UConn vs Cincinnati, Memphis vs Louisville highlight AAC hoops battles

AAC supremacy: UConn vs Cincinnati (ESPN), Memphis vs Louisville (CBS) highlight huge college hoops day for AAC contenders March 1.

#11 Cincinnati at Connecticut

Saturday, March 1, 12pm ET on ESPN

Cincinnati (24-4, 13-2 AAC)

UConn (22-6, 10-5 AAC)

UConn vs. Cincinnati

3 things to watch for:

Cincinnati Defense The Bearcats’ team defensive scoring average ranks 4th in the county at only 57.4 points given up per game, all thanks to the excellent senior leadership from Justin Jackson. From a statistical perspective, he’s upped his blocks and steals to the point where he averages just under 5 turnovers forced a game, even though he’s an undersized center at 6’8”. The eye test is very solid as well; when the on-ball defense by the guards occasionally breaks down, he can pick up the offensive player and force them to fade on their post shots, unless he swats the ball out of bounds. Look for him to create havoc guarding any Connecticut player who slips in the lane.

Sean Kilpatrick’s shooting At times he looks like the AAC player of the year and others he looks like he needs to be on the bench. That will happen when by far your best offensive threat shoots on average almost 15 times a game; occasionally he’s due. Many times it’s because he likes to shoot just inside the arc and settle for deep 2 point baskets which usually clank out. However, when he looks like the best guard in America, it’s because he’s attacking the basket with his bevy of moves and 6’4” frame and either scoring or getting to the free throw line where he shoots just over 85%. If he puts in the extra effort to get in the lane, it could be a long night for the Huskies’ interior defense.

Shabazz Napier being awesome I feel like it’s impossible to guard him at times unless you have a defender that is taller and can keep up (hint: watch for Kilpatrick to defend him). While his shooting hasn’t been too stellar over the last 3 games (only 35%), he’s played at least 37 minutes his last three games (tired legs lead to weak shots) but also shooting 100% over that same amount on free throws to make up for it. His ability to beat players off the dribble is unmatched in college basketball and he’ll be the key to whether or not the Huskies score more than 60 points over Cincinnati’s tough defense.

What others are saying about each team

Dave Clark of “Cincinnati.comfeatures highlights from Sean Kilpatrick’s best game and commentary on the John Wooden Award Candidate’s season.

Ryan Tolmich of “Bleacherreport.com” goes into detail on the special season that Shabazz Napier is having.

Matt Lombardi of “Collegespun.com” releases info and gives commentary on the “Justin Jackson Mean Face Shirt” giveaway.

Don Amore of “The Hartford Courant” explains just what UCONN basketball actually is.

 

#7 Louisville @ #21 Memphis

Saturday, March 1, 2pm ET on CBS

Louisville (23-4, 12-2 AAC)

Memphis (21-7, 10-5 AAC)

Memphis vs Louisville

3 things to watch for:

Austin Nichols continued success Coming off his best game for Memphis in their overtime win over Temple, Austin Nichols is showing glimpses that he could be the next Cody Zeller. He looks really comfortable with the ball in the high post as he can set up shooters or hit 12 footers, and in the low post he makes quick decisions and doesn’t give up ground when going up for shots. Look for him to try to create man advantage situations on the fast break with his speed.

Michael Dixon Jr.’s explosiveness off the bench The transfer from Missouri has been the real key to Memphis having another 20 win season. As a player who would start on most teams, Dixon still plays the 3rd most minutes on Memphis because of his efficient shot and excellent on ball defense. With overall (on-ball and help) defense as an issue for the Tigers, look for him to come in during Louisville runs throughout the game.

Russdiculous It’d be impossible to have a list of “3 things to watch for” on a Louisville matchup without Russ Smith being a major factor. Even though he struggled in his last matchup against Cincinnati with his jump shot, he still set up the hot man, Montrezl Harrell for a lot of shots and hit the go ahead basket with 2 seconds left to avenge the loss in their previous bout. Look for him to work a lot of screen and rolls with Harrell if it’s close at the end of the game.

What others are saying about each team

Eric Crawford of “Wdrb.com” explains that while Louisville has been winning games, the free throw shooting may hinder them come tournament time.

Jason Love of “Rantsports.com” believes that Memphis is moving closer to the bubble than people think

Don Wade of “Memphisdailynews.com” shows that Austin Nichols needs to stay aggressive in order to keep playing effective, even though he’s still a freshman.

Charlie Springer of “Uofacardgame.com” points out that right now, it’s fun to be a player on Louisville.

 

Photos:

Shabazz Napier: Credit: Bill Shettle/Icon SMI CFZ/Newscom

Russ Smith: Credit: Jim Owens/Icon SMI 383/Newscom

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