The Mustangs had a nine-day layoff before hosting UIC Wednesday night. SMU dispatched the 3-9 Flames 67-46. Nic Moore played with a sore knee after limited practice time, and scored 16 points. Keith Frazier is playing like an All-Conference player; he recorded his first career double-double of the season against the Flames. Markus Kennedy remains without a timetable for return, but an otherwise healthy team on a five-game winning streak heads to Ann Arbor on Dec. 20 to take on Michigan.
1. SMU (7-3, 0-0; LW-1):
Cincy brought the American Athletic Conference exactly what it needed: a win over a ranked team. Those might be hard to come by during conference season. (At 36, UConn is currently the highest-ranked team in the KenPom rankings). Not only did the Bearcats beat San Diego State, they shot 47 percent against the Aztecs stingy defense. But last week, they also suffered a 56-55 overtime loss at Nebraska, which lost to D-I newbie Incarnate Word three days earlier (The Huskers paid UIW $100,000 to play them. Talk about injury to insult!). The Bearcats host VCU next on Dec. 20.
2. Cincinnati (7-2, 0-0; LW- 2):
How do you snap a three-game skid? Play a 1-9 team and score 106 points, of course. The Huskies smashed the Eagles 106-85 behind Amida Brimah’s 40 points and 13-13 shooting. He also grabbed 12 boards and blocked three shots. The 85 points surrendered is a bit shocking, but UConn’s 91.4 points allowed per 100 possessions (30th nationally) suggests the bad defense was an anomaly. We’ll find out when the Huskies play Duke on Dec. 18 and host Columbia on Dec. 22. A win against the Blue Devils would be huge for the AAC.
3. Connecticut (4-3, 0-0; LW- 4):
Congrats Temple, you shot 40 percent in a game! The Owls beat Towson 76-64 (and shot exactly 40 percent), but took one on the chin against Villanova, losing 85-62. How do you crack 60 points with such a low field goal percentage? Get to the foul line: Temple averages 25.7 free throw attempts per game. But the Owls are still shooting 36.2 percent for the season (344th of 351 D-I teams) and average 98.7 points per 100 possessions (197th). Temple plays at 0-7 Delaware on Dec. 18 before hosting No. 10 Kansas on Dec. 22. Forward Jesse Morgan and guard Devin Coleman are eligible for the rest of the season after sitting out the first 10 games due to transfer rules.
4. Temple (6-4, 0-0; LW- 3):
Another ho-hum for the underachieving Tigers, but thanks to Houston losing, they move up. They were thrashed by Oklahoma State, but then beat North Carolina Central and South Carolina Upstate. Trashon Burrell has found a groove since taking over for Nick King in the starting lineup. King is still productive in a bench roll. Memphis put up 80 points in its two wins, but its offense is still nonexistent against quality teams. Someone other that Burrell needs to find consistency on offense. Oral Roberts is next on Dec. 22.
5. Memphis (5-4, 0-0; LW- 6):
I’ve been impressed with the Green Wave so far, although it is in this spot mainly because of everyone else playing poorly. An offense that struggled has shot the ball at a 50 percent clip and scored 75 points per game. But those are against poor opponents, and Tulane only scores 100 points per 100 possessions despite the high shooting percentage. I think some regression might be coming, which is why I didn’t bump the Green Wave above Memphis. Tulane takes on Jacksonville on Dec. 19 before traveling to No. 16 Washington on Dec. 22.
6. Tulane (9-1, 0-0; LW- 8):
Where do I start? Forget NJIT or Incarnate Word, Tulsa’s loss to D-II Southeast Oklahoma State was the worst in college hoops this season. The Golden Hurricane lost 69-66, but was lucky the game was that close. Frank Haith’s team committed 21 fouls, 12 turnovers, shot 34.8 percent and only outrebounded the Savage Storm (how awesome is that name!) by two. All of that is unacceptable against a D-II team. Tulsa was also blown out at home by then-No. 16 Oklahoma, 87-68. Pre-season, I highlighted this game as one Tulsa could win. Yeesh. Despite the mess, Tulsa somehow sits at 87 in the KenPom ranks, although it did eek out a 74-70 win against Missouri State. Tulsa plays Incarnate Word on Dec. 22. Based on what we’ve seen from both those teams, anything’s possible.
7. Tulsa (6-5, 0-0; LW- 5):
Southeast Oklahoma State wasn’t the only upset to rock the AAC last week. The Cougars lost in overtime to Arkansas-Pine Bluff, which entered the day 1-8 and 326th or worse in every major offensive category. Houston turned the ball over a horrific 26 times and fouled 21 times. Appalling numbers for a game against a D-I bottom feeder. Houston also got L.J. Rose back from a foot injury, and he did not score in 30 minutes. Houston beat Houston Baptist one day before falling to the Golden Lions, but it was a bit closer than it should have been. The loss dropped the Cougars 29 spots in the KenPom ranks.
8. Houston (5-2, 0-0; LW- 7):
The Bulls seem to always be the exception to my ‘never move a team up after a loss’ rule. They aren’t a good team but aren’t bad enough to sit in the cellar. I just can’t justify putting either of the next two teams above them, at least not yet. Anyway, USF lost at home to Georgia Southern, 68-63, and made 2-of-20 three-point attempts. Corey Allen Jr. has had a breakout season, but scored just six points in the GSU loss. A Dec. 18 date with Seton Hall and Dec. 20 with Florida St. are next.
9. South Florida (5-4, 0-0; LW- 10):
I’ve been harsh on the Pirates, but I’ll give them credit for fighting back to beat Colonial league contender James Madison after trailing at halftime. ECU has a few nice scorers, and it might not be cellar dweller we all thought it would. The Pirates visit UNC-Wilmington on Dec. 20 and host Florida A&M (one of two winless teams) on Dec. 22.
10. East Carolina (4-5, 0-0; LW- 11):
UCF lost to UIC and FAU, but got a surprising win against Detroit. Freshman B.J. Taylor has been a model of consistency, even in defeat. But KenPom still rates the Knights as the AAC’s worst team, and rightfully so. UCF shows flashes once in a while, but there is a lot of poor play in between. But good recruiting efforts the last couple years give some hope.
11. UCF (6-4, 0-0; LW- 9):