Wichita State Shockers

How the AAC schedule-makers did WSU basketball a favor for its NCAA chances

The American Athletic Conference has served up the Wichita State men’s basketball team plenty of resume-building opportunities for this upcoming season.

The league announced its home and road pairings for the 2019-20 schedule on Wednesday, as each team plays a home-and-home series with seven conference foes and faces four others once under the 18-game, unbalanced format.

Wichita State will host East Carolina and Tulane at Koch Arena in home-only matchups, then travel to Connecticut and SMU for road-only matchups. WSU will play home-and-home series with Central Florida, Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, South Florida, Temple and Tulsa. Dates for the schedule are expected to be announced in early September.

When building the league schedules, the American is mindful of trying to give its top teams the best chance to build an at-large NCAA Tournament berth. The AAC had 10 of its 12 teams finish in the top-100 of the NET last season, but bottom-feeders East Carolina (258) and Tulane (298) were the kind of opponents that could drag down a team’s NET if faced a second time.

By only assigning WSU one game against ECU and Tulane — and both at home — the American clearly views the Shockers as one of their teams with NCAA Tournament chances next season. All four teams WSU plays once were the bottom four teams in last season’s standings.

While that is sure to strengthen WSU’s resume, it also significantly strengthens the difficulty of the schedule for the Shockers. A year after being fed one of the weaker conference schedules and capitalizing on it the second half of the season, WSU’s conference schedule this season will be littered with tough games throughout.

That’s evident by the seven teams WSU has a home-and-home series with, as six of them reached postseason play last season. There are also some intriguing matchups, as the WSU-Cincinnati rivalry is set to continue at both home venues. The Shockers also have a geographical rivalry with Tulsa and games against Houston and Temple have been some of the most memorable so far in their two-year run in the American.

But maybe the most anticipated showdown will be against Penny Hardaway and Memphis, which have the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation and will enter the season with national title hype. After losing twice to Hardaway’s Tigers last season, WSU will be looking for redemption.

The Shockers have also compiled a strong non-conference schedule. WSU is set to play South Carolina in Cancun on Nov. 26 (and then either West Virginia or Northern Iowa), travel to Oklahoma State on Dec. 8, host VCU on Dec. 21, play Oklahoma at Intrust Bank Arena and host Ole Miss at Koch Arena. Other non-conference matchups include Tennessee Martin (Nov. 16) and Gardner Webb (No. 19) at Koch Arena.

WSU (22-15, 10-8 AAC) returns three starters and seven of its top nine scorers from last season’s team that won 14 of its final 18 games to reach the semifinals of the National Invitation Tournament.

Below are the complete pairings for the rest of the conference:

Central FloridaMemphis, TempleUConn, Houston
CincinnatiSMU, TulsaUSF, Tulane
ConnecticutUCF, Wichita StateECU, SMU
East CarolinaUConn, HoustonMemphis, Wichita State
HoustonUCF, TulaneECU, Temple
MemphisECU, TempleUCF, Tulsa
South FloridaCincinnati, TulsaTemple, Tulane
SMUUConn, Wichita StateCincinnati, Tulsa
TempleHouston, USFUCF, Memphis
TulaneCincinnati, USFHouston, Wichita State
TulsaMemphis, SMUCincinnati, USF
Wichita StateECU, TulaneUConn, SMU
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