AAC Basketball Tournament Odds, Bracket & Betting Preview: Can Anyone Overcome Houston, Memphis & SMU?
Joe Murphy/Getty Images. Pictured: Jalen Duren.
The American Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament kicks off Thursday in Fort Worth, Texas.
The AAC has been a top-heavy conference this season with Houston and Memphis likely earning at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament. SMU sits right on the bubble and will hope to make a run to improve its chances.
The other eight programs are desperate to make a Cinderella run through the AAC tournament to earn the automatic qualifying bid.
AAC Tournament Bracket & Schedule
Houston Cougars (-125)
Houston is the appropriate favorite to cut down the nets Sunday afternoon. The program finished 26-5 on the season and dismantled the rest of the conference (with the exception of Memphis) by an average margin of 12 points per game.
Houston owns top-15 offensive and defensive efficiency rankings in the country.
The defense utilizes relentless pressure and holds opponents to just 44% from the field, good for sixth nationally. It also blocks shots at the highest rate in the conference, which is one of the reasons the Cougars have allowed just 61 points per game to conference foes.
Offensively, the group has proven to still be elite even without Marcus Sasser in the lineup. The Cougars feature a well-balanced scoring attack with all five starters averaging in double figures.
The offense has assisted on 58% of its made field goals this season and has dominated in the paint, hitting 58% of its 2-point attempts. The Cougars are relentless on the offensive glass, finding extended possessions at the fourth-highest rate in the country.
Kelvin Sampson’s squad is by far the most talented team in the conference. It should have an easy path to the AAC Tournament Championship. The Cougars defeated the four teams on their side of the bracket by an average of 22 points per game.
Houston will likely match up with Memphis or SMU in the championship. The Cougars went just 1-3 against those two programs in the regular season, which has me shying away from the low odds of -125.
Memphis Tigers (+350)
Memphis is the hottest team in the AAC entering the tournament.
Since Penny Hardaway’s infamous press conference back in late January, the Tigers have won 10 of their last 11 games. That span has been profitable for bettors, with Memphis winning eight of those games against the spread.
The biggest improvement during this win streak has been on the defensive end of the floor. Memphis has held opponents to 38% from the field and 30% from beyond the arc over the last 11 games.
It also blocks nearly 17% of opponent shot attempts to rank fourth in the nation.
Six-foot-11 center Jalen Duren has proven to be the most impactful player on the roster on both ends of the floor. Duren leads the conference in rebounds (7.5) and blocks (2.2) per game. He’s averaging a dozen points and hitting a conference-best 62% of his field-goal attempts.
Fellow big man DeAndre Williams is also putting up 11 points per game while hitting 58% of his field-goal attempts. The duo is tough to stop and led Memphis to the sixth-best offensive rebounding rate in the country.
Hardaway’s squad is finally healthy and showing what many thought it was capable of at the beginning of the season.
The Tigers are my favorite play to win the conference at odds of +400 if you shop around. I believe in the talent on this Memphis squad, which is why I took them as a flyer to win the national championship at odds of +10000.
SMU Mustangs (+600)
The SMU Mustangs have been floating around the bubble over the last two months. At the time of writing, the Mustangs are the last team slated in the tournament, according to Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology.
SMU will want to win the conference tournament to avoid leaving its fate in the hands of the committee.
The Mustangs have a legitimate chance of doing just that, especially with senior point guard Kendric Davis running the show. Davis is the leading scorer in the conference, averaging 20-points per game. He’s a three-level scorer who shoots 45% from the field, 37% from 3-point range and 86% from the charity stripe. Davis also ranks third in the conference in assists, dishing out 4.6 per game.
He’s complemented by senior twins Marcus and Michael Weathers. The duo transferred to SMU for one final run together and are both flourishing, averaging double digits and a combined 13 boards per game.
Your AAC Player of the Week: Michael Weathers pic.twitter.com/fBK0nOSRjI
— Joseph Hoyt (@JoeJHoyt) March 7, 2022
In a conference that appears to be a three-horse race, there’s some value on SMU at +600. The Mustangs defeated Memphis in both of their matchups this season by eight and 16 points. They split the season series against Houston with each team winning on its home floor.
But their opening round matchup against Tulsa or Wichita State will be far from a cakewalk.
The Dark Horses
Tulane Green Wave (+1500)
Tulane owns the shortest odds at +1500 outside of the AAC’s “Big Three.”
The reason for that is the guard tandem of Jalen Cook and Jaylen Forbes, who have been money this season. The duo has converted on 40% of its 317 combined 3-point attempts this season while averaging 35 points per game.
The Green Wave don’t make unnecessary mistakes and rank 11th in the country in turnover percentage. But Ron Hunter’s squad has yet to break through against the top teams in the conference, owning just a 1-5 record versus Houston, Memphis, and SMU.
The Wave should be able to get past Temple in the first round and then will need Cook and Forbes to light up Houston, something they were unable to do in the first two matchups.
Wichita State Shockers (+2000)
It’s been a tough rebound for Wichita State after winning the regular-season AAC title last year. The Shockers finished 6-9 in conference play this season while mainly beating up on the bottom-feeders in the conference.
The program finished with a 1-6 record against the conference’s top-five.
The offense has been horrid, hitting just 47% of its field goals this season to rank 299th nationally. I find it tough to back the Shockers, who have yet to prove they can compete with the top tier of the conference.
UCF Knights (+2500)
After starting the season 9-2, the Knights failed to string together more than two wins in a row the rest of the season.
UCF was reliant on the 3-point shooting of Darin Green Jr., Darius Perry and Brandon Mahan. The trio combined to hit 35% of its 492 attempts from beyond the arc this season.
The Knights should have no issue getting past USF in the first round, but they will need to catch fire from outside if they want to have any chance of extending their season against Memphis.
Cincinnati Bearcats (+2500)
Cincinnati thrived on the defensive end of the floor this season.
It rarely allowed 3-point attempts and forced opponents into the strength of the defense. The Bearcats owned the eighth-best 2-point defense this season, holding opponents to just 43% on such shot attempts.
But the offense was hard to watch at times. Cincinnati ranks outside of the top 275 in the country in both 3-point and 2-point field goal percentage.
Cincinnati ended the season losing seven of the last eight, including five in a row.
The Bearcats may survive East Carolina in the first round, but a matchup with Houston would loom. Cincinnati lost both matchups to the Cougars by 22 and 18 points this season. Hard pass on +2500.
Temple’s season was railroaded the first month of the season when Khalif Battle was ruled out for the year. Battle averaged 21 points in his first seven games, and his offensive production has been sorely missed.
The Owls rank 297th in 3-point percentage and 325th in 2-point percentage. That’s not going to get it done in the AAC Tournament.
Tulsa won four games in conference play this season with half of its victories coming over USF. The Golden Hurricane’s ended their season on a high note after an insane comeback victory over UCF.
Horne at the horn for first lead of game for Tulsa (+1). Brutal for UCF backers pic.twitter.com/L8HbbdKMCl
— Stuckey (@Stuckey2) March 6, 2022
But making a run in the tournament is unfeasible for Frank Haith’s squad.
East Carolina lost to Houston, 79-36. USF finished 3-15 in conference play. Need I say more?