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PREVIEW: Huskies Begin AAC Tournament

Jalen Adams was named to the All-Conference Second Team on Monday.
Jalen Adams was named to the All-Conference Second Team on Monday.
March 7, 2018

Radio: UConn/IMG Radio Network / WTIC 1080 AM
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AAC Tournament: Championship Central
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STORRS, Conn. –
On Thursday, the UConn men’s basketball team will begin its participation in the 2018 Aaron’s American Athletic Conference Championship when it takes on ninth-seeded SMU at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla. Tip-off is at noon.

The Huskies (14-17, 7-11 American) begin their quest for a postseason run as the eight-seed in the bracket, drawing the early game time on Thursday. ESPNU and the UConn/IMG Radio Network will provide coverage of the action.

UConn is 4-0 in its opening-round games of the AAC Championship since joining the conference, including last season’s 77-66 win over USF on March 9 at the XL Center. In the only meeting this season with SMU, the Huskies won 63-52 on Jan. 25 at Gampel Pavilion.

In the regular-season finale on Sunday at No. 25 Houston, junior guard Jalen Adams recorded 22 points and six assists in an 81-71 loss. The Huskies fought back from a 13-point deficit in the first half and led by as many as five in the second.

On Monday, Adams earned a spot on the AAC All-Second Team for his outstanding junior campaign – as he leads the team in points (18.5) and assists (4.7) per game. It is Adams’ second-straight year on the All-Conference Team (First Team as a sophomore).

In each of the past four seasons, the Huskies have reached the AAC semifinals – qualifying for the conference title game on three occasions (1-2). UConn and SMU have met just once in the AAC Championship, with the Mustangs winning a 62-54 game back on March 15, 2015 in the conference final.


UConn played one of its better games of the season in its first meeting with SMU, using long-range shooting and a smothering defense to post a 63-52 triumph over the Mustangs on Jan. 25 at Gampel Pavilion. The Huskies hit nine three-pointers and held SMU to a paltry 28.1 percent shooting. For UConn, sophomore Christian Vital (20) and junior Jalen Adams (18) combined for 38 points, while freshman Josh Carlton pulled down a season-high 12 rebounds.


UConn enters the 2018 American Athletic Conference Championship with the most wins of any team in AAC tourney play. In the four years of the AAC Championship, the Huskies have a combined 10 wins and have never played less than three games in any individual tourney. UConn has won the AAC title once (2016), finished as the runner-up twice (2014, 2015) and bowed in the semifinals once (2017). SMU is second in wins with six, while Louisville and Cincinnati each have three.


UConn enters the 2018 American Athletic Conference Championship with a 46-29 all-time mark (.613) in 33 years of conference tournament competition in the Big East Conference and four years in the American Athletic Conference. UConn won the Big East Tournament Championship a record (shared with Georgetown) seven times -- 1990, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2004, and 2011 -- and captured the AAC title in 2016. The Huskies have been the tourney runner-up on five occasions -- 1995, 2000 and 2003 in the Big East, and in 2014 and 2015 in the American.


This is the first time in the five-year history of the American Athletic Conference Championship that UConn will be the No. 8 seed. In 33 years of the Big East Tournament, UConn was a No. 8 seed only once, bowing to No. 9 Seton Hall, 76-66, in the 1986 Big East Championship in Madison Square Garden. The Huskies played 14 games overall in the Big East Championship as a seed lower than No. 8 and have an 8-6 record in those games, most notably a 5-0 mark in the 2011 Big East Championhip as the No. 9 seed.


UConn has only played three games at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., but they were in the memorable 2016 AAC Championship, which began with the longest AAC tourney game ever played, UConn’s 104-97 four-overtime quarterfinal victory over Cincinnati.

Then-freshman Jalen Adams hit a 70-foot buzzer shot at the end of the third overtime to send the game to the fourth extra session, in which the Huskies finally prevailed. UConn, the #5 seed, went on to defeat #1 Temple, 77-62, in the semifinals and #6 Memphis, 72-58, in the championship finals to capture the title.