The American Athletic Conference continues its season-ending playoff on Thursday with several games that feature NCAA Tournament-bound teams. An AAC champion will be crowned on Saturday evening in Memphis.
No. 6 seed Houston takes on upstart powerhouse No. 3 SMU to start things off at 1 p.m. ET on Thursday. The Mustangs are on a two-game slide -- albeit against two ranked conference opponents -- and want to right the ship before they enter the NCAA Tournament. They've beaten Houston twice this season, both times by just single digits. In each game, the Cougars have let SMU outwork them on the glass and in getting to the free throw line. Houston's hopes could rest on leading scorer and rebounder TaShawn Thomas having a breakout game.
Two teams planning on a tournament bid will try and make the other lose face as No. 5 seed Memphis plays No. 4 UConn in the final game of the evening. Both times the Tigers have met Connecticut this season they have lost, most recently in a heartbreaker in OT, 86-81, back on Feb. 15. Memphis does just about everything well, but in their eight losses they have allowed an average of 85 points per game. UConn will try to take advantage with star senior Shabazz Napier, who had 34 points the last time these two teams met. This might be one of the most fun games you'll see on Thursday.
Rutgers polished off South Florida in a tight one Wednesday, winning 72-68 behind 18 points from Kadeem Jack. The senior center was 5-7 from the filed and 8-11 from the free-throw line in an efficient offensive performance. The Scarlet Knights advance to play No. 2 seed Louisville, who won a share of the regular season conference title. Rutgers was competitive when it hosted the Cardinals in New Jersey, but lost a 102-54 laugher in Louisville to give Rick Pitino the season sweep.
Central Florida went to double-overtime with Temple, outlasting the Owls 93-90 in the first round. It appeared Isaiah Sykes had won the game with a buzzer-beater in regulation, but the shot was waved off as being just a hair late. Regardless, Sykes finished with 36 points in the game. The Knights advance to play top-seeded Cincinnati, who won the coin flip against co-regular season champion Louisville to become the No. 1 seed. Both games between UCF and Cincy were decided by 18 or more points, both in the Bearcats favor.
Thursday's full schedule of games:
No 6. Houston vs. No. 3 SMU, 1 p.m. ET on ESPNU
No. 7 Rutgers vs. No. 2 Louisville, 3 p.m. ET on ESPNU
No. 9 UCF vs. No. 1 Cincinnati, 7 p.m. ET on ESPNU
No. 5 Memphis vs. No. 4 UConn, 9 p.m. ET on ESPNU
Here's a link to the entire American bracket.