By Lucas Owens
Of all conferences Mizzou fans should care about during this week, the American Athletic ranks close to the top of that list for one lone reason: Wichita St. Wichita St. was the second team Mizzou played this year, and the Tigers earned themselves a 10-point win in the contest. The Shockers do not enter the tournament ranked, but they do enter it on a 7-game win streak, and find themselves on top of the conference with a 11-2 record. While they are not the favorite (Houston is), their presence is sure to pique the interest of Mizzou fans this weekend.
Team to watch: No. 7 Houston Cougars
Who else did you expect to see here? While the Cougars have had their up and down stretches during the year, and did not even end up winning the regular season conference title, they are the heavy favorites this tournament. Outside of Wichita St. and Houston, the American Athletic Conference is rather weak this year, with no other teams outside the top two projected to make March Madness. Houston gets by on top of strong guard play and defense, with a solid but not fantastic interior presence. With the size of front courts in the American Athletic, this should not amount to much worry, but could be a factor come tournament time. Out of all players to watch, Houston’s best is definitely Quentin Grimes, who has attracted national attention all three years he has been at Houston. Speaking of which…
Player to watch: Quentin Grimes
No surprise here: the best player in the American Athletic Conference this year is by far Quentin Grimes. The junior out of The Woodlands, Texas has been achieving new heights this year, averaging 17.9 points per game and 6.2 rebounds per game. As a 6-foot 5 inches guard, he brings a unique frame and skillset to the position in the conference, and has been well on his way to finding a spot in the NBA for some time. The guard should truly excel this weekend, and propel the Houston Cougars into March Madness strong.
Sleeper team: Memphis Tigers
As said before, the American is top heavy this year, more so than in the past, but if there is any chance for a team outside of Houston and Wichita St. this year, it is the Memphis Tigers. The Tigers will start their weekend Friday in a game against the winner of UCF v. East Carolina, but after that will come a likely matchup with Houston. However, that game is not nearly as out of reach as one would think because of the ranking. Houston and Memphis just played Saturday, Mar. 7, in a game that required a buzzer beater from Houston freshman Tramon Mark to put away. The Tigers played incredibly well on Houston’s home floor, and a team with a well of depth could definitely find a way to be a bracket buster this year.
Edited by Emma Moloney