College Basketball AAC Championship Betting Preview: #21 Connecticut Huskies vs #5 Louisville Cardinals

2014 AAC Tournament – Championship Game
FedEx Forum – Memphis, Tennessee

#4 Connecticut Huskies vs #2 Louisville Cardinals
Saturday, March 15, 2014, 6:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Opening Line: Louisville -7
Current Line: Louisville -7 1/2
Opening Total: 136
Current Total: 135 1/2
Opening Money Line: Louisville -350 / Connecticut +290
Current Money Line: Louisville -360 / Connecticut +295  

Louisville is a 7.5 point favorite against Connecticut in the AAC Championship game Saturday in Memphis.
Louisville is a 7.5 point favorite against Connecticut in the AAC Championship game Saturday in Memphis.

The inaugural American Athletic Conference championship game features two teams formerly in the Big East. The 28-5 Louisville Cardinals and 26-7 Connecticut Huskies meet for the championship Saturday night. Louisville, the defending national champion, is looking for their third straight conference tournament title after winning the Big East the last two seasons. The Cardinals tied with Cincinnati at 15-3 for the regular season title, but the Bearcats were the #1 seed in the AAC tournament based on a coin flip. Louisville has won 11 of their last 12 games, including 4 straight games. The Cardinals crushed #7 seed Rutgers 92-31 in the quarterfinals Thursday, and routed #6 seed Houston 94-65 in Friday’s semifinals. Louisville has an outside shot at one of the four #1 seeds in the NCAA tournament if they win this game, but will likely be a #2 or a #3 seed.

Connecticut went 12-6 in conference and tied for third with Memphis and SMU. The Huskies were the #4 seed in the AAC tournament because of the tiebreaker. Connecticut beat #5 seed Memphis 72-53 in the quarterfinals and #1 Cincinnati 58-56 in the semifinals. Connecticut used a 17-2 run in the second half to take an 8 point lead. Cincinnati missed a lay-up at the buzzer that would have tied the game and sent it into overtime. Connecticut will likely be a #4 or #5 seed in the NCAA tournament. Last year, the Huskies were banned from the NCAA tournament because they did not meet the academic and graduation rates mandated by the NCAA.

Louisville leads the series against Connecticut 10-6. The Cardinals have won 8 of the last 9 games against the Huskies, including 4 straight games. Louisville won both meetings this season 76-64 in Storrs January 18 and 81-48 in Louisville last Saturday to close out the regular season. The last UConn win against Louisville came in the championship game of the 2011 Big East Tournament. This could be the last game in the series as Louisville moves to the ACC next season.

Connecticut is coached by Kevin Ollie. The Huskies have losses to Stanford, at Houston, SMU twice, Louisville twice, and at Cincinnati. UConn has won 5 of their last 6 games. The Huskies have key wins over Maryland in Brooklyn, Yale, Detroit, Boston University, Boston College and Indiana (both in New York City), Florida, at Washington, Harvard, Central Florida twice, Memphis twice, Temple twice, Rutgers twice, Houston, South Florida twice, and Cincinnati. UConn is 17-14 ATS and the total is 10-20 this season.

Connecticut is outscoring teams 72-63 this season. The Huskies are #30 nationally in points allowed. UConn is shooting 44.9% from the field, but are #25 nationally in three point shooting at 39.1% from beyond the arc. -The Huskies are #10 in the country in free throw shooting at 76.2% from the line. Connecticut opponents are shooting 38.7% from the field and 32.9% from 3 point range. The Huskies are #10 nationally in field goal defense. UConn averages 35.5 rebounds per game and opponents average 30.4 per game. The Huskies average 12.5 assists, 11.6 turnovers, 7.1 steals and 6.2 blocks per game. Opponents average 11.5 assists, 13 turnovers, 5.8 steals and 3.3 blocks per game.

UConn guard Shabazz Napier averages 17 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1.8 steals per game. Napier is the AAC player of the year. Forward DeAndre Daniels averages 12.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game. Guard Ryan Boatright averages 12 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. Guard/forward Niels Giffey averages 8.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. Omar Calhoun, Lasan Kromah, Phillip Nolan, and Amidah Brimah will also get significant minutes in the rotation. Brimah averages 2.5 blocks per game.

Louisville is coached by Rick Pitino. The Cardinals have losses to North Carolina in a tournament in Connecticut, at Kentucky, Memphis twice, and Cincinnati. Louisville has key wins over College of Charleston, Hofstra, Cornell, Southern Miss, Louisiana, Western Kentucky, Missouri State, Florida International, Central Florida twice, Temple twice, Rutgers twice, SMU twice, Houston twice, Connecticut twice, and South Florida twice. Louisville is 18-13 ATS and the total is 15-14 this season.

Louisville is outscoring teams 83-61 this season. The Cardinals are #7 in scoring and #15 in points allowed nationally. Louisville is shooting 47.6% from the field and 37.3% from 3 point range. The Cardinals are #29 in field goal percentage. Louisville is #309 out of 351 teams in free throw shooting at 65.7% from the line. Cardinal opponents are shooting 39.2% from the field and 29.2% from 3 point range. Louisville is #14 in field goal defense and #6 in three point defense nationally. The Cardinals average 38.2 rebounds per game and opponents average 32.5. Louisville is #35 nationally in rebounding. The Cardinals average 15.8 assists, 10.3 turnovers, 10.2 steals and 4.7 blocks per game. Opponents average 10.4 assists, 17.6 turnovers, 4.4 steals and 2.8 blocks per game.

Louisville guard Russ Smith averages 18.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 2 steals per game. Smith scored 42 points in the win against Houston yesterday. Forward Montrezl Harrell averages 13.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game. Forward Luke Hancock averages 11.9 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. Guard Chris Jones averages 10.3 points, 2.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 2.3 steals per game. Guard Wayne Blackshear averages 8.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game. Terry Rozier, Mangok Mathiang, and Stephan Van Treese will also get significant minutes in the rotation. Forward Chane Behanan was kicked off the team earlier in the season for violating team rules. Guard Kevin Ware is out for the season with a shin injury.

Connecticut is 21-9 ATS in neutral site games and 13-6 overall.

Louisville is 4-0 ATS overall and in AAC games, 4-1 after scoring more than 90 points, 20-6 in neutral site games, 51-24 after a straight up win, 36-17 after a cover, 21-10 against teams with winning records, and 2-5 in Saturday games. The Cardinals have covered the last 4 times against the Huskies, and were favored in each of those contests.

It was just a week ago that Louisville demolished Connecticut 81-48 in Louisville. In that game, the Huskies shot a miserable 29.4% from the field including 3/22 from 3 point range. Maybe Louisville doesn’t win by 33 points, but they should win easily to claim the first AAC title.

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