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Friday, March 23, 2018

Men's Basketball

Players to look out for in AAC Tournament

AAC Player of the Year senior forward Gary Clark is the Bearcats’ second best blocker with 1.3 per game. | Thomas Dwyer /The Cougar

March Madness has officially begun, and teams are battling for their conference titles around the country.

But basketball season is long and arduous to keep up with, even for the most die hard fan. Because of that, teams go unnoticed and great players get overlooked until the moment they are in front of you.

Here are some key players to watch as they head into the conference tournament.

Cincinnati’s Gary Clark & Kyle Washington

Senior forward Gary Clark won both American Athletic Conference Player of the Year and AAC Defensive Player of the Year this season for his stellar play, leading the conference with 8.2 rebounds and 12.7 points per game.

Clark led the Bearcats to their second AAC regular season championship and is trying to lead them to their first AAC tournament championship, something that has evaded them the past four seasons.

Senior forward Kyle Washington is the second half of Cincinnati’s powerful duo.

With 5.4 rebounds per game of his own, Washington adds to Clark’s strengths. Together, they make Cincinnati one of the best rebounding teams in the nation.

You are likely to see Washington’s signature stare down after he denies teams with a block, as he is No. 2 in the conference with 43 blocked shots this season.

Wichita State’s Shaquille Morris & Landry Shamet

Washington is No. 2 in blocked shots this season because of senior center Shaquille Morris, who has blocked 49.

Not only can 6-foot-8-inch Morris block shots, but he can score, averaging 14.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.

Sophomore guard Landry Shamet complements Morris as the Shocker’s leading scorer. Shamet is the Shocker’s battery, playing the most minutes of any player while remaining consistent and productive.

Shamet averages 14.6 points per game as well as 5.2 assists — leading the AAC — and 3.2 rebounds per game.

Tulsa’s Junior Etou

Tulsa started the conference season with a 4-5 record, but due to the stellar play of senior forward Junior Etou, they have been able to turn it around.

The Golden Hurricanes went 8-1 during the second half of the conference season in large part due to Etou.

Etou is the fifth leading scorer and third best rebounder in the AAC, the only player in the conference to be in the top five for both.

The 6-foot-8-inch Congo native is the pillar the rest of the team plays around, and he averages over 30 minutes played per game.

For Tulsa to take down the giants of Cincinnati in their half of the bracket, they need Etou to have one of his best games.

UCF’s A.J. Davis

Senior forward A.J. Davis may not have the best stats compared to many players, but his play in the latter half of the season has been nothing short of lifesaving for the Knights.

Since losing 7-foot-6-inch junior center Tacko Fall in January to a shoulder injury, Davis has stepped up for the Knights, averaging 15.7 points per game while being the second best rebounder in the conference.

Davis showed that he can be clutch when he nailed a three-pointer to send the Knights into overtime against Wichita State a little over a week ago.

With Davis shooting well, UCF will be able to defend themselves against any other team.

All players will have a chance to shine in the AAC tournament, and only time will tell who is the champion.

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