MEMPHIS – For one Hall of Fame coach it was business as usual, maybe a little better. For the other it was a harsh dose of reality.
Rick Pitino and Louisville advance. Larry Brown and Southern Methodist go home and wait.
"I kind of had it in my gut what was going to happen today," Brown said following SMU's 68-64 loss to Houston in the AAC quarterfinals. "We've got four or five days to work on it and I'm pretty confident we'll be ready when we have the opportunity to play again."
SMU (23-9), the third seed in the tournament, played marvelously during the regular season and is in line to get its first NCAA bid in 20 years. Brown, 73, has put the Mustangs on the map. This loss, though, could put them back on the bubble.
They lost to Louisville and Memphis late in the season and in the AAC tournament were the first of the five ranked teams to be upset. Houston played better toward the end of the season and nabbed the sixth seed and the last first-round bye.
The defending national champion Cardinals hit their stride late in the season and are now flattening opponents. They beat Rutgers 92-31 and established an AAC record for margin of victory that might last forever.
"I really don't know what to say," Pitino said. "It was one of those days where everything went right for us, everything went wrong for them."
Louisville, which beat UConn 81-48 in the regular season finale, has everything clicking.
"They've been to the mountaintop," Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan said. "We're starting from the bottom."
Rutgers' performance this season, and in this game, did nothing to quiet the jibes about their fitness for the Big Ten, its destination next year as Louisville heads to the ACC. Pitino's advice: "This is one of those games that's just unexplainable," he said. "You just forget about it, go straight to the bar, have a drink and think about next year."
Ollie: Room For Growth
UConn freshman Amida Brimah impressed AAC coaches enough to earn a spot on the all-rookie team, but coach Kevin Ollie is looking for more. "We want him to keep working, keep having a chip on his shoulder," Ollie said. "We're going to need that balance to win it all, need our big guys to step up and give us a little more on the offensive and defensive end." … With the team in an offensive funk for several games, Ollie tweaked his starting lineup for the quarterfinals. Niels Giffey replaced Lasan Kromah and Phil Nolan replaced Brimah. …The AAC said it sold more than 12,000 ticket packages for the tournament, and announced an attendance of 13,011 for the afternoon games on Thursday. The 18,000-seat arena was expected to be full for the UConn-Memphis game. … SMU's Nic Moore did not make a field goal against Houston, the first game all year he was shut out from the floor.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun