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American Athletic Conference Tournament Preview & Pick

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Connecticut is 40-17 ATS in its last 57 neutral court games and has the look of last year’s championship team in its eyes. The Huskies have reeled of six wins in their last 8 games, including three straight in the American Athletic Conference Tournament. The Huskies are 249-88 (.739) all-time in the XL Center (formerly the Hartford Civic Center), including 11-2 (.846) versus American Athletic Conference opponents.

Connecticut head coach Kevin Ollie, who is the only coach in program history to reach sixty wins in his first three seasons, boasts an impressive 23-5 (.821) in Hartford. I also like the fact that the Huskies have won sixteen of their last 19 games within the friendly confines of the XL Center.

“We feel, not the pressure, but the opportunity,” Connecticut head coach Kevin Ollie said. “We went through a lot of ups and downs, a lot of pain this year, but it made us stronger. It made us tougher and more resilient and these guys are proving it right now. We’ve got 40 minutes in front of the best fans in America, and I’ll take that any day.” Scoring will be a a premium this afternoon as both teams possess pedestrian offenses and excellent stop units. SMU is averaging 69.7 points per game against teams that would combine to allow 64.6 points per game, but the Mustangs are only mustering 65.7 points per game on the road.

Similarly, the Huskies are averaging 64.5 points per game against teams that would combine to allow 63.7 points per game, but Kevin Ollie’s squad is more efficient at home where they are shooting 46.9% from the field. Connecticut’s attack is led by senior Kevin Boatright, who leads the team in scoring (17.7), assists (4.1) and steals (1.4).

Connecticut freshman Daniel Hamilton is also averaging in double-figures (10.8), but his presence is more pronounced under the boards where he is averaging a team-high 7.6 rebounds per game. In fact, Hamilton also leads the American Athletic Conference in rebounding with 9.5 per game in league play. Hamilton is playing in honor of his grandmother, who passed away earlier this week.

Meanwhile, sophomore Amidah Brimah has become a swatting machine with 54 blocks in the last twelve games and 72 blocks over the last seventeen games (4.24). Brimah was one of the leading shot blockers last season and currently ranks 3rd nationally 3.39 blocks per game.

Even more impressive is the fact that the 7-foot center is averaging 4.0 blocks per game in conference play this season, which leads the league. The Huskies will win today’s game at the defensive end of the floor where they are allowing just 59.7 points per game on 39.3% shooting from the field to teams that would combine to average 65.7 points per game against mediocre defensive squads.

The Huskies are limiting conference opponents to 58.3 points per game on 39.0% shooting from the floor, while yielding 53.6 points on 37.0% shooting over the last five games. I also like the fact that Connecticut is 95-64 (.595) versus ranked opponents since 1998 so they won’t be intimidated by the Mustangs.

Technically speaking, Connecticut is 9-3 ATS in its last twelve games off an ATS win and 24-11 ATS in its last 35 home games versus teams with a .601 or greater road record. The Huskies are also 8-1 ATS as neutral court underdogs, 11-2 ATS as neutral court underdogs of three points or less and 23-12 ATS after covering the point spread, whereas SMU is a money-burning 11-29 ATS in neutral court games and 12-27 ATS in postseason play.

Connecticut believes. “When you get to the postseason, it’s one loss and you’re done,” Ryan Boatright said. “So I just trust in my teammates, and my teammates trust in us, we trust in the coaching staff and we go out there and fight for each other every day.” Take Connecticut to win the AAC Tournament and secure an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Grab the generous points and invest with confidence.

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