1. SMU Mustangs (18-1, 7-1 AAC, AP No. 13, LW: 1)
Last week: at Temple (L 89-80)
SMU is still the team to beat for the conference title, even after the loss at Temple. No one else has matched their consistency to suggest otherwise. And from the looks of Saturday’s fun in the snow, they might be the team to beat in making snow angels too.
This week: 1/30 vs. Memphis, 2/1 at Houston
2. Connecticut Huskies (13-5, 4-2 AAC, LW: 2)
Last week: vs. Georgetown (W 68-62)
Hold an opponent scoreless for the final 4:32 of a game and your odds of winning drastically improve, even when you shoot 36 percent from the floor. The Huskies are dangerous because they have three players who can have a big day on any given night and carry a team to a win. But the lack of offensive synergy makes them susceptible to losing games to average teams.
This week: 1/28 vs. Cincinnati, 1/31 at Central Florida
3. Temple Owls (11-7, 5-2 AAC, LW: 3)
Last week: at La Salle (W 62-49), 1/23 vs. SMU (W 89-80)
If the Owls keep winning conference games and the rest of the eligible teams stays inconsistent, they could be the best bet for an at-large bid. The Feb. 17 game vs. Villanova is a big opportunity and a must-win. Temple isn’t quite on the bubble yet, but its play so far in conference games doesn’t look like a fluke anymore. Devin Coleman must also prove that his and the rest of the offense’s 89-point output vs. SMU wasn’t a fluke.
This week: 1/27 at East Carolina, 1/31 at South Florida
4. Cincinnati Bearcats (15-6, 5-3 AAC, LW: 4)
Last week: vs. Memphis (W 76-72), at Tulane (W 97-75)
Cincinnati earned a hard-fought and much-needed win over Memphis behind a 25-point day from Troy Caupain. Then it made 14 of its first 16 shots against Tulane. The Bearcats have averaged 1.1 points per possession in three of their past four games, but still don’t look right defensively, even thought the numbers would suggest they are fine. They have allowed 60 or more points four times in eight games this year, compared to four times in 18 conference games last year.
This week: 1/28 at Connecticut
5. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (13-6, 5-2 AAC, LW: 6)
Last week: vs. Central Florida (W 75-60)
How to win by 15 when shooting 34 percent from the field: have a plus-10 turnover differential, shoot 27 free throws and grab 18 offensive rebounds. Tulsa has won five in a row and realistically could push for 12 to 13 conference wins, although Shaquille Harrison will need to be more consistent and productive. He’s averaging 11.7 points per game on 40.7 percent shooting in conference games compared to 18 points per game in nonconference.
This week: 1/27 at Houston, 1/30 vs. Tulane
6. Memphis Tigers: (13-7, 4-3 AAC, LW: 5)
Last week: at Cincinnati (L 76-72), vs. East Carolina (L 84-83), at Central Florida (W 97-86)
A near triple-double from Trahson Burrell, a double-double from Shaq Goodwin, and 27 points from Dedric Lawson weren’t enough to overcome East Carolina’s 52 percent shooting from three. This may be the worst loss Memphis has suffered in seven seasons under Josh Pastner. East Carolina had not won a road game this year, had never won in Memphis, and was playing without Caleb White, its second-leading scorer. Sure, B.J. Tyson had a career day, but such porous defense all around is unacceptable against a usually bad offensive team.
This week: 1/30 at SMU
7. Houston Cougars: (13-6, 3-4 AAC, LW: 7)
Last week: vs. South Florida (L 71-62)
Things that make me lose faith in people: 1) setting a password as “123456” (which apparently people still do, and I bet a lot on their luggage locks) and 2) losing to South Florida in basketball
This week: 1/27 vs. Tulsa, 1/30 at East Carolina, 2/1 vs. SMU
8. Central Florida Knights: (10-8, 4-3 AAC, LW: 8)
Last week: at South Florida (W 64-54), at Tulsa (L 75-60), vs. Memphis (L 97-86)
The Knights are *probably* good enough to avoid bad losses, but don’t look quite good enough to knock off upper-tier teams in the conference. Giving up 54 points in a half as they did vs. Memphis can’t happen anymore.
This week: 1/31 vs. Connecticut
9. East Carolina Pirates (9-11, 1-6 AAC, LW: 9)
Last week: at Memphis (W 84-83)
Give a lot of credit for the Pirates for this road win. It’s an inexcusable loss for Memphis, but B.J. Tyson carried a shorthanded team with 26 points on 6-for-10 three-point shooting and played every minute. He wasn’t even expected to play because of a shoulder injury.
This week: 1/27 vs. Temple, 1/30 vs. Houston
10. Tulane Green Wave (8-13, 1-7 AAC, LW: 10)
Last week: at Cincinnati (L 97-75)
Tulane trailed by 24 points just 10 minutes into the game. It outscored Cincinnati by three points in the other 30 minutes. Good job for not completely mailing it in early, I guess?
This week: 1/27 vs. South Florida, 1/30 at Tulsa
11. South Florida Bulls (4-17, 1-7 AAC, LW: 11)
Last week: vs. Central Florida (L 64-54), at Houston (W 71-62)
South Florida > Houston > LSU > Kentucky > Duke > Indiana > Wisconsin > Michigan State > Kansas > Oklahoma. The Bulls are transitive No. 1!
This week: 1/27 at Tulane, 1/31 vs. Temple