AAC Betting Report, Odds | Favorites, Tournament Hopefuls & Biggest Surprise

AAC Betting Report, Odds | Favorites, Tournament Hopefuls & Biggest Surprise article feature image

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images. Pictured: Johnell Davis (FAU)

With league play tipping off next week, this is the perfect time to check in on the American Athletic Conference.

The AAC welcomed new members to the league this season, headlined by the addition of No. 7 Florida Atlantic. UAB, Charlotte, North Texas, Rice and UTSA are the other new teams that joined from Conference USA.

Meanwhile, Penny Hardaway’s Memphis squad is another strong contender to make the NCAA tournament and win this conference.

This is a league that also includes tournament hopefuls in SMU and Tulane.

The AAC has been a multi-bid conference since its inception in 2014, and with the new additions joining already strong basketball programs, there's a great chance of multiple squads making a run in March.

Battle of the Favorites: FAU & Memphis

Florida Atlantic Owls (-145)

After making a memorable run to the Final Four a season ago, Dusty May brought back most of the same squad to make another push towards a national title.

May’s team was voted as the favorite of the AAC in the preseason by the league’s coaches, and the dynamic duo of Johnell Davis and Alijah Martin shared the title of Preseason Player of the Year.

Of the two, Davis has had the stronger start to this campaign, leading the team in scoring (16.3 PPG) and rebounding (7.1 RPG). The 2023 C-USA Sixth Man of the Year also shoots 45% from beyond the arc and has 22 steals.

As a team, the Owls have been battle-tested with a very tough non-conference schedule that's included seven games against Quad 1 or 2 opponents.

The wins over Texas A&M and Virginia Tech at the ESPN Events Invitational are strong, but FAU also just defeated No. 4 Arizona in Las Vegas to bolster its resume.

With a 10-2 record against a top-30 strength of schedule (KenPom), it's easy to see why the Owls are slated as the betting favorites in their debut season in the AAC.

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Memphis Tigers (+155)

Memphis is not ready to hand over the conference to a newcomer. Hardaway’s team is also ranked in the polls at No. 19 and has handled a difficult schedule so far.

The Tigers have racked up seven wins over power-conference programs, which is the most in the country. They also have seven victories against Quad 1 or 2 opponents to tie Purdue for the most nationally.

One of the keys to the strong start has been the play of senior forward David Jones. The St. John’s transfer is the only player in the country who's averaging at least 20.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game this season.

Unfortunately, we have to wait until February 25 for the first battle between FAU and Memphis, which takes place at FedExForum.

Best of the Rest

SMU Mustangs (+1600)

Outside of the two above, SMU is the top challenger in the AAC.

The Mustangs are entering conference play ranked just outside the top 50 by KenPom.

This is a team that's already seen a major improvement in the second season under coach Rob Lanier. After finishing 10-22 last year, the Mustangs are just one win away from matching last year’s win total.

Lanier’s squad is built on the defensive end of the floor. SMU ranks in the top 25 in multiple categories by Bart Torvik, including AdjD (25th) EFG (2nd) and opponents’ 2-point (5th) and 3-point percentages (9th).

One cause for concern is the fact that SMU is 0-3 against Quad 1 opponents this season. However, the way this team defends makes it a difficult squad to beat on a nightly basis.

Tournament Hopefuls

Tulane Green Wave

If SMU is built on defense, the opposite can be said for Ron Hunter’s high-scoring Tulane squad. The Green Wave lead the conference and rank seventh nationally in scoring offense at 89.4 points per game.

This is also the same team that ranks in the top 10 in tempo (5th), EFG (7th) and shooting percentage from inside the arc (2nd).

Hunter’s team even does a great job of getting to the foul line, which adds to the difficulty of defending the Green Wave.

All five starters average double figures, but the Green Wave are led by Kevin Cross at 18.1 points per game.

I do wonder how much of this early success comes down to Tulane’s easy non-conference schedule, but one thing is for sure, this is a fun team to watch.

North Texas Mean Green

Even with a 6-5 record, North Texas is the final AAC team to rank in the top 100 in both the NET and KenPom rankings.

The Mean Green are led by first-year head coach Ross Hodge, who was elevated after serving as associate head coach for the last six seasons.

Even with the change on the sideline, this is still a tough defensive team. On the year, North Texas ranks in the top 50 in most defensive metrics by Bart Torvik and is fifth in the country in scoring defense.

With only 30% of the team’s scoring returning from the NIT-winning squad last year, Hodge’s main challenge is finding ways to generate enough points on the offensive end of the floor.

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Biggest AAC Surprise

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

After exceeding last year’s win total already, Tulsa was an easy choice here as the biggest surprise in the AAC so far.

Coach Eric Konkol’s team has been most impressive at home, owning a perfect 8-0 mark at the Donald W. Reynolds Center. This is the Golden Hurricane's best start at home since opening the 2018-19 campaign with nine straight victories.

Konkol has also done this with a completely changed roster that features 11 new additions and just two returnees. They've been headlined by one of the best freshmen in the country in PJ Haggerty, who ranks second nationally among freshmen in scoring (16.2 PPG).

However, Tulsa has benefited from a strength of schedule that ranks 361st out of 362 teams by KenPom. With Memphis slated as their opponent in the conference opener, we should find out soon how good this Golden Hurricane team is.

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