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American Championship Preview: Houston’s seniors looking for one last dance in March

Will the Cougars be able to win on veteran leadership alone or will a young Memphis squad pull off the upset?

NCAA Basketball: American Athletic Conference Tournament Semifinal-Houston vs Tulane
Kyler Edwards is Houston’s leading scorer and dropped 20 points in the Cougars’ semifinal win over Tulane.
Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

How to Watch

Matchup: No. 1 Houston vs. No. 3 Memphis

When: Sunday, 3:15 p.m. ET

Where: Dickies Arena, Fort Worth, TX

TV: ESPN

DraftKings Line: Houston -3.5, O/U 137

How they got here

No. 1 seed and nationally ranked Houston cruised to the championship round taking down No. 8 Cincinnati in the quarterfinals and fifth-seeded Tulane along the way to the finals.

Memphis started by defeating No. 6 UCF without issue and then toppled No. 2 SMU 70-63 70-63 in the semifinals +to book a spot in the Championship against Houston.

Players to Watch

Kyler Edwards, Houston - Averaging 13.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, and 3.1 APG, the Texas Tech transfer has been a key pieces for the Cougars all season long and was the leading scorer with 20 points in the teams quarterfinal win over Tulane. Earning a spot on the American’s All-Conference Second Team, Edwards will play a big part in any success Houston finds in the championship game and beyond.

Fabian White, Houston - Carrying the Cougars through the team’s 69-56 quarterfinal victory over Cincinnati, White managed 18 points and eight rebounds following his nomination to the All-Conference First Team in the American. As Houston’s leader in blocked shots, White’s interior presence along with teammate Josh Carlton will set the defensive tone for Kelvin Sampson’s squad in the title game.

Lester Quinones, Memphis - Bringing leadership and a balanced offensive and defensive attack, Quinones has been one of Penny Hardaway’s go-to guys on the floor this season. Despite struggling in the Tigers’ matchup against SMU, he was the leading scorer against UCF with 20 points.

Jalen Duren, Memphis - Garnering both the AAC Freshman of the Year award and a spot on the All-Conference First Team, Duran just put up a ridiculous 21 points and 20 rebounds against UCF. At 6-foot-11, the big man is averaging 12.2 PPG and eight RPG, which leads the conference. He is also the best shot shot blocker in the conference, which could prove a handful for Houston’s guard play.

The Prediciton: Houston -3.5

While this is a really good Memphis team, its also a fairly young Memphis team that should return a lot of its talent for next season. But this could provide a huge advantage for a nationally ranked Cougars squad that has lots of experience in these types of games and has tons of veteran leadership behind a group of seniors in search of one last dance. For that reason, I’m going to pick the favorites Houston and the points with Kelvin Sampson’s seniors running the floor and bringing the program back to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season.