By Richard W. Humphrey
The day started with bad news for the Mustangs as they lost to Memphis 67-58. SMU surged to a seven point lead at 24-17 with 7:05 left until halftime and finished the first stanza leading 30-26. Memphis came roaring back to start the second half by scoring the first seven points. Later, the Tigers ran off nine straight points to take the lead for good at 45-37. They eventually ran the lead to as many as 14 to celebrate Senior Day.
SMU and Memphis completed the regular season with identical records of 23-8 overall and 12-6 in conference.
When the day began, just three seeds for the AAC post-season tournament were tied down. There was much to be decided by Saturday’s games. A Mustang win would have secured the number three seed and a second round matchup with Houston, the six seed. The loss threw the possibility in play that the Mustangs would end up with a four or five seed facing Memphis next Thursday again. With the tournament set in Memphis, Houston was the obvious preferred opponent.
The good news came later. By the end of the day when all the results were in, the Mustangs still earned the three seed. They tied for third place with Connecticut and Memphis at 12-6, but took the third seed by virtue of their 3-1 record in the head to head competition with the other two. SMU will face UH Thursday at noon (Central) in a game to be televised on ESPNU.
The third place conference finish is the best for SMU since they finished third in the Western Athletic Conference in 2002-03. The Ponies swept Houston (16-15 and 8-10) in the regular season, first beating them at Hofheinz Pavilion 75-68 in January, and then completing the sweep at Moody Coliseum with a 68-64 win last month.
Cincinnati won a coin flip to gain the number one seed after finishing in a tie at 15-3 in conference play with Louisville. Cincinnati will play at 6:00 PM Thursday against the winner of Wednesday’s game between eight seed Temple and nine seed Central Florida. Louisville as the two seed will play Thursday at 2:00 PM against the winner of Wednesday’s game between seven seed Rutgers and 10 seed South Florida. Memphis and Connecticut as the four and five seeds will play Thursday at 8:00 PM.
All four of these quarterfinal games will be televised on ESPNU.
If SMU beats UH Thursday, they’ll play the Louisville-Rutgers/South Florida winner at 6:00 PM on Friday. That game will be televised on either ESPN or ESPN2. The tournament finals are scheduled Saturday at 5:00 PM and will be televised on ESPN.
NOTE: All times listed above are Central Daylight Time.