The win over Wyoming is one of the better wins for an AAC team this year, especially because the Mustangs held one of the nation’s most underrated players, Larry Nance Jr., to three points and three rebounds. Then they held Alan William’s, perhaps the best mid-major big man, to nine and eight. And that’s without Markus Kennedy, who should play Dec. 17 against UIC. Nic Moore’s knee issue looks to be minor, which is a big break for SMU, because the offense struggles without him.
1. SMU (6-3, 0-0; LW-4):
The Bearcats did not play a game in the last week. So I couldn’t justify moving them up to the top spot. The layoff is perfectly timed, as they’ll have had 11 days to prepare for a grueling three-game stretch that starts with a Dec. 13 tilt at Nebraska. San Diego State and VCU follow.
2. Cincinnati (6-1, 0-0; LW- 2):
Is there another team that better fits the phrase, ‘winning ugly?’ I don’t think so. Temple fell to Saint Joes on Dec. 3, but beat another crosstown rival, La Salle, 59-58 on Dec. 6. The Owls kept the Explorers in the game with three missed layups in the last minute, but Josh Brown hit two key free throws in the waning seconds to ice it. In typical Temple fashion, the Owls shot 35 percent, but tough defense bailed them out again. They’ve got Towson at home before Philly play continues at No. 7 Villanova on Dec. 14.
3. Temple (5-3, 0-0; LW- 3):
No, Yale isn’t that bad. But the defending champs should knock them off at home and score more than 44 points. They did neither, and their losing skid is at three. Texas and West Virginia are great teams, but three straight losses will drop you a bit in any power poll. They should get back in the win column with a home date with 1-7 Coppin State.
4. Connecticut (3-3, 0-0; LW- 1):
Tulsa played a complete game in its win against Creighton, and then beat Arkansas-Little Rock 78-73 on the road. That’s nothing to get amped about, but Tulsa struggled in its other two road games, including the opening loss to Oral Roberts. James Woodard’s slow start looks to be behind him. He made five three-pointers as part of his 20-point, 10-rebound effort against UALR. D-II Southeast Oklahoma State is next before hosting No. 16 Oklahoma on Dec. 13.
5. Tulsa (5-3, 0-0; LW- 5):
The conference’s most disappointing team got back on track with a 73-45 shellacking of Bradley. Shaq Goodwin went for 15 points and 12 boards, and Nick King scored 11 as the sixth man. But not all is well in Memphis: Kedren Johnson continues to struggle. The big offseason addition needs to play better if the Tigers want to beat Oklahoma State on Dec. 13.
6. Memphis (3-3, 0-0; LW- 6):
After a nine-day break, the Cougars beat Texas-Pan American and Abilene Christian last week. Not much to say about those except ‘Good job, Houston.’ Houston Baptist and Arkansas-Pine Bluff are next. We’ll probably be saying ‘Good job, Houston’ for a while.
7. Houston (4-1, 0-0; LW- 7):
Mississippi State will likely be in the bottom half of the SEC at season’s end, but the Green Wave got a nice win over the Bulldogs on Dec. 6. Ed Conroy’s crew outrebounded and outshot a bigger Mississippi State team. Tulane is making shots at a 48.8 percent clip this season. That may not last, but it’s a good sign for a team that struggled to score last season.
8. Tulane (7-1, 0-0; LW- 8):
UCF went to Tallahassee and got whipped by Florida State, 96-73. But at least the Knights scored more points than they did in a couple of their wins against low-major teams. Guards. B.J. Taylor and Adonys Henriquez could find themselves on the AAC’s All-Freshman team. Not much else is consistent though, as forwards Justin McBride and Kasey Wilson have shined in some games but disappeared in others (combined 2 points against FSU). UCF heads to the Windy City to take on UIC on Dec. 11.
9. Central Florida (5-2, 0-0; LW- 9):
The Bulls lost to Detroit 67-57, but finding positives from it isn’t hard. Corey Allen Jr. scored 26 in the loss, and I think he could be on an All-Conference team at season’s end. USF also shoots 48.6 percent from the field. That quietly ranks 31st nationally, and they’ve shot well against a couple decent teams. There’s evident progress under Orlando Antigua’s guidance.
10. South Florida (5-3, 0-0; LW- 10):
Stop me if you saw this coming: the Pirates suffered a 108-64 shellacking at the hands of North Carolina. They ranked 216th or worse in every major defensive statistical category. ECU’s 23.2 rebounds per game and 72 points allowed per game are abominable. If numbers like those continue, ECU might struggle to win more than 10 games.
11. East Carolina (4-5, 0-0; LW- 11):