Remember how I said last week was a chance for the AAC to get a couple good wins? Yeah, it failed the test and saw its sleeper team, Houston, lose a game it shouldn’t have lost. Not exactly the Christmas gift that the AAC’s three NCAA-caliber teams (again, sorry SMU) were hoping for from the rest of the conference.
1. SMU (10-0, AP No. 18, LW: 1)
Last week: vs. Nicholls State (W 86-42), vs. Hampton (W 105-72), vs. Kent State in Las Vegas (W 90-74)
SMU rolled to its tenth straight win in Larry Brown’s return. Jordan Tolbert had an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double is averaging 18.7 points and 17.3 rebounds in his last three games. For the season, he’s one of 13 high-major big men who is averaging a double-double.
This week: 12/23 vs. Colorado in Las Vegas, 12/29 at Tulsa
2. Cincinnati (10-3, AP No. 22, LW: 2)
Last week: at VCU (W 69-63), vs. No. 11 Iowa State (L 81-79)
Cincinnati had Iowa State all wrapped up, until Abel Nader hit a go-ahead three with 11 seconds let gave the Cyclones the lead back for good. It’s a crushing loss for the Bearcats considering they missed three shots in the final six seconds and that Nader hadn’t made a three-pointer all season. This is still a good team, but a win over Iowa State would have been huge for the conference and Cincinnati’s tournament resume. However, I won’t call this loss a “failure” loss, because Iowa State is pretty good.
This week: 12/29 vs. Temple
3. Connecticut (7-3, LW: 3)
Last week: vs. Massachusetts-Lowell (W 88-79)
UConn has to face life without center Amida Brimah (broken finger) for the next six to eight weeks. It’s a killer loss on the defensive end; Brimah led the nation with an 18.6 block percentage and led the conference with three blocks per game. Philip Nolan is the best candidate to start in his place, but four-star freshman Steven Enoch should see a lot more time too.
This week: 12/23 vs. Central Connecticut State, 12/29 at Texas
4. Tulsa (8-4, LW: 4)
Last week: vs. Oregon State in Portland, Ore. (L 76-71), vs. Northern Arizona (W 90-55)
Another instance of the AAC failing to get a good win. Oregon State would have been a resume-building win, but Tulsa faded down the stretch after leading for nearly all of the first 30 minutes of the game. Allowing 48 second-half points isn’t a recipe for a win.
This week: 12/29 vs. SMU
5. Memphis: (8-3, LW: 6)
Last week: vs. Ole Miss (L 85-79), vs. IUPUI (W 84-48)
Memphis was yet another team with a chance to add a win over a decent team to its nonconference resume. It failed and still has just one win over a top-50 KenPom team and two over top-200 teams. The final margin of defeat was six points, but it didn’t feel as close. The Tigers’ shot a horrid 30 percent on twos, but ironically made nine of 20 three-point attempts (45 percent), an area where they had struggled all season.
This week: 12/29 vs. Tulane
6. Houston: (9-2, LW: 5)
Last week: vs. North Carolina Central (W 73-65), vs. Eastern Illinois (W 81-65), vs. Grand Canyon (L 78-69) in Las Vegas, vs. Wyoming in Las Vegas (W 94-89 2OT)
Remember last week how I said Houston would finish nonconference play with one loss, barring a crazytown bananapants upset? Well, we got our crazytown bananapants upset. Grand Canyon is 11-2, but that’s an unforgivable loss for Houston. Seven of those wins came against teams ranked 200 or worse in the KenPom ranks (and one more vs. a Division II team). Grand Canyon also has eight more games against teams ranked 300 or worse left on its schedule. It’s not a good look for any tournament chances.
This week: 12/27 vs. Nicholls State
7. Temple (5-5, LW: 7)
Last week: vs. Delaware State (W 78-63)
Temple shot 35 percent from the field and made four of 27 three-point attempts against a winless team. I don’t know whether to focus on how bad Temple’s offense is or how bad Delaware State is that it can’t win a game in which its opponent shoots 35 percent. To make matters worse, the 63 points were the second-most for DSU in its 12 games, furthering proof of Temple’s defensive regression from last season.
This week: 12/29 at Cincinnati
8. Central Florida: (6-4, LW: 8)
Last week: at Detroit (L 89-95), vs. Bethune-Cookman (W 101-96 OT)
I’m a little bummed there’s no letter “D” in the words Central Florida Knights, so I can’t have fun with words and letters to describe UCF’s lack of defense in its last two games.
This week: 12/29 vs. No. 20 George Washington
9. East Carolina (8-5, LW: 9)
Last week: vs. UNC-Wilmington (W 78-73), at James Madison (L 67-61), vs. South Carolina State (W 98-71)
The Pirates have more losses to teams ranked between 100 and 150 (two) than they do wins over teams ranked in the top 200. UNC-Wilmington (122) was ECU’s first such win this season.
This week: No games
10. Tulane (7-6, LW: 10)
Last week: vs. No. 11 North Carolina (L 96-72), at Mississippi State (L 69-59), vs. Southern Mississippi (W 59-40)
I was surprised to learn Southern Miss still had players left after self-imposing a postseason ban for the second straight year. Also, Tulane’s game vs. Mississippi State was the “We Both Lost to Southern University Bowl.” The Green Wave sure is playing some quality opponents.
This week: 12/29 at Memphis
11. South Florida (3-10, LW: 11)
Last week: vs. Jacksonville (W 88-75), vs. UAB (L 79-68), at Seton Hall (L 66-49)
This week: No games