Week 17: AAC Hoops Power Rankings

It's AAC tournament time and Patrick has his latest AAC rankings with SMU at the top!

1. SMU (24-6, 15-3 AAC; LW- 1)

Last week: vs. Tulsa (W 67-62)

I had utmost confidence SMU would beat Tulsa and lock up the league title. This is by far the most complete team in the conference, and I think it’ll be a mild upset if SMU doesn’t win the conference tournament, even though it’s being played in UConn’s back yard. It’s also a good sign that SMU could withstand a barrage of threes from James Woodard. The reason? Tulsa shot 27% on two-point attempts. In lots of NCAA tournament upsets, one player gets hot and takes over, just as Woodard did. It’s a good sign that SMU showed it can sustain such a barrage. SMU is currently 15 in RPI, but the Mustangs are 4-4 against RPI top 50 teams. That’ll dampen their tournament seed, but a AAC tourney win would likely add a top 50 win or two, which might give them an outside shot at a 4 seed with a little luck.

Postseason outlook: NCAA tournament (5-6 seed range)

2. Cincinnati (22-9, 13-5 AAC; LW- 4)

Last week: at Tulsa (W 56-47), vs. Memphis (W 77-65)

I don’t have enough words to describe what Cincinnati has done this season after losing Mick Cronin midseason, plus losing Sean Kilpatrick, Justin Jackson and Titus Rubles from last year’s team. The numbers say this year’s Cincy team isn’t far off from last year’s. The 2015 Bearcats score 1.07 points per possession (83rd), have a 50.4 effective FG% (110th), shoot 50.5% on twos (68th), and grab offensive rebounds at a 37.4% clip (16th). Last year, those numbers were 1.08, 47.7% (250th), 46.6% (257th), 39.1% (8th), respectively. Defensively, they’re about even year-to-year. But this isn’t a one-man show like last year, and while last year’s Cincy squad was a popular pick to get upset, this year’s is a dark-horse pick to give a 1-seed trouble (unless it’s Kentucky of course). The Bearcats are 35th in RPI and boast a 6-4 record against top 50 squads, but three sub-100 losses will keep the seed lower.

Postseason outlook: NCAA tournament (8-9 seed range)

3. Temple (22-9, 13-5; LW- 3)

Last week: at ECU (W 70-56), vs. Connecticut (W 75-63)

Temple has scored over 1.1 points per possession in its last three games. During that stretch, they’ve shot an average of 14 more two-pointers than three-pointers and shot 49 percent on twos, a welcomed sight for Owls fans. Combine the efficient offense with Temple’s usual lockdown defense and you’ve got another team that’ll wear down an opponent in the NCAAs. The Owls project as one of the last teams in the tourney thanks to a 2-7 record against the top 50 (one of those wins is RPI No. 2 Kansas, and the Owls also beat No. 51 Louisiana Tech). A deep AAC tourney run would soften the bubble, but an early loss could pop it, especially if fellow bubble teams like Rhode Island, Indiana, Texas A&M make deep runs in their respective tournaments.

Postseason outlook: NCAA tournament (10-12 seed range)

4. Tulsa (21-9, 14-4; LW- 4)

Last week: vs. Cincinnati (L 56-47), at SMU (L 67-62)

You might wonder why the second-place team is so low. That’s because its resume might not be enough for an NCAA spot. As SMU showed last year, losing streaks in March are an easy route to the NIT. Tulsa lost both chances it had to build a resume, which boasts just five wins against top 100 teams (two against top 50) and losses to No. 162 Oral Roberts and D-II Southeast Oklahoma State. In the seven losses to top 100 teams, Tulsa never topped 1.0 PPP and cleared 0.9 PPP just three times. Its two top 50 wins were both against Temple, and in both matchups with the Owls, the Golden Hurricane didn’t top 0.9 PPP. That’s an NIT resume and performance. There’s an outside shot at an at-large if Tulsa wins two games this weekend, but it will probably need to run the table in Harford to get to the NCAA tournament.

Postseason outlook: NIT/NCAA bubble (11-12 NCAA seed, 1-2 NIT seed)

5. Connecticut (17-13, 10-8; LW- 4)

Last week: vs. Memphis (L 54-53), at Temple (L 75-63)

Missed opportunities have hurt UConn all season. The Huskies have played 12 games against current top 50 teams (tied for most in the AAC), plus played nonconference games at Florida and Stanford that once looked good. But they are 4-8 in those games and 5-12 against the top 100. Losses to Texas and Yale were each by one point, and UConn was within six in the second half against Duke and West Virginia. The Huskies had winnable games and potential for a strong resume at their disposal, but consistently failed to take advantage. They’ll need an AAC conference tournament crown to avoid the NIT.

Postseason outlook: NIT (3-5 seed)

6. Memphis (18-13, 10-8; LW- 6)

Last week: vs. Connecticut (W 54-53), at Cincinnati (L 77-65)

Memphis also played 12 games against the current top 50, but posted a brutal 1-11 record (I thought I read that wrong too). To top it off, Memphis wasn’t exactly competitive in those games. The Tigers scored below 0.9 PPP in six of them while allowing 1.0 PPP or better in nine. Memphis has no shot at an NCAA-at large bid. The bigger storyline I’m looking at here is Josh Pastner’s future on the Memphis sidelines.

Postseason outlook: NIT (6-8 seed)

7. Tulane (15-15, 6-12; LW- 8)

Last week: vs. Houston (L 68-63 OT), at USF (W 67-63) Tulane entered the final week with two winnable games and a solid shot at a berth in one of the lesser postseason tournaments. But the Green Wave inexplicably lost to lowly Houston by blowing a 10-point lead in the second half. Tulane will now need to win a conference tournament game to finish with the .500 or better record needed for a chance at a postseason spot. I don’t know how CBI/CIT spots are determined, but a 198 RPI ranking and 2-10 record against the top 100 doesn’t help. Postseason outlook: Collegeinsider.com tournament bubble (yes, I just said CIT bubble. I know, I can’t believe it either).

8. East Carolina (13-18, 6-12; LW- 7)

Last week: vs. Temple (L 70-56), at Houston (L 72-54)

The Pirates’ consistently sub-.500 record will keep them from returning to the CIT for a third straight year. Usually, avoiding a third straight CIT appearance is a good thing, but not for a program that hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since 1993 and has just six postseason appearances in its history. For what it’s worth, I’ll give the Pirates (235th RPI) credit for a top 50 win (Cincinnati).

Postseason outlook: None

9. Houston (12-18, 4-14; LW- 10)

Last week: at Tulane (W 68-63 OT), vs. ECU (W 72-54)

Kelvin Sampson knew he’d be in for a long rebuild when he took over the Cougars, but his squad finished the year on a high note with a three-game winning streak. The Tulane win was probably their best performance of the year. A win in the conference tournament would really give Houston some momentum heading into next season. Despite the tough season, the Cougars actually finished with two top-100 wins (Murray State and UConn).

Postseason outlook: None

10. Central Florida (12-17, 5-13; LW- 9)

The second of four sub-230 teams in the AAC, the Knights beat only three teams with an RPI of 200 or better (twice against No. 198 Tulane). They also lost five times to RPI 200-plus teams. UCF’s performance against South Florida might be the worst by a team in the AAC this season. An offense that had feasted on bad defenses scored just 66.4 PPP while surrendering 1.09 PPP to a brutal USF offense. The Knights shot 36 percent on twos against a team with three players taller than 6-foot-6. Throw in 2-of-20 from deep and a 7-to-17 assist-turnover ratio and you’ve got a game you immediately want to erase from your memory.

Postseason outlook: None

11. South Florida (9-22, 3-15; LW- 11)

Last week: vs. UCF (W 74-45), vs. Tulane (L 67-63)

It’s been a tough year in the start of a rebuild, but the UCF win is a light at the end of the tunnel. The full-of-new-faces Bulls put out a true team effort. Here’s your random stat: USF had more “quality losses” than UCF. The Bulls had 13 losses against top 100 teams to UCF’s 11, and also never lost to a team below 250 in RPI.

Postseason outlook: None

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