars
The Houston Cougars are far and away the favorites to win the tournament, even after their last-second, buzzer-beater bank-shot three to lift them over Memphis on Sunday.
Crazy ricochet leads to game-tying 3? ✅
50-foot bounce pass? ✅
An audible "THAT'S GAME" right before a buzzer-beater? ✅
Memphis vs. Houston was vintage March. pic.twitter.com/iEy83xLBl5
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 7, 2021
A wild ending on Sunday as Memphis’ hopes of an at-large bid took a turn for the worse. Either way, Houston should be the favorite in the tournament as they look to cement their top-10 ranking.
The Cougars have been one of the best teams in the NCAA all year long with a 21-3 record. Their three losses are to Tulsa by a point, East Carolina by nine, and Wichita State by five.
Houston is going to be a tough out, not just in the AAC but also in the NCAA tournament, and are already a trendy Final Four pick for many.
The Cougars are fifth in the nation in rebounds with 41.3 per game and in the top-50 in blocks and turnovers as well. Guard Quentin Grimes is the heart and soul of this team, averaging 17.9 points per game with six boards and a pair of assists.
Houston is one of the more balanced teams in the nation, with three players averaging double figures and a fourth at 9.8 points per game.
They are cemented in the top-10, barring some unfortunate, unforeseen collapse in the AAC tournament. They beat Texas Tech earlier in the year and have another resume-worthy win against Boise State- a bubble team.
In a weird technicality, the Cougars finished second in the AAC behind Wichita State. However, that’s mainly due to the Shockers having a few postponed games due to COVID-19 protocols.
While Memphis took this team to the last second on Sunday, the Cougars should have no problem winning this tournament and making a strong case for a top-3 seed in the Big Dance.
Runner-up: Wichita State
In most cases, the top two teams in the conference end up playing each other in the final. That’s certainly going to be the case for the AAC with the Shockers and Cougars meeting in the finale with an automatic bid on the line.
The Shockers have been a staple in the NCAA Tournament for years and should have no issues getting an at-large spot, so a second-place finish in the AAC tournament wouldn’t be the worst thing for them.
Wichita State has a 15-4 record and missed seven games due to COVID protocols, although the majority of those seven probably would have been victories.
The Shockers can definitely give Houston a run for their money in the final, but this Houston team is simply too good and there’s a reason they are a top-10 team in the country.
They suffered early-season losses to Missouri and Oklahoma State, and that loss against the Cowboys doesn’t look like a bad loss by any means given their recent move up the rankings.
The Shockers lost to Houston and Memphis, and since the loss against the Tigers they have rattled off seven in a row, which includes a two-week break from any type of play.
Lock the Shockers in as a tournament team regardless of their outcome in the AAC and they are the team most likely to steal the crown from Houston.
Sleeper: Cincinnati Bearcats
In all honesty, it’s hard to pick a sleeper in the AAC due to the mediocre performances from many of the teams.
The Memphis Tigers don’t qualify as a sleeper because they just pushed Houston to the final shot a few days ago. The Tigers can’t definitely win this thing.
Looking at the rest of the conference is, well, not so bright. UCF, Tulsa, South Florida, Temple, Tulane, and East Carolina all have overall records of under .500.
The Bearcats are 10-10 and 8-6 in conference play, which isn’t the best. Still, don’t sleep on Cincinnati.
They started off 3-7 and it looked as if they would finish towards the bottom of the AAC. Somehow, someway, they figured it out as of late and have won seven of their last 10 games heading into the conference tournament.
It won’t be easy by any means, but it’s possible.
AAC TOURNAMENT Bracket. pic.twitter.com/EhR57GmlFx
— SECBallTalk (@SECBallTalk) March 7, 2021
The Bearcats would have to beat SMU, then defeat Wichita State, assuming the Shockers win their first-round matchup.
For the sake of the conversation, it’s possible but unlikely.
Houston, Memphis, SMU, and Wichita State are the only teams with even remote implications for the Big Dance.
Unless one of the bottom teams wins, it’s looking like a two-bid league, at best. Wichita State and Houston are locks no matter what happens.
According to Joe Lunardi’s latest bracketology that was released, both SMU and Memphis are listed as the Next Four Out.
Wichita State has an 11-seed and Houston has a two-seed, which both seem very realistic.
As for the others, they will be very nervous on Selection Sunday.
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