Is the AAC Destined to be the Dark Horse Conference?

Last year we questioned what the impact of the split of the Big East would be. Would the AAC and the new Big East be power conferences? As it turns out, SMU was snubbed, Louisville received a 4 seed and was many experts’ pick to win it all, and 7 seed UCONN did win it all. The general consensus was under seeding all around.

This year, SMU will be in and whether a 2nd team even gets in or not remains to be seen. SMU is already being talked about as another dark horse team to make a run. So why is the AAC getting hurt on seeding if there are so many quality teams? There’s really a compounding effect at work here.

SMU was grilled last year for not scheduling strong enough out of conference.  The same has happened with Tulsa this year, which is why they are on the bubble. But these teams are not alone. Many of the AAC teams are former Conference USA members. Scheduling top tier opponents out of conference to ensure an at large berth is a new thing for most of the schools in the American. As a result of weak out of conference schedules, things like the RPI and other computer numbers  get hurt. And when good teams like a Louisville or UCONN last year play these teams, the wins don’t look as impressive. And since the wins don’t appear as impressive, the seeding ultimately suffers.

But with  SMU, Cincinnati, UCONN, and Memphis together in the conference, largely the AAC is viewed as a premier conference. Until the rest of the teams start to consider themselves the same way, seeding will suffer. That doesn’t mean that the AAC has bad teams, it just means that you can continue to expect the conference to produce “upsets” in the tournament until things change.

Nobody will want to see SMU this year, and if another team or two from the AAC gets in, there’s a very good chance it could be another upset in the making.

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