AAC Preview and Free Pick
Southern Methodist and Cincinnati square off in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament Friday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. ET at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. AAC Preview and Free Pick: Mustangs +7 vs Bearcats.
There isn’t a huge disparity in the ability of these two squads to execute. While it has taken SMU most of the season to come together as a group, know the difference between wits and dimwittedness and utilizing the talent of their bigs, better late than never. Mick Cronin doesn’t get enough credit for what he has built in southern Ohio but this isn’t one of his more capable teams.
College hoop fanatics know just how good this SMU team can be when focused. The transformation of the first two rotations – from January to March – has been eye-opening. Sophomore forward Ethan Chargois has grown into a player that can score 20 points on any given night. In late February he was blanked by the Bearcats defense in 33 minutes of court time in what resulted in a 52-49 loss for the Mustangs. Junior point guard Jimmy Whitt Jr. is back and at the top of his game. This will be his third game back from a shoulder injury that derailed him for a pair of contests. He has, like the rest of his teammates, improved by leaps and bounds this season.
Whitt is 11-of-20 from the field in two outings since returning. Veteran backcourt’er Jarrey Foster is a triple-double threat every night. And freshman forward Feron Hunt is no longer a frosh. Hunt is averaging 12.3 points and seven boards over his last four games.
The 2018-19 Cincinnati troupe isn’t your father’s Bearcats. They enter tonight’s event off a pair of losses. Cronin’s crew lost at Central Florida and were outclassed by the league’s best Houston 85-69 at home this past Sunday.
Cincinnati isn’t a good shooting team and are far too dependent on the sole variable of being defensively great. Not good, but great, to earn victories. The ‘Cats defeated SMU twice during the regular season. However, did so early in the league campaign and the two wins were by a combined eight points.
Offensively Cincinnati is a result of junior guard Jarron Cumberland. Without his 18.4 points per game the squad is pedestrian and without the right to even consider competing with the likes of any team in the league. Cincy has only two players that average double-figures scoring. Cumberland and sophomore guard Keith Williams (10.6).
SMU has been the most impressive group in the second half of the conference schedule. The fact that they played the best of the conference in the latter portion of the conference schedule has made them whole. As a result they have not produced a large number of outright wins but are on equal footing today in Memphis.
The free pick is a play on the Mustangs plus the points.