Revised All-Conference selections:
Best call(s): If anything is proof of me ultimately being unbiased when writing, it’s correctly predicting Frank Haith, that slimy devil, into third place. Tulsa’s absurdly experienced team has them right on the NCAA bubble (much like the rest of the conference), and their performance in this tournament will likely decide their fate. I also thought Houston had the chops to sneak up the conference ladder, and they managed to steal the 2-seed (thanks to SMU being ineligible) and are similarly hanging around the bubble. A run to the finals of the AAC Tourney would probably get them in.
Worst call(s): Who saw Temple coming? They had a claim to a tournament bid last year (that was given to the Alford Family Band for some reason) and lost two very good seniors in Will Cummings and Jesse Morgan, yet somehow came back even better this year. It’s just further evidence that Fran Dunphy might be a wizard. I was also too high on Memphis (lol) – Josh Pastner is like the opposite of Fran Dunphy. I would be flabbergasted if he makes it through the offseason.
It’s still disappointing to look at this bracket and not see SMU, clearly one of the best 25-30 teams in the country, in the AAC field. In 10 years of projecting the field, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a league like this – 5 teams sit on the bubble, the only team that would be “safe” is ineligible, and so it’s basically a play-in tournament for those involved. A loss to a non-bubble team will likely ruin any of the 5’s chances, while whichever teams find themselves in the championship may have clinched a bid just through their semifinal wins.
Who I want to win: I think this is more about who I DON’T want to win – I want to see Frank and the Golden Hurricanes crash out against Memphis right away, and I don’t really want to see Houston and their #300-ish NCSOS making the decision more difficult for me on Selection Sunday. So really, any of the Cincy/UConn/Temple triumvirate on the top half of the bracket would be fine with me.
Who I think will win: Man, I have no effing idea. See “How I Think It Will Play Out” below for my vaguely-educated guesses!
Chance to make a run in the NCAA Tournament: I honestly only think UConn and Cincinnati have a chance to do any sort of damage in the NCAA field – they both are capable of playing stifling defense, and it’s a matter of finding enough baskets for that defense to save them. UConn, in particular, has a lot of talent that I’m high on – Hamilton, Adams, Miller, and Gibbs are very good, and Purvis can have his days as well (along with Brimah’s finishing and elite rim protection). There are no Final Four contenders here, though.
How I Think It Plays Out:
(8) East Carolina defeats (9) USF
(7) UCF defeats (10) Tulane
(1) Temple defeats (8) East Carolina
(5) UConn defeats (4) Cincinnati – spoiler: I think whoever wins this game wins the tourney
(2) Houston defeats (7) UCF
(3) Tulsa defeats (6) Memphis – bye, bye Josh the Kid!
(5) UConn defeats (1) Temple
(2) Houston defeats (3) Tulsa
(5) UConn defeats (2) Houston
A win over Memphis isn’t enough to push Tulsa in, and wins over UCF and Tulsa don’t quite do it for Houston, either. Cincinnati sneaks in as a First Four team, UConn vaults to an 8-seed with the tourney title, but Temple, despite the outright regular season title, once again becomes a polarizing exclusion due to their weak per-possession numbers (87th in Pomeroy) and non-conference whiffs (lost to UNC, Butler, Utah, Wisconsin, St. Joe’s, and Villanova, best win was by 5 over Big Ten disaster Minnesota on a neutral floor). UConn wins one tournament game, Cincinnati wins in Dayton but loses to a 6 seed in The Real First Round, and I whine a little more about SMU’s postseason ban.