AAC Tournament Preview: Seeds 9-12

We at The BarnBurner want you to be as in-the-know as possible about the AAC tournament, which is being played in our backyard in Memphis, TN. To do this, we reached out to a variety of sports writers to give you a personalized view of the competition. In this installment, we will cover tournament seeds 9-12. To catch the rest of the conference, click HERE.


(9) UConn – Daily Campus Sports

Quick scouting report:

The Huskies are in the first year of the Hurley era and he has successfully changed the culture. At this point UConn probably does not have the talent necessary to win a championship right now. However, with an improved Josh Carlton below the basket and a motivated senior Jalen Adams, maybe they can catch a little bit of fire in the AAC tournament.

(10) SMU – Matt Burnham, contributor to The BarnBurner

Which of the Top 4 seeds do you think is most likely to be upset early on?

I think UCF has the most potential to be knocked off early. I think they are the most streaky team and don’t have as much firepower as the Temple, Cincinnati, or Houston. I could be totally wrong and they’ll make me look foolish but they have vulnerability. They can struggle offensively but I will say that they do have the defense to compensate. 

What players do we need to watch for on your team?

Obviously Jahmal McMurray is the driving force of this team. The most talented Mustang on the roster. He can take over any game at any time so teams will have to limit him as much as possible and force the other guys to beat you. Ethan Chargois seems poised to have a big tournament as well. The sophomore forward is capable of picking up slack.

What are a few reasons that the team you cover will/won’t win it all?

The Mustangs will win because when they’re on their A game, they can score with anybody. They can win shootouts and it can look like shooting fish in a barrel when they launch shots from long range. They generally take care of the ball – the other team does not get extra possessions. Isiaha Mike can be an x-factor.

They will lose because they are streaky and have lost too many games against inter-conference foes. They seem to struggle late in games and don’t necessarily match up well with the other AAC team. It will be difficult for them to play well through the tournament without having a slip up. Other teams are more consistent.

Who do you think is a dark horse team that could emerge with the AAC tournament title?

I’m not going to say Memphis because that makes me a homer, but I honestly think South Florida is being slept on. They have some underrated players and I think Justin Brown can be the unsung hero for this team. I have this gut feeling about him for whatever reason. I like the energy the Bulls play with. Don’t sleep.

(11) ECU – Mark Lindsay, Publisher and sports writer for PirateIllustrated.com and Yahoo! Sports

Which of the Top 4 seeds do you think is most likely to be upset early on?

Having lost two of their last three games against two of the top teams in The American, Cincinnati could be the team among the top four that would seemingly be most likely to fall. They will play the winner of the Tulsa – SMU game. The Bearcats won a close five point game with SMU back on February 2 and a five point win over Tulsa back on January 2. Having said that, it would be a bit of a surprise of any of the top four seeds lose early in the AAC Tournament.

What players do we need to watch for on your team?

At the moment, Isaac Fleming is probably playing the best of anyone on the ECU team. The senior point guard is dangerous in transition and has been one of ECU’s most consistent players coming down the stretch run of the regular season. Shawn Williams at the other guard is beginning to heat up from outside as the regular season comes to a close. The former AAC Freshman of the Year is streaky and if he gets it going from three point range, he can hit shots in bunches.

What things need to go right for the school you cover to have a good tournament?

With 6-7 forward Seth LeDay going out with a torn ACL last week and 6-9 reserve forward Rico Quinton missing the UConn game on Sunday after suffering a knee injury in practice, that leaves the numbers thin in the paint for the Pirates. If ECU is to find success at this week’s AAC Tournament, they will have to score in bunches from outside the arc with Shawn Williams and K.J. Davis doing the bulk of the damage. Also, Jayden Gardner has cooled off offensively considerably late in the conference season but he is still usually good for a double-double of 10 to 15 points and ten boards or more. If Gardner can get off to a fast start in these games, he is capable of putting up big numbers. Defensively, the Pirates will have to find ways to force some bad shots, get out in transition and take teams deep into the shot clock on defense to make for a lower scoring contest. ECU takes on Wichita State in the 9 p.m. matchup on ESPNU this Thursday night. The Pirates played the Shockers to a five point second half last week but the fact they were down by twelve at halftime pretty much told the tale in a 72-55 win. Neither team shot the basketball particularly well with both teams under 40 percent from the floor, but 3 for 15 shooting from the arc will not get the job done for ECU. They must find ways to get squared up and hit a high percentage of three point jumpers to overcome their lack of size in the paint.

In a nutshell, what are some of the key themes of the regular season for the school you cover?

The one thing that stands out is ECU’s inability to win on the road this season. The only road game the Pirates have won was a 85-81 win in New Orleans over Tulane on February 23. ECU is either hot or cold shooting the basketball and you will likely know early which one it is.

What are a few reasons that the team you cover will/won’t win it all?

If Jayden Gardner can get back to getting to the charity stripe with more regularity like he did earlier in the season, that would give ECU a better opportunity to win. The more help he gets from the Pirate guards from outside the arc, the more that frees him up in the paint to go one on one and score points. If ECU fails to shoot well, all bets are off. Conversely, if the Pirates have success shooting the basketball and can stay out of foul difficulty on the defensive end of the floor, that gives them a better chance of being successful.

Who do you think is a dark horse team that could emerge with the AAC tournament title?

UCF has been increasingly dangerous as the year has gone on. They have good size in the paint, the ability to shoot the basketball and they are solid both in transition and on the defensive end of the floor. The Knights draw the winner of the Memphis – Tulane game and both are beatable by UCF. The Knights beat Memphis 79-72 on February 16 and beat Tulane by 25 in mid January. UCF is one of the hottest teams in the league and appear to be focused on winning an AAC Tournament title.

(12) Tulane – Richard Mead, contributor for The BarnBurner and co-host of The Backdoor Cut show

Which of the Top 4 seeds do you think is most likely to be upset early on?

If I was a betting man I’d have to put my money on UCF being upset early on. Houston has been a juggernaut all year. Kelvin Sampson has this team playing some damn good basketball. Cincy on the other hand, had a lackluster showing last week and was challenged by Mick Cronin for their spots on the roster. Like, he literally was down to have open tryouts this past weekend in order to have the team on the plane headed to Memphis that he felt would do best in representing the university. Temple has been a solid, yet inconsistent, team thus far this year. I can foresee Shizz Alston going on a scoring tear and leading Temple to some early round victories. For UCF: BJ Taylor, Aubrey Dawkins, and Tacko Fall form  a solid “big 3” (I know we throw that term around loosely now), I’m just not certain if I fully trust the surrounding pieces to step up, or for Fall to be offensively aggressive and consistent enough throughout the tournament to provide spacing for Taylor’s perimeter play.

What players do we need to watch for on your team?

Caleb Daniels- 16.8pts, 5.3reb, 3.3ast (44.4% shooting from the field)

Samir Sehic- 12.6pts, 7.7reb, (46.1% shooting from the field)

What things need to go right for the school you cover to have a good tournament?

Scoring. Tulane only has two players averaging over double figures in scoring. Caleb Daniels must receive support from players such as Jordan Cornish and Connor Crabtree in the scoring department. Look for Samer Sehic to impose his will in the paint and provide additional scoring opportunities for his team via offensive rebounding.

What are a few reasons that the team you cover will/won’t win it all?

Tulane: Do you believe in miracles? If Tulane were to win this tournament it would be a miracle. If they don’t win it could all boil down to just a lack of sheer talent. Caleb Daniels is a solid scorer but he can’t do it all alone.. or can he?? DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?!!!

Who do you think is a dark horse team that could emerge with the AAC tournament title?

Memphis! I mean come on mane, what else was I going to write. The tournament is taking place in the FedEx Forum, the Tigers home arena. Memphis has been a slightly streaky team this season, but at home they have often times looked like a completely locked in team. When Penny’s offensive pace is clicking the Tigers can score in bunches. They must, however, make stops on the defensive end if they want that to be an advantage. Players such as Kyvon Davenport and Isaiah Maurice must play huge for Memphis. When Kyvon is locked in (see: Tennessee game) he can be a beast and matchup nightmare for many. Tyler Harris must be consistent in knocking down outside shots and spacing the floor for Jeremiah Martin. Alex Lomax must control the tempo and provide his usual rugged defense. An added bonus would be for ALo to provide some semblance of offensive support so that defenses view him as a threat and don’t sag off of him which clogs the lane for Jeremiah. An x-factor is going to have to step up as well. Look for my man Antwann Jones to step up under the big lights.


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