AAC Tournament Betting Odds and Picks (Thursday, March 12): South Florida vs. Central Florida, UConn vs. Tulane, More
Michael Hickey/Getty Images. Pictured: Brandon Mahan
The American Athletic Conference Tournament will be one of the most intriguing ones heading into the weekend with several teams’ NCAA Tournament hopes hanging in the balance. Wichita State, Memphis, Tulsa, Cincinnati and Connecticut all find themselves on the bubble heading into the tourney and an early loss can be the last straw for the selection committee.
In other big news, the AAC announced yesterday that the Tournament will be closed off to fans as a precautionary measure for the coronavirus. It will be interesting to see how players respond to playing in a nearly open gym, I advise treading careful on the slate as we wait to draw conclusions after seeing how teams play in the new conditions.
AAC Tournament First Round Betting Odds, Picks
No. 9 South Florida vs. No. 8 Central Florida
- Odds: PK
- Over/Under: 126.5
- Time: 1:00 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPNU
The story of this game will be the two teams’ defenses. Both South Florida (14-17), and Central Florida (16-14) rank in the top 100 in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. On top of that, both clubs like to slow the ball down and value the clock. USF ranks 307 in tempo while UCF ranks comes in at a modest 221. With two clubs that like to run the timer and can generate stops, this game can be tough on the eyes.
Neither of the two contests this season had more than 110 points scored. Both Florida clubs struggle to hit the three and South Florida is a bottom-30 team from the charity stripe (Central Florida is a hair over the nation average).
This game is shaping up to be tight throughout with neither team being able to pull away from the other due to the lack of offense. It may be first to 60 in the opener.
Pick: Under 126.5
No. 5 Connecticut vs. No. 12 Tulane
- Odds: Connecticut -9.5
- Over/Under: 140.5
- Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPNU
UConn (19-12) has been red-hot heading into this one, a winner of five straight, with its most recent victory coming over its first-round opponent, Tulane (12-18), on the road this past Sunday. The Huskies were able to beat the Green Wave twice this season, but both games were rather competitive as Tulane covered in both matchups.
The Green Wave have been able to hang in the two games by turning the Huskies over. Tulane plays an aggressive defense that plays well to Connecticut’s sloppy ball handling. Dan Hurley’s team ranks towards the bottom of the country in protecting the ball while Tulane is a top-20 team in turnover percentage.
That being said, Hurley has Connecticut humming coming into this game. Led behind senior Mark Vital, who is averaging over 24 points per game during the winning streak, Hurley has this team thinking about a deep run into the AAC Tournament and into the Big Dance.
UConn does boast a top-25 roster in terms of offensive rebounding rate that is matched up against a Tulane defense that gets gashed in that regard, ranking 311th in the country in keeping its opponent off the offensive glass. After two straight failed covers against the pesky Wave, UConn should have some motivation to get off to a good start, but the spread may be a bit too high for me to make it an official play. It’s a lean to the Huskies, but this Green Wave team tends to hang around.
No. 7 SMU vs. No. 10 Temple
- Odds: SMU -3
- Over/Under: 134.5
- Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPNU
Both teams come into the first game of the night set on losing streaks. Southern Methodist (19-11) has dropped three straight while Temple (14-17) has lost its last five. In the first meeting between the two, SMU handled the Owls, winning by 16 on its home floor while its second tilt saw Temple rally from down 17 at halftime to win it in overtime.
Temple shot the lights out in that game, 59%, which is much above its level of play. Temple ranks 217th in the country in offensive efficiency this season, according to KenPom, so that hot shooting night is a bit of an aberration. Expect a much weaker offensive output from Temple this game, especially with SMU playing a half hour away from its hometown of Dallas.
The Mustangs were the best offense in AAC play and will show out after a comfy night sleep near home.
Pick SMU -3
No. 6 Memphis vs. No. 11 East Carolina
- Odds: Memphis -11
- Over/Under: 138.5
- Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPNU
The Round 1 finale pits Memphis (20-11) against Eastern Carolina (11-20). The Tigers are firmly on the bubble and can’t afford a slip up here in Fort Worth.
Memphis built a double-digit lead on ECU in the only game between the two teams, but only won by four at home, falling way short of the 13.5-point spread. Penny Hardaway’s Tigers inability to make free throws (270 in the nation) or make 3-pointer’s (a shade under the nation’s average), leaves them open to a blown cover.
While Memphis does rebound well — top-100 in grabbing available rebounds — East Carolina matches the Tigers’ brute strength with a lot of length. East Carolina has six guys in the rotation that are 6’5” or taller, that could give the smaller Memphis backcourt some issues.
The Tigers do need the win to avoid bursting their bubble, but this spread could be too high, as ECU has the potential to keep things interesting and stay within the number.
Pick: East Carolina +11