FRISCO, Tx — To most folks, including the fans of teams that played on Wednesday, the real tournament begins today. The crowd for the UTSA/Rice matchup was more Owl blue than UTSA blue and orange, but it still was pretty sparse. It makes sense — as starting in the first round means your team is flawed in some major ways. Spending the money and time on the trip to Frisco, however convenient is still a bet on a team that has thus far disappointed.
Enter Thursday, and we get to see the league’s player of the year (Tylor Perry), and the runner up (Jelly Walker), the defending champion (UAB), the last two regular seasons champions (UNT, FAU) and tons of talent on the first and second teams. The league will be on display today, people and it should be fun.
1 FAU vs 8 WKU 5:30 pm (all games on ESPN+)
Yesterday WKU willed themselves back from the kind of start that could get a coach fired. They got a balanced attack and benefitted from UTEP not having much of a coherent offense to speak of.
FAU win looks like
The Owls do what they do: they generate open looks from a variety of players and Johnnell Davis uses his old man game to get 10-15 points to kill any rallies. The defense chases shooters off the line and the big men clog the paint preventing easy buckets.
WKU win looks like
The Owls go into the most shocking shooting slump ever seen. Emmanuel Akot, et al get hot from distance and Jamarion Sharp shows why he won DPOY. Dayvion McKnight gets some clutch buckets/free throws as FAU tries to get back into the game.
Line: FAU -10.5 favorites
4 MTSU vs 5 CLT 6:00pm
The most competitive game of the day should be on Court B for Middle and Charlotte. This game will pit the length and athleticism of Middle against the size (guards are strong) of Charlotte. Middle lacks a go-to scorer in clutch situations, and Charlotte gets a lot from Bryce Williams at the four spot. Middle is long and has a few dudes that like to fly over and block shots so Lu’Cye Patterson’s post up game might not be as effective. But if he kicks it out for a Williams for three? Well that’s an answer.
A Middle win looks like
The Blue Raiders are generating turnovers and getting lobs on the break. Dishman is eating inside and causing foul trouble for the defenders guarding him. Cam Weston is doing what he did last year, and Eli Lawrence is cooking.
A CLT win looks like
Bryce Williams and Patterson get buckets (around 20 points each) and no foul trouble from Khalifa and others. Middle forces a couple of turnovers but the offensive execution is crisp overall and Charlotte can keep the Blue Raiders at bay.
Line: -1 Middle favorites
2 North Texas vs 10 La Tech 8pm
The “home” team makes its debut in front of a large crowd against a good traveling squad (Ruston always travels well to Frisco) in a meeting of old rivals.
North Texas winning looks like
Tylor Perry showing out with 19 points including some big time threes on a step-back. He shot 40+% from distance this season. NT’s defense is suffocating and the pace is glacial. NT makes Tech work for buckets which taxes the legs of guys who played 40+ minutes yesterday.
A Tech win looks like
The Dunking Dogs get hot early, and get to the line often like they did in Denton. Keason Willis maintains his hot shooting and both Crawfords, and others are able to find their range. Tech has enough defense and enough luck to stave off any Tylor Perry buckets and wins by five in a free throw fest.
Line: North Texas by -9
3 UAB 6 Rice 8:30pm
The Blazers are ready to defend their crown after a rough regluar season. They played hit-and-miss hoops with lots of turnovers and some injury questions. Jelly Walker is motivated after losing league player of the year to Tylor Perry and is sufficiently ticked off.
A Blazer win looks like
UAB destroys Rice like they did twice this season. Rice doesn’t have the athletes to compete with Walker, Gaines or the front line. It is a layup line and a shooting show.
A Rice win looks like
UAB is ice cold, and Walker is pressing too much. Maybe he gets his points but doesn’t involve his teammates who had been uninvolved to this point. Also, cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria.
Line: UAB by -13.5
There are a lot of curtains and the court is brightly lit. If you are in the arena, it is not a big deal. The curtain behind the court makes it seem like something out of the NBA in Orlando during the pandemic. That’s a low angle, folks. I think the dark curtains have made it easier to shoot, but I haven’t asked any players. Some fans have reported it being nice to view in the stands without the large spaces of arena being visible.
Thus far no complaints, as everyone is quite used to things. I have actually heard more complaints from fans of teams going to the AAC next season.