Matt Visinsky

Final AAC Basketball Power Rankings

The AAC regular season is over and four teams enter the conference tournament (full bracket at bottom)with good chances at an NCAA Tournament bid. A fifth, Houston, has won three in a row and could be a bid-stealer or spoiler this weekend. The final AAC power rankings weigh in on each team’s final week, postseason outlook and season.

1. Temple Owls (20-10, 14-4 AAC, LW: 2)

Last week: vs. Memphis (W 72-62), at Tulane (W 64-56)

Putting Temple in the top spot only feels like a courtesy because of its conference championship. The Owls are the fifth-best team in the conference according to RPI (58) and sixth-best according to KenPom (86). The fifth-best team in the selection committee’s favorite metric winning a conference title won’t help the AAC in the committee’s eyes. Although to give Temple credit, its defense has to be pretty good because its offense is one of the 25 least-accurate 2-point shooting teams (44.4 percent) in the nation, one of the five worst teams at getting to the foul line (26.7 FT rate) and 162nd in overall offensive efficiency.

This week: 3/11 vs. South Florida or East Carolina

2. SMU Mustangs (25-5, 13-5 AAC, AP No. 25, LW: 1)

Last week: vs. Connecticut (W 80-54), at Cincinnati (L 61-54)

Every metric still says SMU is the best team in the conference. But after Sunday’s mistake-filled and ugly loss at Cincinnati, it’s hard to say SMU earned the top spot when it played poorly in a high-stakes game.

This week: Season over

3. Cincinnati Bearcats (22-9, 12-6 AAC, LW: 3)

Last week: at Houston (L 69-56), vs. SMU (W 61-54)

The SMU win should seal an NCAA Tournament bid, but opposing defenses will be eager to face Cincinnati’s extremely average offense. It’s hard to imagine the Bearcats making much of an NCAA Tournament run for that reason.

This week: 3/11 vs. Connecticut

4. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (20-10, 12-6 AAC, LW: 4) 

Last week: vs. South Florida (W 84-74)

The Golden Hurricane has scored at least 70 points in seven straight games and in 12 of its 18 conference games. Tulsa had 11 70-point games all of last season. It also went from a poor 2-point shooting (46 percent in 2014-15) team to a good one this year (51 percent). Frank Haith’s team is capable of winning the conference tournament as long its defense shows up. If Tulsa can make the NCAA tournament, don’t be surprised if it has the best showing of any AAC team.

This week: 3/11 vs. Memphis

5. Houston Cougars (22-8, 12-6 AAC, LW: 6)

Last week: vs. Cincinnati (W 69-56)

Houston’s resume probably doesn’t have quite enough for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid. The Cougars have a bad nonconference strength of schedule (307), a bad loss to South Florida and are 6-6 against the RPI top 100. But they enter the AAC tournament at the right time, coming off back-to-back wins vs. Connecticut and Cincinnati to lock up the No. 2 seed.

This week: 3/11 vs. Central Florida or Tulane

6. Connecticut Huskies (21-10, 11-7 AAC, LW: 5)

Last week: at SMU (L 80-54), vs. Central Florida (W 67-46)

The Huskies seemed fairly safe for the NCAA Tournament just a couple weeks ago, but a 2-3 finish to the regular season has them right on the bubble. A first-round loss to Cincinnati could burst their bubble. UConn has the No. 1 defense in the AAC (93.1 points per 100 possessions), but it didn’t show up against Houston or SMU.

This week: 3/11 vs. Cincinnati

7. Memphis Tigers (17-14, 8-10 AAC, LW: 7)

Last week: at Temple (L 72-62), at East Carolina (W 83-53)

The Tigers are looking at a second straight season without any kind of national postseason tournament, yet Josh Pastner appears to be safe for another season, per USA Today’s Dan Wolken. If he can keep the team mostly intact this offseason, Memphis has a little hope going into next year. But something has to fix the offense.

This week: 3/11 vs. Tulsa

8. Central Florida Knights (12-17, 6-12 AAC, LW: 8)

Last week: vs. Tulane (W 73-65), at Connecticut (L 67-46)

In 14 games against KenPom top 100 opponents, the Knights averaged a measly 59 points per game and lost each game by an average of 15 points. Again, the roster is better and UCF won one more conference game than last year, but not much else says UCF is better than last season.

This week: 3/10 vs. Tulane

9. East Carolina Pirates (12-19, 4-14 AAC, LW: 10)

Last week: at South Florida (W 52-39), vs. Memphis (L 83-53)

Want an idea of how ugly a game Wednesday’s matchup vs. South Florida was? East Carolina scored with 9:51 left in the first half to take an 8-point lead. The Pirates wouldn’t score again until 5:15 left in the half on a Prince Williams 3-pointer. That 3 extended their lead to a 9-point advantage. East Carolina shot 36 percent and lost. That wasn’t even the worst shooting percentage by a winning team last week: Cincinnati shot 29.5 percent and beat SMU.

This week: 3/10 vs. South Florida

10. South Florida Bulls (7-24, 4-14 AAC, LW: 9)

Last week: vs. East Carolina (L 52-39), at Tulsa (L 84-74)

The Bulls’ offense ranked bottom-10 nationally in three-point percentage (28.5), turnover percentage (22.1) and assists per game (9.9), and bottom 15 in points per game (63.0).

This week: 3/10 vs. East Carolina

11. Tulane Green Wave (10-21, 3-15 AAC, LW: 11)

Last week: at Central Florida (L 73-65), vs. Temple (L 64-56)

Transfers have crippled Ed Conroy during his tenure as Tulane’s head coach. If he can keep the team together this offseason, Tulane has a reasonable chance to noticeably improve next year. It’s easy to forget that the last-place team signed five well-regarded freshmen for 2015.

This week: 3/10 vs. Central Florida

Complete AAC Tournament Bracket

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