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American Conference Tournament Odds, Picks, and Predictions

Chris Amberley

by Chris Amberley in College Basketball

Updated Mar 10, 2021 · 1:51 PM PST

2021 American Conference Tournament bracket
The 2021 AAC Conference Tournament bracket.
  • The American Conference Tournament will take place in Fort Worth, Texas, from Thursday, March 11th, to Sunday, March 14th
  • #9 Houston is a heavy favorite despite finishing second in the conference behind Wichita State
  • See the seeds, bracket, and full tournament preview, below

The college basketball regular season is officially over, which means conference tournament week is finally here. Get ready for upsets, tears and improbable finishes, an appetizer for the madness that is about to ensue starting next week.

The American Conference Tournament tips off on Thursday (March 11th) and runs until Sunday (March 14th), with all of the games being played exclusively at Dickie’s Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.

The field is headlined by #9 Houston, but its Wichita State, not the Cougars, who is the top seed. Despite finishing behind the Shockers in the conference standings, there’s no mistaking who oddsmakers expect to raise the trophy at the end of the week.

2021 American Conference Tournament Odds

Team (Seed) Odds
Houston Cougars (2) -165
Wichita State Shockers (1) +300
Memphis Tigers (3) +420
SMU Mustangs (4) +650
Central Florida Knights (6) +5500
Cincinnati Bearcats (5) +5500
South Florida Bulls (8) +5500
Tulsa Golden Hurricane (7) +7000
Temple Owls (9) +12000
Tulane Green Wave (10) +12000
East Carolina Pirates (11) +12000

Odds taken March 7th at FanDuel.

Houston is the only team in the AAC that is a lock for the NCAA Tournament, although Wichita State is currently projected in, while Memphis is teetering on the bubble.

Cincinnati won the previous two conference tournaments that were contested (2018, 2019), but aren’t expected to pose a serious threat to any of the top-three contenders this week.

Houston A Worthy Favorite

The Cougars (20-3, 13-3 AAC) are far and away the most talented team in the AAC, ranking first in scoring offense and defense, while earning a Net Rating twice as high as any other program in the conference. They have a strong out of conference resume, with wins over Boise State and #18 Texas Tech, and closed out the regular season on a four-game winning streak.

Quentin Grimes, the AAC’s second leading scorer (17.9 ppg), paces the conference’s third best shooting team, while Justin Gorham leads the AAC in rebounding (9.3 rpg). Houston ranks first in total rebounding and opponent field-goal percentage, while checking in at number two in steals and third in blocks.

They project as 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament next week, but do you really want to lay -165 on a team that already has their March Madness spot locked up? If there’s one concern about the Cougars, it’s that they have a history of taking nights off. Two of their three AAC losses were to Tulsa and East Carolina, the seventh and last place team in the conference.

With questions surrounding their motivation this week, I’d rather take a shot on a program further down the board, but not necessarily Wichita State.

Fade the Shockers

The case for Wichita State (15-4, 11-2 AAC)ย  is simple. They can score with any team in the country, and were the AAC’s hottest team down the stretch. The Shockers ended the regular season on a seven-game winning streak, which included a huge 5-point win over Houston.

The problem is, it’s easy to poke holes in Wichita State’s game. Three programs (Houston, Memphis and SMU) have a higher Net Rating, and the Shockers are the fourth highest rated AAC team by KenPom’s efficiency metrics. They lost their two biggest out of conference games (vs Missouri and Oklahoma State) and while the seven-game winning streak is nice, the level of competition wasn’t exactly top notch outside of the Cougars.

None of the other six wins were against top-five AAC teams, and the best victory was over a below .500 UCF squad. They lack size in the front court, are a middling defensive team (113th in adjusted defensive efficiency) and outside of leading scorer Tyson Etienne, no other player on the roster averages more than 10.1 points per outing.

Tigers Take AAC Crown

Which brings us to our sleeper. Memphis (15-7, 11-4 AAC) ranks behind only Houston in the AAC in Net Rating, and grades out 32 spots higher than the Shockers at KenPom. They beat Wichita State in their only meeting this season, and lost at the buzzer to the Cougars in the season finale.

That loss likely ended any hope for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid, as the Tigers are now in the next four out conversation. The only way they’ll make it to Indianapolis is by winning the AAC Tournament, and there’s reason to believe they can do just that.

They’re extremely balanced on offense, with five players averaging at least 9 points per night, and they rank third in the conference in scoring, second in total rebounding, and first in shooting percentage and assists. While the offensive numbers are impressive, they pale in comparison to the defensive stats.

Memphis is the second highest rated defense in the country by KenPom’s metrics, and they’re tops in the AAC in defensive rebounding, steals, blocks and at defending the 3. They held Houston to 36.7% from the field, and 28.6% from beyond the arc last time out, and if not for a miracle bucket, might have become the only team in the conference to beat each of the top-two seeds.

With +420 odds, and a March Madness spot on the line, the Tigers represent the best value to bring home the trophy on Sunday.

Pick: Memphis Tigers (+420)

 

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