2023 AAC Basketball Tournament Betting Preview, Bracket & Odds
Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Kelvin Sampson (Houston)
No. 1 Houston looks to win its third consecutive American Athletic Conference Tournament title, with the tournament tipping off on Thursday from Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.
The championship would also give the Cougars the most in the league’s short history — since the conference was formed back in 2013. They would pass Cincinnati and SMU as the only programs with multiple AAC Tournament titles.
However, the regular season champion has only gone on to win half of the league tournaments since the conference formed, which should give more hope to the teams looking to upset Houston.
The Cougars have the lowest odds of any squad in the country to win their conference tournament, but I do believe there are other ways to attack the AAC from a betting perspective.
2023 AAC Tournament Bracket
2023 AAC Tournament Odds
Best Challengers to Houston
If we’re being honest here, it’s extremely difficult to think a team is going to beat Houston, and I could write for days about how dominant that team has been.
So, don’t take this as me ignoring the likely No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, but I wanted to give more space to highlight the squads that I think have the best chance of springing an upset.
Memphis Tigers (+500)
We don’t have to go back very far to see how well this Memphis team stacks up against the regular season champion, with the Cougars needing a buzzer-beater to defeat the Tigers in the final game of league play.
I do feel that coach Penny Hardaway’s team is the only one with enough talent and athleticism to match up with Houston. The Tigers have great guard play, led by Kendric Davis.
The reigning AAC Player of the Year has been electric this season, leading the conference in both scoring (21.3 PPG) and assists (5.8 APG). He scored a game-high 26 points in the regular season finale, and he’d love another shot at the Cougars.
Unfortunately, the Tigers have a difficult path to the championship that scares me away from adding a futures ticket on them, starting with a potential matchup with UCF in the quarterfinals.
Memphis then likely either plays a Tulane team that has beaten the Tigers twice this season or a surging Wichita State squad in the semis.
Cincinnati Bearcats (+1200)
Whether you are looking for a team with some of the best metrics over the last 10 games or one that plays well on the road, Cincinnati checks those boxes, which is why I believe the Bearcats are the Cougars’ toughest test before the championship game.
Away from home, coach Wes Miller’s squad lost by a combined nine points at Houston and Memphis, while also losing in overtime at Tulane. This is also the same team that picked up victories at UCF and Wichita State.
The Bearcats are led by Landers Nolley II, who has averaged 18.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game during conference play. Nolley is joined by three teammates who have also averaged double figures in AAC action, which makes this one of the more well-balanced attacks.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati is also in the top 75 in the nation in multiple defensive categories, including AdjD (62nd), EFG% (58th) and opponents’ 2-point (70th) and 3-point shooting percentages (69th), according to Bart Torvik.
They will not be an easy out for anyone in this tournament.
Wichita State Shockers (+3100)
If there was a long shot in this tournament that could make a run, my selection would be Wichita State, which has played really well over the last 10 games.
As you can see from the chart above, the Shockers only trail Houston and Memphis in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency since Jan. 29.
They are also high in the conference in effective field goal percentage and points per possession on both ends of the floor during this time period.
Wichita has also proven to play at a high level away from home, covering seven of nine road conference games to go with a pair of pushes. This includes the Shockers earning an ATS win in six straight away contests coming into the tournament.
Coach Isaac Brown’s team should handle Tulsa in the opening round before taking on a Tulane squad it beat and lost to in overtime in the two regular season matchups.
I’m unsure if the Shockers have enough to take down either Memphis or Houston, but you could be in a position to hedge if they go on a run.
NCAA Tournament Teams
The American has been a multi-bid league since the conference’s debut season in 2014, and that streak should continue with Houston and Memphis.
The Cougars’ resume so far should be enough to claim a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance, which is where ESPN’s Bracketology and Bracket Matrix both have them listed.
Meanwhile, the Tigers’ tough out-of-conference slate has them projected as a No. 9 seed by both sites.
If another program went on to claim the title over those programs, I do feel like the AAC would see all three teams going to the NCAA Tournament. However, Penny’s team would be a little nervous going into the final day.
AAC Betting Recommendations
From a futures perspective, I don’t feel that any of the teams with a bye have much betting value at their current prices. A ticket on Wichita State is likely the best play, but I think the better approach would be a moneyline rollover with the Shockers as underdogs if they continued to progress.
Speaking of them, I will be looking to back Wichita State in the opening round against a Tulsa team that looks ready for the season to be over. Whether using them as a parlay piece on the moneyline or targeting team totals, I will be looking to oppose the Golden Hurricane one more time.
One additional team I will be looking to get involved with in the opening round is UCF, which should dominate an SMU squad that is 1-8 on the road in AAC play. The Knights beat the Mustangs by 32, and they could secure another easy victory here.
I’ll be keeping my eye out on the odds later in the tournament, but at the end of the day, I feel the Cougars are destined to win their third consecutive AAC tournament crown.
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