Over at the American Athletic Conference, only two teams are virtually in true contention for the conference title this week: the No. 12 SMU Mustangs and the No. 15 Cincinnati Bearcats. As such, even most of the pundits from the web are only siding either with the Bearcats or the Mustangs.
But who has, if any, an edge over the other? Let’s find out below with our rundown of expert predictions for the AAC tournament ahead.
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Despite having an identical 27-4 overall record with SMU this regular season, Cincinnati still got the majority vote from CBS Sports’ six-man panel. Even the oddsmakers were as torn at pricing the two schools, with Cincy having the slight upper hand at +115 and with Southern Methodist not far behind (+135).
The goods folks from CBS appear to favor experience over momentum, as the Bearcats’ six-consecutive appearances in the Big Dance under Mick Cronin trumps that of the Mustangs’ current revival under new head coach Tim Jankovich. Another takeaway is that Cincinnati currently holds the second-longest home winning streak in Division I basketball. The team’s 8-4 road record this season isn’t too shabby either.
Jon Lowe over at SportsBlog.com went into greater detail as for why he also went with Cincinnati to come out on top of the AAC tournament. He emphasized how strength of schedule (SOS) affected his prediction, and it’s the Bearcats’ wins over relatively-competitive non-conference teams in Xavier and Iowa State which tipped the scales in their favor. On the other hand, Lowe also went on to say that the Mustangs have not defeated a team that’s a sure lock into the NCAA Tournament this regular season.
We here at TopBet beg to differ, as SMU‘s sizzling 13-game winning streak to close out the season – six of those victories by 20 points or more – is too hard to ignore. And in spite of the strength of schedule debate, it was still the Mustangs who ended up with one more win in conference play than Cincinnati.
And if you’re still not entirely convinced with the arguments made here for and against the Bearcats and the Mustangs, feel free to check out our complete preview for the AAC tournament here to read up on the conference’s other notable teams that could give these two programs a run for their money.
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