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AAC Basketball Power Rankings: Week Five

Cincinnati backs into the top spot after Temple loses.

NCAA Basketball: UAB at Memphis Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

American Athletic Conference teams went 9-6 this week, with UConn picking up the biggest victory when it beat Syracuse on Monday night. It was a light schedule around the conference as schools across the country prepare for finals. Collectively, the conference went 0-2 against top 25 teams with Cincinnati losing to No. 16 Butler and East Carolina losing to No. 14 Virginia. Cameron Reynolds and Dedric Lawson were the big stars this week. Reynolds led the Green Wave to their first winning streak of the season and Lawson put up a ridiculous stat line against UAB that included eight blocks.

Here’s a look at the updated AAC power rankings heading into this week.

No. 11 Tulane (3-7) (LW 11)

What a great week for the Green Wave. Tulane defeated both Southern and Southern Mississippi to improve to 3-7 on the season. After a pair of subpar games, junior guard Cameron Reynolds had his best two games of the season with 24 points and seven rebounds against Southern and 23 points and 11 rebounds against Southern Mississippi. The win against Southern Mississippi was especially impressive since the outcome was never in doubt. Tulane jumped out to a 13-point lead at halftime and then led by as many as 21 points late in the second half. The Green Wave have two relatively easy games upcoming with McNeese State and Texas State their final tune-ups ahead of conference play.

This week: Off

No. 10 Tulsa (4-4) (LW 10)

Tulsa missed an opportunity to secure a signature win by losing 71-67 to Oklahoma State on Saturday. The Golden Hurricane fought back from an eight-point deficit at the half to take a 60-57 lead with just over four minutes remaining. However that lead slipped away and Sterling Taplin missed a basket with just five seconds remaining that would’ve sent the game to overtime.

It’s especially disappointing because it came on the heels of the Golden Hurricane’s best win of the season, when they beat Illinois State 70-68 earlier in the week. Tulsa trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half before coming back to win the game on a Taplin basket with 11 seconds remaining.

Regardless of how the week ended, Tulsa showed its a team that just won’t go away and that it can compete with schools in the Top 100 of the KenPom rankings.

This week: vs. Texas State

No. 9 USF (4-3) (LW 9)

USF had the week off, so it will prepare for two home games this week, including a rematch against a South Carolina team it lost to by 22 points last season. South Carolina is currently undefeated and ranked 19th in the country.

This week: vs. Bethune Cookman, vs No. 19 South Carolina

No. 8 East Carolina (7-3) (LW 7)

ECU was totally dominated by No. 14 Virginia in a 76-53 loss last Tuesday. Virginia used a 27-5 run over the last 10 minutes of the first half to put the Pirates away. This game highlighted exactly how far ECU has to go to beat a high caliber team. Its defense is especially weak, as you can see in the video below.

Freshman Jeremy Sheppard played well offensively against Virginia scoring 17 points and hitting four of six three pointers. He was the lone bright spot in a truly ugly loss.

This week: vs Charleston

No. 7 UCF (6-1) (LW 6)

UCF was off this week, but received bad news when it learned sophomore guard B.J. Taylor will miss the remainder of the non-conference season after he suffered a broken thumb against UMass. Taylor leads the Knights in both points and assists and will be very difficult to replace. The loss of Taylor must be especially frustrating for the Knights as they enter a difficult week with two of their three games against quality opponents.

This week: vs. Penn, at George Washington, vs. Miami (OH)

NCAA Basketball: Connecticut vs Syracuse Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

No. 6. UConn (4-5) (LW 8)

UConn got the win it desperately needed when it upset Syracuse early in the week. Freshman Christian Vital hit two clutch free throws with three seconds remaining to give the Huskies the win. It was the most encouraging sign to date that there might be some fight left in UConn after a string of bad luck to start the season.

The Huskies followed that game up with a 64-60 road loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday. The game was tied 54-54 with two and a half minutes remaining before the Buckeyes used an 8-0 run to secure the victory.

This week: vs. North Florida

No. 5 Houston (7-2) (LW 4)

Houston picked up its first quality win of the season when it defeated Rhode Island 82-77 on Saturday. The Cougars scheduled a particularly weak non-conference slate this year and needed the win over Rhode Island after falling on the road to Arkansas earlier in the week. Rob Gray Jr. scored a season-high 30 points and Danrad Knowles added 25 for the Cougars in the win over URI. Gray Jr. hit a career-high 14 of 16 free throws while Houston shot 83.9 percent from the line.

This week: vs. UT Rio Grande Valley

No. 4 SMU (7-3) (LW 5)

SMU easily beat a very talented TCU team on Saturday. It was TCU’s first loss of the season and the highest-rated opponent SMU has beaten this season according to KenPom. The Mustangs won the game on the strength of their free throw shooting. They made 23-of-30 from the line, while TCU shot just 7-of-12. Semi Ojeleye led the way for SMU with 23 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two blocks. It’s the fourth time this season Ojeleye has topped the 20-point mark.

This week: vs McNeese

No. 3 Memphis (7-2) (LW 3)

Lawson played all 40 minutes in the Tigers 62-55 win over UAB on Saturday. He scored 25 points and added 10 rebounds and eight blocked shots in the win. The sophomore is now averaging 20.7 points and 10.8 rebounds per game for the Tigers. UAB led with under 10 minutes to play in the second half, but Lawson and his brother K.J. took over down the stretch to lead Memphis to its seventh victory.

This week: vs. UAB

No. 2 Temple (7-3) (LW 1)

Temple overcame a 12-point deficit to George Washington to tie the game at 61-61 with one and a half minutes remaining before ultimately falling 66-63. It’s the third loss on the season to an unranked team for the Owls, who beat DePaul on Saturday, but not before almost blowing a 24-point lead with eight minutes remaining in that one. DePaul went on a 24-5 run to cut the lead to five, but clutch free throw shooting from the Owls allowed them to hold on. Temple plays No. 1 Villanova at The Pavilion on Tuesday. The Owls will hope to stop Villanova’s 18-game winning streak against Philadelphia’s Big 5 in that contest

This week: at No. 1 Villanova, vs. NJIT

No. 1 Cincinnati (7-2) (LW 2)

The Bearcats lost to No. 16 Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday. Cincinnati senior Troy Caupain had his best game of the season, but it wasn’t enough for the Bearcats to overcome Kelan Martin and the Bulldogs. Caupin scored 22 points, including a three pointer to tie the game as the clock expired at the end of the first half. Kyle Washington was saddled with foul trouble most of the game and played a season-low 19 minutes. Officiating was a major topic of conversation following the game, considering the Bulldogs made 21 free throws while the Bearcats only attempted 13. The video below shows each of the fouls called against the Bearcats before they began fouling on purpose. The Cincinnati bench disappeared again, scoring just four points and shooting 1-8 from the field.

This week: vs. Texas Southern, vs. Fairleigh Dickinson