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American Athletic Conference Tournament Preview, Bracket & Outright Bet: Memphis Is Better Than Its Record Shows

American Athletic Conference Tournament Preview, Bracket & Outright Bet: Memphis Is Better Than Its Record Shows article feature image

Joe Murphy/Getty Images. Pictured: Memphis Tigers

The American Athletic Conference tournament begins Thursday, March 11 at 12 p.m. ET, between the Temple Owls and South Florida Bulls.

Then, the Tulane Green Wave versus the Tulsa Golden Hurricane.

Shortly following the outcome of that game, there will be a third battle between the East Carolina Pirates and the University of Central Florida Knights.

It’s going to be a jam-packed day for AAC hoops fans.

One of the biggest surprises for any conference tournament this year is Houston holding the No. 2 seed while being ranked No. 9 in the country.

Despite playing fewer games, the Wichita State Shockers secured the No. 1 seed due to its winning percentage.

Houston is still the overwhelming favorite at -182 at DraftKings. This feels high, but the Cougars have been playing like one of the best teams in the country all year.

Regardless, I like putting my money on a more desperate and undervalued team in the AAC conference tournament this year, and that is not Houston.

AAC Tournament Odds

Odds via DraftKings.

Team Odds Probability
Houston -182 50.47%
Wichita State 275 20.85%
Memphis 525 12.51%
SMU 800 8.69%
Cincinnati 2500 3.01%
Tulsa 6000 1.28%
UCF 6000 1.28%
South Florida 10000 0.77%
Temple 10000 0.77%
East Carolina 40000 0.20%
Tulane 50000 0.16%

AAC Tournament Bracket

The stage is set for the 2021 Men's Basketball Championship!

— American MBB (@American_MBB) March 7, 2021

The Favorite: Houston Cougars | (21-3, 14-3 AAC)

These Cougars are the clear favorite. I certainly don’t mind taking them at -200, but if you’re looking for a better bang for your buck, this is probably not your choice.

Quentin Grimes has been phenomenal this year leading the way.

Since that road loss to Wichita State on Feb. 18, Grimes has been putting up Wooden award-like numbers, averaging 23.0 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.

It is a small sample size, but he has really hit his groove, and it’s perfect timing.

The Cougars stand at ninth in offensive adjusted efficiency and eighth in defensive adjusted efficiency, per KenPom, which demonstrates a well-balanced unit.

Houston is also ninth in team rebounding rate, and fifth in total rebounds per game. And as if all of that isn’t enough, they rank 22nd in turnovers per game.

The Cougars do foul a lot, at 296th in the country. This deficiency can stifle their defensive impact because they are giving up 22 free throw attempts per game. That number ranks 313th in the nation for that category.

It’s something to keep an eye on.

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The Long Shot: Memphis Tigers | (15-7, 11-4 AAC)

Memphis is on the hot seat: the Tigers need a great showing to make the NCAA Tournament.

A crushing last-second heave from half-court sunk their chances of getting a Quad 1 win against Houston, which would have most likely made them a lock for the tournament.

Instead, the Tigers find themselves on the outside looking in. With that being said, this is still a very tough and capable squad.

Memphis is 9-4 since Dec. 29. It’s nothing special unless you pay attention and see the Tigers have lost four games by a total of seven points. That’s the marginal difference between the Tigers being 9-4 versus 13-0, and a lock for the tournament.

Memphis has won six of its past seven with its only loss coming to the Cougars on Sunday.  It antagonizes opposing offenses, as it ranks second in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.

The Tigers have five players averaging around 10 points per game. It is a great team attribute to have distributed scoring and, therefore, not have to worry about a star player having an off night.

Their leading scorer, 6-foot-7 guard Landers Nolley, is putting up 13.1 points per game. The rest of their core players are Boogie Ellis, D.J. Jeffries, Moussa Cisse, Deandre Williams, and Lester Quinones.

And while they can struggle a bit offensively at times, if you take a look at their past 10 games, you’ll see that things are on the upswing, as they are shooting 39.2% from behind the arc and 46.7% from the field.

If those numbers were sustained over the whole year, the Tigers would be at 47th in the nation in field goal percentage, and seventh in 3-point shooting percentage.

This is not a team to be taken lightly, and you’re getting 5-1 on them.

Betting Analysis & Pick

These Memphis Tigers are something special.

I really think +525 odds is great value for a team that has played very well recently. They have won six of their past seven games and almost took down Houston on the road if it wasn’t for a miraculous buzzer-beater from half-court.

The Tigers also took care of the Wichita State Shockers earlier by 20 points.

A well-coached team in March that has extreme discipline and momentum can go far. That’s what I’m expecting for this squad.

Pick: Memphis Tigers +525

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