The supposedly improved American Athletic Conference didn’t have the best opening week, with two losses to teams outside the KenPom top 200 and three outside the KenPom top 150. The top of the conference looks strong, as most thought it would. But the bottom has serious work to do. Here’s how the teams are looking after the season’s first few days.
1. Connecticut Huskies (2-0, 0-0 AAC, AP No. 19)
Last week: vs. Maine (W 100-65), vs. New Hampshire (W 85-68)
The Huskies throttled Maine to the tune of 55 percent shooting and .76 points allowed per possession. Highly anticipated transfers Sterling Gibbs and Shonn Miller combined for 37 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, three steals and three blocks as Rodney Purvis and Amida Brimah also scored in double figures. Daniel Hamilton came within an earshot of a triple-double in each of the first two games. Maine and New Hampshire aren’t very good, but Connecticut’s offense looks much better than it did last season against its weak nonconference opponents.
This week: 11/21 vs. Furman (Battle 4 Atlantis)
2. SMU Mustangs (1-0, 0-0 AAC)
Last week: vs. Sam Houston State (W 85-50)
SMU beat up the Bearkats with consistent ball movement (assisted 22 of 31 made field goals) and stellar shooting (63 percent from the field). Markus Kennedy played only 16 minutes and fouled out, leaving Jordan Tolbert to pick up the slack. The shortage of frontcourt depth didn’t hurt against a weaker team, but Stanford and Yale will put it to the test. SMU will need to shoot well again and get production from Ben Moore (15 points, eight rebounds) if Kennedy or Tolbert run into foul trouble.
This week: 11/19 at Stanford, 11/22 vs. Yale
3. Cincinnati Bearcats (2-0, 0-0 AAC)
Last week: vs. Western Carolina (W 97-72), vs. Robert Morris (W 106-44)
Through two games, Cincinnati is averaging 101.5 points per game on 57 percent shooting. In its first two games last season (against similar competition), those numbers were 60.5 points per game and 41 percent. In the two wins this year, the Bearcats have scored 1.08 points per possession while holding their opponents to .91 (third-best nationally through two games). In addition, nine different players have scored 10-plus points. If the offense can continue to play well, Cincinnati will be right there for the conference title.
This week: 11/18 at Bowling Green, 11/22 vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Barclays Center Classic opening round), 11/24 vs. Southeastern Louisiana (Barclays Center Classic)
4. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (2-0, 0-0 AAC)
Last week: vs. Central Arkansas (W 98-81), vs. Wichita State (W 77-66)
The offensive outburst is good, but allowing 81 points to an extremely bad team isn’t the best sign for a team that won with defense a season ago. Tulsa didn’t have a single nonconference game last season with either five double-digit scorers or a 59 percent mark from the floor. It had both against Central Arkansas. Tulsa has offensive balance and a little more shooting that it didn’t have last season.
This week: 11/20 vs. Ohio in U.S. Virgin Islands (Paradise Jam)
5. Temple Owls (0-1, 0-0 AAC)
Last week: vs. North Carolina in Annaolpis, Md. (L 91-67)
The loaded Tar Heels shredded the Owls for 91 points on 51 percent shooting. Temple couldn’t handle UNC’s frontcourt duo of Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks, who each posted a double-double and combined for five blocks and 64 percent shooting. Offensively, Devin Coleman earned the start and led Temple with 19 points, but the team shot only 39 percent.
This week: 11/19 vs. Minnesota (Puerto Rico tip-off)
6. Memphis Tigers (1-0, 0-0 AAC)
Last week: vs. Southern Miss (W 67-49), vs. Oklahoma (L 84-78)
The 18-point win against one of the nation’s worst teams isn’t as pretty as it looks, but it’s a win. Memphis didn’t top 40 percent shooting, but it committed only seven turnovers and 12 fouls as Shaq Goodwin had an efficient 15-point, nine-rebound night. Memphis shot only 36 percent against Oklahoma, but had a one-point lead with a minute and a half left. Supposed point guard savior Ricky Tarrant has only managed 12 total points in the first two games, but tallied nine assists, six steals and one turnover. He’ll have plenty of leash to find his scoring, since the Tigers’ other point guard options are freshmen and injured senior Kedren Johnson.
This week: 11/19 vs. Grambling State, 11/23 vs. UT-Arlington
7. Houston Cougars (0-0, 0-0 AAC)
The Cougars haven’t played a game, but their outlook as the AAC’s sleeper team is unchanged.
This week: 11/18 vs. Prairie View A&M, 11/21 vs. Florida A&M
8. UCF Knights (0-1, 0-0 AAC)
Last week: at Davidson (L 90-85)
Davidson crushed the Knights on their home floor last season, but UCF gave them a battle on the road while playing without last season’s leading scorer, B.J. Taylor, and freshman Tacko Fall still getting into shape after eligibility issues. When Taylor returns, UCF will have a deep perimeter to go with its influx of talent in the frontcourt. The upcoming 7-foot-6 matchup of Fall and Mamadou N’Diaye will be must-see TV.
This week: 11/18 vs. UC-Irvine, 11/21 vs. UNC-Greensboro
9. East Carolina Pirates (2-0, 0-0 AAC)
Last week: vs. Grambling State (W 61-53), vs. Charlotte (W 88-74)
Good: scoring 88 points, a number the Pirates didn’t hit against a Division I team last year. Bad: scoring only 61 points and winning by eight against Grambling State, the worst team in the country and team that hasn’t beaten a Division I opponent since March 11, 2014.
This week: 11/20 at No. 15 California (Las Vegas Invitational opening round), 11/23 at San Diego State (Las Vegas Invitational)
10. Tulane Green Wave (1-1, 0-0 AAC)
Last week: vs. Alabama A&M (L 68-67 OT), vs. Drake (W 79-74)
Bad: needing overtime to beat Drake, a team ranked outside the KenPom top 200 that won nine games last year. Even more bad: losing to Alabama A&M, a bottom-50 team that plays in the SWAC that you and four friends could make as walk-ons.
This week: 11/19 at Southern, 11/22 vs. Appalachian State (Challenge in the Music City opening round)
11. South Florida Bulls (0-2, 0-0 AAC)
Last week: vs. Troy, (L 82-77), vs. NJIT (L 60-57)
Neither loss is worse than Tulane’s loss, but South Florida is good enough to beat a Sun Belt team, even in a rebuilding year for the Bulls (we all know that after last season, nobody beats NJIT). There were a couple good signs though: A finally healthy Chris Perry dominated the Trojans for 13 points and 17 rebounds, and Roddy Peters had a 13-point, 10-assist game against the Highlanders. Freshman guard Jahmal McMurray is averaging 17.5 points per game so far. But Peters isn’t without flaw: he has nine turnovers in the first two games, including a travel with 37 seconds left down 58-57 against NJIT. There is enough here to get out of the cellar, especially if Tulane continues to struggle.
This week: 11/19 vs. George Washington, 11/21 vs. Boston University (Basketball Hall of Fame Classic opening round), 11/24 vs. Albany (Basketball Hall of Fame Classic)