The inaugural American Athletic Conference Tournament is being played out in Memphis, with University of Memphis fans hopeful that their fifth-seeded Tigers can claim the tourney championship.
With Cincinnatti, Louisville, SMU and UConn seeded ahead of them, the Tigers are especially happy to have what amounts to home court. Whether it proves to be an advantage will start to show on Thursday when Memphis takes on UConn in a game set to be shown on ESPNU at 8 p.m.
Memphis fans will need no prodding to get up for UConn. The Huskies took both games from the Tigers, with Memphis falling short in an overtime challenge at the FedExForum.
Cincinnati is seeded No. 1 in the 10-team league's first post-season tournament after winning a coin toss against Louisville, the defending national champions. The tournament kicked off Wednesday night with No. 7 Rutgers defeating No. 10 USF (72-68) and No. 8 Temple losing to No. 9 UCF (94-90).
Memphis head coach Josh Pastner – known for his positive-tinged view of things – was singing the praises of the conference after Memphis knocked off No. 3 seeded SMU at the FedExForum in the team's last home game of the regular season.
"The American is a fantastic league. Every game is tough and you cannot win them all," said Pastner. "I think this league is easily one of the best leagues in the country this season."
The leagues top five teams do command respect, with Houston at 16-15 the only team among the bottom five – Houston, Rutgers, Temple, UCF, USF – with a record above .500. Memphis split with Houston this year.
Pastner, with a 1-3 record in NCAA tourney games, has ridden the effectiveness of his senior guards this season, with big-time contributions from big men Shaq Goodwin (sophomore) and freshman Austin Nichols.
One of those senior guards, Geron Johnson, peeked ahead to the tournament after the Memphis win over SMU on Senior Day.
"We would like to make next Saturday (the day of the AAC Tournament Championship game) another Senior Day and win the conference championship," said Johnson.
"We have to have a sense of urgency, and the ability to make plays."