College Basketball State of the AAC Betting Report: Value on 3 Teams in Middle of Pack?
Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Darius Perry (UCF)
We’ve finally hit conference play across the country, and the American Conference has found itself atop the headlines consistently throughout the holidays.
In my first State of the Conference, I discussed how the AAC is a two horse race between Memphis and Houston. But those two programs have had their fair share of issues over the last few weeks.
Houston is adjusting to life without its star in Marcus Sasser. Sasser was averaging 18 points per game before seeing his season end due to a toe injury. It will be interesting to monitor how that affects the Cougars throughout the grind of AAC play.
Memphis hasn’t played with its full lineup in nearly six weeks, but it seems to be on the backend of some COVID-19 issues. The Tigers seem to be on the incline in what has been a rollercoaster of a season thus far. However, they continue to struggle with fundamentals such as free throws and turnovers.
With those two programs dealing with constant health issues, that may open some value on teams that sit in the middle of the pack.
Odds via DraftKings
Johnny Dawkins returned all five starters and 97% of his overall minutes from last season. That experience has proven to be effective as the Knights are 9-4 on the season.
The Knights are led by a dynamic duo in Darius Perry and Darin Green Jr. The two have been lights out from 3-point range, hitting 42% on their combined 144 attempts. They’ve combined for 26 points and 6.5 assists per game this season.
Dawkins also brought in 6-foot-10 transfer Cheikh Mbacke Diong, who has put up 1.8 blocks per game this season to help solidify the interior.
UCF has seen its schedule remain relatively unscathed, having only one game postponed to date.
The Knights own the third-best efficiency ranking in the conference. They are coming off of a dominant victory over Memphis, and the price of +400 may not be available for too much longer.
After starting out the season 3-3 against sub-par competition, the Mustangs look to have hit their stride, winning eight games in a row. The group owns a top-40 efficiency and a scoring offense that has averaged 77 points per game.
SMU parted ways in the offseason with five of its top seven scorers from last season, but it returned its captain in Kendric Davis. Davis is one of the top players in the conference, as he averages 21 points, five rebounds and five assists per game.
The top five scorers for the Mustangs are all hitting above 34% of their 3-point attempts, and SMU is drilling 37% of 3s as a team.
They also own a strong defense that ranks 31st in the nation in defending 2-point attempts, and holds opponents to just 31% on attempts from outside the arc.
One of the main concerns for the Mustangs is they rank 179th in strength of schedule and have their toughest opponents ahead of them. However, it’s too soon to count out the Mustangs, who own the top point guard in the conference and have a slew of snipers surrounding him.
Temple was projected to finish in the middle of the pack by most this season, and that very well may be the reality for the Owls.
The group is 10-6 on the season, but five of those losses have come to opponents that rank inside the top 50. Temple hung tough, losing by five to both USC and Houston. They split the season series against UCF and just beat East Carolina and Tulsa to win three conference games in a row.
But the program lost 6-foot-5 junior guard Khalif Battle to a foot injury, which will have him out for the remainder of the season. Battle was averaging over 20 points and hitting 49% of his 3-point attempts before his injury.
Since he has gone down, Damian Dunn has stepped up by averaging 19 points per game, including back-to-back game winners.
Game-winner vs. UCF ✅
Game-winner vs. East Carolina ✅
DAMIAN DUNN IS LIKE THAT‼️ @Dam1anKD
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) January 8, 2022
The team has fared well without Battle, but that run should come to an end soon with the meat of the conference schedule approaching.
Temple is a team that I would look to fade for the remainder of the season, as it lacks the additional offensive weapons needed to stay competitive with the upper echelon of the AAC.