Entering Saturday's action, both Louisville and Cincinnati were guaranteed at least a share of the first-ever American Athletic Conference regular-season title. After Louisville smashed Connecticut and Cincy squeaked by Rutgers on the road, the Cardinals and Bearcats were declared co-champions.
Though there are no tie-breaking procedures for the regular season and each team will raise a banner next season, the top seed in the AAC Tournament needed to be determined. Louisville and Cincinnati split their games this season, plowing through the first tie-breaker unscathed. SMU's loss to Memphis means that Louisville and Cincy have the same record against common opponents. Another tie-breaker bites the dust.
Finally, in true collegiate form, comes the third tie-breaker. A coin flip. After a grueling season of smash-mouth basketball, seeding is determined by which team is represented by a dead white guy's face and which is represented by an angry bird.
There isn't much consequence to the seeding, as Cincinnati plays the winner of UConn/Memphis if it reaches the semis and Louisville plays the winner of SMU/Houston. So, SMU. The American played as one of the tighter conferences in college basketball, with the top five teams all bunched together.
That's how we got to a coin flip. SB Nation's Andy Hutchins had a great stat about the parity in the AAC this season.
SMU is 2-0 against Connecticut, which is 2-0 against Memphis, which is 2-0 against Louisville, which is 2-0 against SMU.— Andy Hutchins (@AndyHutchins) March 6, 2014
That's four of the five top finishers in the conference. Throw in the split between the co-champions, and that was one miraculous stretch of entertaining basketball. No team in the AAC finished with a winning or losing streak greater than two games in its final contests of the year. Wait, South Florida lost its last eight. Go Bulls.
The conference was shaping up to be a battle between Memphis and Cincinnati, who each started ACC play 11-0. But Louisville cracked off a seven-game win streak to throw itself back into the mix, with Memphis falling off and Cincinnati losing two of its last four regular-season games. No team has led the conference outright aside from the Bearcats, which is a distinction of its own. Sometimes coin don't lie.