Week 8 AAC Hoops Power Rankings

Through a week-plus of conference play, the AAC is all over the place. Connecticut and Cincinnati, the prime contenders for an NCAA tournament spot, each lost to Temple. Speaking of Temple, the Owls are now 2-1 in league play after going 5-5 in nonconference play and playing poorly against every good opponent they faced. They are one of a few teams that is hard to figure out right now. The only sure thing is that SMU is the class of the conference.

1. SMU Mustangs (13-0, 2-0 AAC, AP No. 15, LW: 1)

Last week: vs. South Florida (W 72-58)

South Florida played a lot of zone defense that kept SMU’s offense a little off-balance all day. SMU shot as one more three-pointer than two-pointer in the first half, a very un-SMU-like stat. The Mustangs also shot a season-worst 41.1 percent from the floor and led by just three with 12:57 left in the game, but the Bulls went on an eight-minute, 50-second scoring drought as SMU started to find some space to get to the basket. 

This week: 1/7 vs. Cincinnati, 1/10 vs. Central Florida

2. Cincinnati Bearcats (11-4, 1-1 AAC, LW: 3)

Last week: vs. Tulsa (W 76-57)

The Bearcats should be feeling pretty good after beating Tulsa how they did: 20 assists on 27 made field goals, 12-of-23 from deep, 0.88 points allowed per possession. Cincinnati needed a game where it proved it could get stops. Holding James Woodard and Shaquille Harrison to 9-of-26 from the floor qualifies. Thursday’s game at SMU will test if it was legit or an aberration.

This week: 1/7 at SMU, 1/10 at South Florida

3. Connecticut Huskies (10-4, 1-1 AAC, AP No. 23, LW: 2)

Last week: at Tulane (W 75-67), vs. Temple (L 55-53)

This team’s perimeter talent can match just about anyone’s, but sometimes it just doesn’t click or play well together. UConn can get too trigger-happy and force shots instead of making extra passes or trying to get to the foul line; the Huskies are 200th-or-worse nationally in free throw rate (31.0) and assist percentage (50.9). Against Temple, they shot only 31 percent from the floor. It’s an off night, but also a little concerning, considering Temple didn’t do anything amazing.

This week: 1/9 vs. Memphis

4. Memphis Tigers: (10-4, 1-0 AAC, LW: 4)

Last week: at No. 22 South Carolina (L 86-76), vs. Nicholls State (W 82-46)

Memphis led South Carolina for most of the first 10 minutes of the second half, but let a great opportunity for a good win slip away. Memphis ends its nonconference schedule 1-4 against KenPom top 100 teams. The Tigers get SMU, Connecticut and Cincinnati twice, plus Houston on the road, so it has some chances to build a resume. But history shows a resume made of nearly all AAC wins isn’t likely to do much for the selection committee. The one win was a neutral court overtime victory vs. Ohio State, which isn’t a “rare” type of win as far as the selection committed is concerned.

This week: 1/9 at Connecticut

5. Houston Cougars: (13-2, 3-0 AAC, LW: 6)

Last week: at South Florida (W 73-67), at Temple (W 77-50), vs. Tulane (W 63-45)

The Cougars have played three conference games, two of them against the two worst teams in the league. They have the look like a good team, but it’s still hard to tell how good they are when 11 of their 13 wins are against teams ranked 150 or lower. The win at Temple looks better given what the Owls have accomplished so far in conference play, as does the home win over LSU. But those and the neutral loss to Grand Canyon are the only three games where Houston can truly be judged. It’s not enough just yet.

This week: No games.

6. Temple Owls (7-6, 2-1 AAC, LW: 7)

Last week: vs. Houston (L 77-50), at Connecticut (W 55-53)

Temple beat UConn despite two scoring droughts of at least four and a half minutes and third of three and a half minutes. That says it wasn’t a very aesthetically pleasing game, although the 55-53 final score also suggests as much. Temple didn’t seem like much entering AAC play. The Owls had zero top 150 wins and were 0-5 against every top-100 opponent they played. Now, they have two top-40 wins. Considering the entire body of work and Temple’s persistent offensive problems, it’s best to go in wait-and-see mode with Temple for now. If Temple does prove to be a good team, it still has a chance for a big resume builder at Villanova.

This week: 1/9 vs. East Carolina

7. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (9-6, 1-2 AAC, LW: 5) 

Last week: at Cincinnati (L 76-57), vs. East Carolina (W 55-43)

The Golden Hurricane look like a middle-of-the-pack team with no consistent scorers behind Shaquille Harrision and James Woodard, who rank second and third in the conference in scoring, respectively. For a team with eight seniors that won 14 conference games a year ago, that's disappointing. Since a 4-0 start, Tulsa is 5-6. This isn't an NCAA tournament team and looks like the most disappointing team in the conference.

This week: 1/10 at Tulane

8. Central Florida Knights: (8-5, 2-0 AAC, LW: 8)

Last week: at East Carolina (W 71-68), vs. South Florida (W 75-64)

A.J. Davis scored 17 second-half points to help the Knights climb out of a 10-point deficit against the Pirates. Heralded junior college transfer Tanksley Efianayi scored 10 second-half points off the bench too. In Davis’ last nine games, he’s averaging 15.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. The Tennessee transfer is quietly having a good offensive season. 

This week: 1/10 at SMU

9. East Carolina Pirates (8-7, 0-2 AAC, LW: 9)

Last week: vs. Central Florida (L 71-68), at Tulsa (L 55-43)

Making four field goals in the final 10 minutes of a game is a good recipe for blowing a 10-point lead. Kentrell Barkley posted another good stat line (14 points, six rebounds, four assists, four steals) against UCF, but he disappeared down the stretch.

This week: 1/9 at Temple

10. Tulane Green Wave (7-9, 0-3 AAC, LW: 10)

Last week: vs. Connecticut (L 75-67), at Houston (L 63-45)

Get ready for The Battle for the Basement: Part I. Getting ready for this game involves making sure you have something else to watch next Tuesday night.

This week: 1/10 vs. Tulsa, 1/12 at South Florida

11. South Florida Bulls (3-13, 0-3 AAC, LW: 11)

Last week: vs. Houston (L 73-67), at SMU (L 72-58), at Central Florida (L 75-64)

The Bulls’ zone defense flustered the best offense in the conference. Can that count as a win? They may not get any more of those this ye – Wait! KenPom gives USF a 51 percent chance to win Battle for the Basement: Part I. We’ll hold off on awarding a win for flustering SMU until that game does down. (See what I did there)?

/shows self out.

This week: 1/10 vs. Cincinnati, 1/12 vs. Tulane

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