Roundtable: How far will basketball go in AAC tournament?
For the third straight year, the men’s basketball team starts their American Athletic Conference Tournament run in the quarterfinals having finished in the top three of the standings.
The two previous times they were beaten in the first game, but this time they have some momentum riding behind them. The No. 21 Cougars will be going up against either the UCF Knights or the East Carolina Pirates in their first game.
Here’s our predictions on how far basketball team will go in the conference tournament. Will they be knocked out in the first game yet again, or will they make it all the way to the championship?
Assistant sports editor Andres Chio
The Houston Cougars have had their best season yet. There is some reason to worry, as the Cougars have lost their first game in the tournament the last two years, but all signs point to this team being different.
The Cougars went undefeated at home and have their best road record since 1992. The Cougars last made it to the NCAA tournament in 2010.
The games will be played in Orlando, far from the loud fans of Cincinnati and Wichita State, but in the home city of UCF, which has an 11-4 record at home this season, the Cougars could get upset.
Houston’s offense should power them past the low scoring UCF, but Wichita State’s equal offense and superior defense will prevent them from moving past the semifinals.
Senior staff writer Trenton Whiting
The men’s basketball team is no joke. They have proven in several games they can compete with the nation’s top teams.
They have beaten two teams ranked in the NCAA Top 10, gone undefeated at home and have given themselves a real chance at a possible AAC Championship. They have proven that they can do just about anything except win consistently on the road.
The Cougars have the ability to win on the road, as they have built up a 7-5 away record, but they have withstood some bad losses getting to that record. The losses against Memphis and Tulane were unexpected and hurt the Cougars’ résumé. UH was able to bounce back from these losses, but in a tournament setting, the Cougars cannot afford an unexpected defeat. They should be able to avoid it as long as they provide quality defense.
After earning a first-round bye in the tournament, UH will play against the winner of the UCF and ECU game. The Cougars are the favorites in either matchup to prevent the upset. Should the Cougars win, they would likely go on to see Wichita State in the semifinal round. UH and Wichita State split the season series with double-digit margins of victory in each game.
The semifinal game would likely be closer than the previous matchups. This time, however, the Cougars won’t be able to keep up with the Shocker’s deep threat. Wichita State will move on to the finals while UH heads home to prepare for the NCAA Tournament.
Staff writer Christopher McGehee
Go ahead and book your tickets to the conference final’s game, Cougar fans. The men’s basketball team will enjoy seeing you there when they arrive for Sunday’s game.
The East Carolina Pirates and the Central Florida Knights will square off for the right to face the Cougars in the quarterfinals. Earlier this season, the Cougars outlasted the Knights 69-64 on Central Florida’s home court. The Cougars also beat the Pirates on two separate occasions this season, with an average margin of victory of 33.5 points.
Once the Cougars dispatch their quarterfinals opponent, they will likely have a third matchup with Wichita State waiting on them. The Cougars split the season series with the Shockers, with each team winning on their home court. In the second showdown of the season, the Cougars held the Shockers to their lowest point total of the season. While they may not be able to replicate that feat, the Cougars have discovered the formula to beating the No. 11 team in the AP poll.
Coming off a win against the Shockers, if chalk holds, the Cougars would meet the Cincinnati Bearcats in the conference finals. The Bearcats have only lost four games throughout the season, and one of those happens to be against the Cougars. It will be a game fought tooth-and-nail, but the Cougars will have given themselves a chance to win the game against the nation’s No. 8 team. What they do with that chance is up to them.