EUGENE, Ore. – It’s Tuesday, which only means one thing: The American Athletic Conference (AAC) “Weekly Roundup” is here at last. SportsWatch will name five category winners to give you a grasp of what happened last week and preview this week’s action men’s hoops in AAC play. The newest AP poll has four teams from the AAC ranked, with SMU re-entering the poll and UConn dropping out (No. 7 Louisville, No. 11 Cincinnati, No. 21 Memphis and No. 23 SMU – Rankings reflect AP poll released Feb. 24)
Best win: No. 7 Louisville (23-4, AAC 12-2) over No. 11 Cincinnati (24-4, AAC 13-2)
The best win this week is a difficult decision between SMU at UConn and Louisville at Cincinnati. Although SMU defeating UConn is a big win for the Mustang program, it doesn’t have the significance of Louisville’s victory over Cincinnati. Major conference implications were on the line, as Louisville won 58-57 due to Russ Smith’s clutch jumper with only 2.2 seconds left on the clock. The win propelled Louisville to within a half-game reach of the conference-leading Bearcats. Meanwhile, Cincinnati has lost two out of their last four games and has been reeling of late. The final three games of the regular season for Cincinnati come against UConn, Memphis, and Rutgers; contests that will require the Bearcats’ full attention. The nation deserves a third game between the two teams in the AAC Tournament, as the combined margin of victory is a only four points.
Surprise of the week: No. 21 Memphis (21-6, AAC 10-4) sneaking by Rutgers (10-17, AAC 4-10) and Temple (7-19, AAC 2-12)
SportsWatch put Memphis on upset watch against Rutgers last week after thinking they might be suffering the dreaded hangover stemming from their loss to UConn. Although the Tigers won both games, they did so in unimpressive fashion. They first snuck by Rutgers, winning by five points, after halting a second half come back by the Scarlet Knights. Two days later, the Tigers escaped another upset bid this time by Temple. In overtime, the Tigers won in part by Shaq Goodwin slamming home a dunk to give the Tigers a three-point lead with just seconds left. The final stretch of the schedule will test the Tigers, as Memphis faces three straight ranked teams to end the regular season (vs. No. 7 Louisville, at No. 11 Cincinnati, vs. No. 23 SMU).
AAC favorite: No. 11 Cincinnati
The Bearcats remain the favorite to win the AAC even with a loss to second place Louisville. SportsWatch is sticking with Cincinnati for two reasons: 1) Even though the Bearcats lost to Louisville last week, they split the regular season series 1-1, and 2) The Bearcats have a half-game lead on Louisville, not to mention the comparative strength of schedule favors Cincy, as the Cardinals face two ranked teams (No. 21 Memphis and No. 23 SMU) compared to Cincinnati’s one remaining ranked opponent (No. 21 Memphis). Furthermore, Louisville must also face Temple, who has already sprung an upset on a ranked AAC squad (SMU) and came close to notching two before ultimately falling to Memphis.
Upset watch: Central Florida (10-15, AAC 2-12) at No. 23 SMU (22-6, AAC 11-4) – March 1, 4:00 p.m. ET
SMU has won substantial games this year against Cincinnati, UConn (2x), and Memphis. However, a pattern has developed losing against inferior opponents such as South Florida and Temple. SMU needs to take this game seriously or will fall victim to another upset. Luckily for Mustang fans, this game will be played at Moody Coliseum, where SMU remains undefeated this season.
Game of the week: No. 7 Louisville at No. 21 Memphis – March 1, 2:00 p.m. ET
The only ranked vs. ranked match up in the AAC this week is a relatively easy pick for SportsWatch as the game of the week. Louisville and Memphis are attempting to climb the AAC standings with win Saturday afternoon, as the outcome could drastically help or hurt chances each team’s chance at an AAC regular season title. Memphis won the first game between schools back in early January. This is must watch game as the loser will almost assuredly be out of the conference regular season race.