Week 15: AAC Hoops Power Rankings

In this week’s AAC power ranks, Patrick looks at Temple’s stagnant offense, Cincinnati’s tournament outlook, and much more!

1. SMU (22-5, 13-2 AAC; LW- 1)

Last week: vs. Temple (W 67-58)

Even after the yucky first half against the Owls last week, I was confident SMU would win. Why, you ask? Well, it’s not because I’m a genius (c’mon, you already knew that). The answer is math. I’ve gone into detail in previous power ranks about Temple’s lethargic offense. Let’s talk about SMU first though. 39 percent of points scored against SMU come via the three-pointer (2nd-most nationally), but only 42 come via two-pointer (3rd-least nationally). The general rule of basketball is that if a team shoots lights out from deep in one half, it’ll most likely regress in the next half. So when Temple, a poor three-point shooting team, gets hot from deep for a half like it did both times against SMU, you shouldn’t expect the Owls to replicate that success in the second half. Given SMU’s lack of two-pointers allowed and Temple’s lack of two-pointers made, plus the inevitable decline in Temple’s hot three-point shooting, an SMU comeback was way more likely. Of course, having leaders like Nic Moore and Larry Brown is a major part of making a comeback too.

This week: 2/26 at Memphis, 3/1 at UConn

2. Tulsa (19-7, 12-2; LW- 3)

Last week: vs. ECU (W 69-58), vs. Temple (W 55-39)

Everyone hopped off the Golden Hurricane hype train after consecutive losses to SMU and UConn. But after a win over fellow contender Temple, Tulsa is only a half-game back of SMU and two and a half ahead of the Owls. Tulsa won’t light up the scoreboard, but it has also only allowed four of its 14 AAC opponents to top 60 points. Temple has allowed seven games of 60-plus points. But Tulsa’s final three opponents have a 31-18 combined conference record. Much is still to be decided.

This week: 2/25 vs. Tulane, 2/28 at Memphis

3. Temple (19-9, 10-5; LW- 2)

Last week: at SMU (L 67-58), at Tulsa (L 55-39)

This second-place race is wide open and has been all year. For most of February, Tulsa and Temple have traded momentum over who looks like the second-best and more worthy of a tournament spot. Personally, I think that honor goes to Tulsa. Here’s why: Temple’s points per possession in six games against the other top three teams in the AAC are as follows: (0.77, 0.87, 0.83, 1.23, 0.94, 0.60). Spoiler alert: The Owls are 1-5 in those games.

This week: 2/26 vs. Houston

4. Cincinnati (18-9, 9-5 AAC; LW- 4)

Last week: vs. Xavier (L 59-57), at Houston (W 63-53)

Good news: Cincinnati didn’t suffer a third loss to a team outside the RPI top 150 in as many weeks. Bad news: Cincinnati blew a chance at a quality nonconference win that would lessen those bad losses. Cincy has three losses to teams currently ranked outside the RPI top 100 and five against teams currently below 80. The Bearcats need to build on a 5-4 record against the RPI top 50 to feel secure about an NCAA berth. They have only one more regular season opportunity to do so (at Tulsa).

This Week: 2/25 vs. UCF, 2/28 at Tulane

5. Memphis (17-10, 9-5; LW- 6)

Last week: vs. Connecticut (W 75-72), at UCF (W 75-65 OT)

The Tigers have won three in a row and have quietly crept into a tie for fourth in the conference. Three of their last four opponents are top 50 RPI teams, but given their 0-7 record against top 50 teams, a run at the NCAA tournament is probably out of the question at this point. Losses to Tulane and ECU don’t help either. But Memphis, an offensive mess in nonconference, has the third-best offensive efficiency in the AAC at 1.02 points per possession, and some of the young guards are turning a corner. That plus a strong recruiting class should keep Josh Pastner safe for another season.

This week: 2/26 vs. SMU, 2/28 vs. Tulsa

6. Connecticut (15-11, 8-6; LW- 5)

Last week: at Memphis (L 75-72), vs. Tulane (W 67-60)

The Huskies went from national champ to a team useful for making mediocre teams look like top 25 ones, Memphis being the latest example. Yet the stomping of Tulsa a couple weeks back is just enough to make teams leery of the Huskies, and they have the feel of the team that plays spoiler in the conference tournament.

This week: 2/25 at ECU, 3/1 vs. SMU

7. East Carolina (12-15, 5-9; LW- 8)

Last week: at Tulsa (L 69-58), vs. USF (W 73-60)

The Pirates are 4-3 since the end of January and could really end the month strong with a win over UConn. But let’s not get carried away. ECU is one of the worst teams in the paint in the nation, allowing a 53 percent 2P% and giving up offensive rebounds at a 34 percent clip, while shooting 44.6 percent from two and getting to the line with a paltry 32 FT rate.

This week: 2/25 vs. Connecticut, 2/28 at UCF

8. Tulane (14-12, 5-9; LW- 7)

Last week: vs. UCF (L 69-55), at Connecticut (L 67-60)

Doesn’t it feel like forever ago when Tulane looked like a contender? That’s because it was. The Green Wave is 1-7 in its last eight games and has a 2-7 record against all the AAC teams with a winning conference record. Owning the conference’s third-least efficient offense (0.94 PPP) doesn’t help.

This week: 2/25 at Tulsa, 2/28 vs. Cincinnati

9. Central Florida (12-14, 5-10; LW- 9)

Last week: vs. Tulane (W 69-55), vs. Memphis (L 75-65 OT)

I should comment the UCF for winning three in a row and then taking Memphis to overtime, especially because the Knights league-worst defense (1.10 PPP allowed in 15 conference games) snapped a streak of allowing 10 straight games of over 1.0 PPP.

This week: 2/25 at Cincinnati, 2/28 vs. ECU

10. South Florida (8-20, 2-12; LW- 10)

Last week: at ECU (L 73-60)

Most days, when the Bulls take the court, they do so in the form of the league’s worst offense. In 14 AAC games, they’ve scored 88.5 points per 100 possessions and have gone below 0.8 five (!!!) times. A conference-worst 56 percent shooting on free throws will help do that.

This week: 3/1 at Houston

11. Houston (9-17, 1-13; LW- 11)

Last week: vs. Cincinnati (L 63-53)

Jherrod Stiggers has only 30 two-point made baskets and 81 made three pointers. That’s a microcosm of Houston’s season.

This week: 2/26 at Temple, 3/1 vs. USF

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