1. SMU Mustangs (21-3, 9-3 AAC, AP No. 21, LW: 1)
Last week: vs. Tulsa (W 82-77), vs. Gonzaga (W 69-60)
SMU isn’t in first place anymore, but no one should think Temple is the better team, at least not yet. SMU played defense, which it had struggled to do in the past few weeks, in the win over Gonzaga. Conference game or not, SMU needed that game and needed to prove it could play defense. The conference title is nowhere near a sure thing anymore and Temple is a threat. But a half-game deficit to a hot-and-cold team shouldn’t end the title race and start the panic among SMU fans.
This week: 2/18 at Connecticut, 2/21 vs. East Carolina
2. Temple Owls (16-8, 10-3 AAC, LW: 4)
Last week: vs. Connecticut (W 63-58), vs. South Florida (W 77-65)
The Owls are 5-1 against SMU, Cincinnati and Connecticut, but have a loss to Memphis and East Carolina. Neither the good wins nor the bad losses are flukes: they are capable of beating some top teams, but not quite above a bad loss. Wednesday is their Super Bowl: Big Five rival and No. 1 Villanova. It would be a résumé-building win, but Temple then has to play Houston and Tulsa two days apart on the same road trip. Win both those and the Owls will look like a truly legitimate conference title threat.
This week: 2/17 vs. No. 1 Villanova, 2/21 at Houston, 2/23 at Tulsa
3. Connecticut Huskies (18-7, 8-4 AAC, LW: 2)
Last week: at Temple (L 63-58), vs. Tulsa (W 75-73)
It’s opportunity week for the Huskies. Winning both games would give them five RPI top 60 wins (Michigan, whom they beat in November, and Cincinnati are just outside the top 50). Lose them, and UConn may have a bubbly life until Selection Sunday.
This week: 2/18 vs. SMU, 2/20 at Cincinnati
4. Cincinnati Bearcats (19-7, 9-4 AAC, LW: 3)
Last week: vs. East Carolina (W 75-60)
Another team that feels like it is in the field of 68 right now, but is far from a lock. The Bearcats have chances for two RPI top 50 wins this week and still host SMU on the final weekend. Cincinnati is finding its once-dominant defense again: It has held four of its last five opponents to 60 or fewer points, and the one that scored above that scored just 63.
This week: 2/18 at Tulsa, 2/20 vs. Connecticut
5. Houston Cougars (18-7, 8-5 AAC, LW: 6)
Last week: vs. Memphis (W 98-90), vs. Central Florida (W 82-58)
Probably too little too late for a NCAA tournament bid or a conference title, but the Cougars can play spoiler Sunday against Temple, whom they already defeated once.
This week: 2/17 at Tulane, 2/21 vs. Temple
6. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (16-9, 8-5 AAC, LW: 5)
Last week: at SMU (W 82-77), at Connecticut (L 75-73)
For any chance at an NCAA tournament at-large bid, Tulsa needed to go 4-0 in a stretch against Houston, SMU, Connecticut and Cincinnati. A win vs. Cincinnati would give Tulsa a 3-1 record in that span, but even a win over Temple on Tuesday shouldn’t change the Golden Hurricane from autobid-or-bust status.
This week: 2/18 vs. Cincinnati, 2/21 at Central Florida, 2/23 vs. Temple
7. Memphis Tigers (14-11, 5-7 AAC, LW: 7)
Last week: at Houston (L 98-90), at Tulane (L 94-87 OT)
The statement urging fans to attend the final three home games feels like a precursor to a coaching change. Oh, and Memphis lost to Tulane.
This week: 2/17 vs. Central Florida, 2/20 at South Florida
8. Central Florida Knights: (11-12, 5-7 AAC, LW: 8)
Last week: at Houston (L 82-58)
Lots of chances for spoilers and confidence-building wins left, but a 1-6 record in the last seven games isn’t very inspiring. All of the conference wins have come against South Florida, East Carolina or Tulane, beating Tulsa, Houston, Temple or UConn is a lot to ask.
This week: 2/17 at Memphis, 2/21 vs. Tulsa
9. Tulane Green Wave (10-16, 3-10 AAC, LW: 11)
Last week: at East Carolina (W 100-92 3OT), vs. Memphis (W 94-87 OT)
A WINNING STREAK. Can you believe it?! The 100 and 94 points are the two of the three highest outputs for Tulane in two years of AAC play. (It scored 100 in a three-overtime loss to UCF last year). Tulane has a long, long way to go, but last week showed why some like the Green Wave long-term.
This week: 2/17 vs. Houston
10. South Florida Bulls (6-21, 3-11 AAC, LW: 10)
Last week: at Temple (L 77-65), at East Carolina (W 69-52)
All three of the Bulls’ wins have been on the road, but they still have home games against Memphis and East Carolina.
This week: 2/20 vs. Memphis
11. East Carolina Pirates (10-16, 2-11 AAC, LW: 9)
Last week: vs. Tulane (L 100-92 3OT), at Cincinnati (L 75-60), vs. South Florida (L 69-52)
A winless finish to the season is looking more and more likely. The real question is, can the same be said about a coaching change?
This week: 2/21 at SMU