Top 25 foes meet in quarterfinals of AAC Tournament
Memphis, TN (SportsNetwork.com) - The quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference will wrap up with a marquee matchup between the fourth-seeded Connecticut Huskies and the fifth-seeded Memphis Tigers at FedExForum.
After years of dominating Conference USA, Memphis helped to form the AAC and enjoyed a strong start to its inaugural run in the league. The Tigers enter the postseason at 23-8, which includes a 12-6 mark in conference play, which has all but assured them a spot in the NCAA Tournament, should they fail to win this tourney. Winning league tournaments has became the norm for the Tigers, however, as they claimed the C-USA title in each of the last three seasons, and seven of last eight overall.
UConn was competing in the Big East a year ago, but a change of league did not do much to stop the always-competitive Huskies. They finished at 24-7 overall, also going a 12-6 against the rest of the AAC. In their final year in the Big East, the Huskies were ineligible to compete in the conference tournament. However, they are only three years removed from their last league crown, having won five games in as many days in 2011 to claim the Big East championship, en route to its NCAA title run.
The Huskies won both meetings between these teams in the regular season, including an 83-73 victory on Jan. 16 at FedExForum. Memphis won the only other meeting prior, taking an 81-70 decision in 2007.
Memphis hosted former C-USA rival SMU in the regular-season finale and pulled out a 67-58 victory. Joe Jackson scored 18 points and Austin Nichols nearly had a double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds. The Tigers overcame 18 turnovers and a 9-of-20 showing from the free-throw line by limiting the Mustangs to 40 percent shooting overall.
The Tigers have been one of the most impressive offensive squads in the country, let alone the AAC, this season. They are among the top-20 teams in the nation in both assists (17.7 apg) and field goal percentage (.485), while netting 78.4 ppg, which ranks them second in the conference. Jackson (14.4 ppg, 4.6 apg) runs the show from the point, finding ways to score from all over the court, while finding time to lead the way in assists as well. Shaq Goodwin (11.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.8 bpg) anchors the team in the paint, and Michael Dixon Jr,. (12.2 ppg) provides a spark off the bench.
UConn will certainly hope to move past its regular-season finale debacle, as it was routed in an 81-48 final by Louisville. The Huskies only connected on 29.4 percent from the floor, while being outscored 34-10 off of turnovers, and 15-0 out on the break.
Losing control of the ball so often was a real surprise for the Huskies, considering how strong their backcourt is. Shabazz Napier (17.8 ppg, 6 rpg, 5.2 apg) is the primary scorer and ball-handler for the team, as he leads the way in scoring, rebounding and assists. He was rewarded for his efforts this season with a selection to the All-AAC First Team. Ryan Boatright (12 ppg, 3.5 apg) serves as an effective complement to Napier on the wings, while Niels Giffey (8 ppg) sinks 50 percent of his 3-point attempts. DeAndre Daniels (12.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg) is the primary threat on the interior.