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AAC Basketball Power Rankings: Week 8

Bearcats keep top spot with wins over Temple and Tulane.

NCAA Basketball: Tulane at Cincinnati David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The start of American Athletic Conference play didn’t disappoint. SMU and Memphis started the conference slate off with a tense 58-54 victory for the Tigers on Tuesday. Cincinnati and Temple followed that up with a closely fought back-and-forth contest that ended with Cincinnati stealing a 56-50 victory in Philadelphia. Tulsa and UConn battled in overtime on Saturday and then UCF set a defensive record against Temple, allowing only 11 first half points. Let’s see how everyone ranks after the first week of conference play.

No. 11 Tulane (3-11, 0-2) (LW 11)

Tulane played one good half of basketball last week, but the other three halves were enough to send the Green Wave to their third- and fourth-straight losses. They held a 32-31 lead over UCF in their first game, but the Knights found offensive rhythm in the second half and outscored Tulane 54-40. Tulane had three players foul out in the game, and three more tallied four fouls apiece.

The Green Wave also lost to Cincinnati this week. The 36-point difference in scores was the largest margin of defeat for Tulane all season. The Bearcats hit a season-high 13 three pointers in the 92-56 victory.

This week: vs. Memphis

No. 10 USF (6-7, 0-2) (LW 8)

USF had a tough week, losing to both ECU and Houston. The ECU loss is especially difficult considering the Bulls were never really in the game. They are really struggling offensively this season, especially since leading scorer Jahmal McMurray announced he was transferring in late December. Geno Thorpe provided 18 points in the loss to ECU, but the Bulls didn’t have a starter score more than 12 against Houston. USF has now lost four of its past five games and has to travel to SMU this week.

This week: at SMU

No. 9 East Carolina (9-6, 1-1) (LW 9)

ECU opened conference play with a 60-49 victory against USF. The Pirates were led by freshman Elijah Hughes, who scored 19 points off the bench. Hughes has been a much needed boost of offense for ECU, scoring in double figures in four of his six games so far this season.

However, SMU absolutely dominated the Pirates in a 75-44 beating on Saturday. The Pirates shot just 3-of-20 from three point range and 5-of-15 from the free throw line in the loss.

This week: at UCF, at Temple

No. 8. UConn (5-8, 0-2) (LW 7)

The Huskies lost to both Houston and Tulsa last week. The Houston loss was expected, considering Connecticut was without leading scorer Jalen Adams. Adams suffered a concussion against Auburn and was held out of the 62-46 loss to the Cougars.

The loss to Tulsa is a problem. The Huskies have to take advantage of the bottom half of the AAC, or they will absolutely miss the tournament this year. Given their injury woes, it was already a long shot, but if they lose to teams like Tulsa, USF, ECU and Tulane, then it’s going to be a very rough season in Storrs.

This week: at Memphis, vs UCF

No. 7 Tulsa (7-6, 1-0) (LW 9)

Tulsa pulled off the big upset of the week, beating UConn 61-59 in overtime. Jaleel Wheeler made a jump shot with just eight seconds remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime where a steal and layup from Pat Birt won the game for Tulsa. Birt and Sterling Taplin scored 13 points each in the win and Tulsa snapped a two-game losing streak.

This week: at Houston

NCAA Basketball: Cincinnati at Temple Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

No. 6 Temple (9-6, 0-2) (LW 5)

The Owls dropped both games last week, continuing the up and down theme of their season. Temple battled Cincinnati to the final minute before falling 56-50 at home, but were totally blown out of the gym against UCF just a few days later. The Owls were held to 11 first half points and trailed by 27 at halftime. They shot just 26.7 percent against Cincinnati and 31.3 percent against UCF. Scoring leader Obi Enechionyia fouled out in just 15 minutes against UCF and averaged just 5.5 points per game last week.

This week: at SMU, vs. ECU

No. 5 UCF (11-3, 2-0) (LW 6)

The Knights made quite a statement on Saturday with a 77-53 blowout victory against Temple. It was UCF’s best game of the season defensively, as the Knights held the Owls to only 11 first half points. It was a shocking result considering Temple has beaten two top 25 teams this year and had just hung with the No. 23 ranked Cincinnati Bearcats earlier in the week.

Tacko Fall rebounded from a difficult game against Tulane earlier in the week to score 17 points and add seven rebounds in the win over Temple. Senior guard Matt Williams played great in both games, scoring 21 points against Tulane and 17 against Temple.

This week: vs. ECU, at UConn

No. 4 Memphis (10-4, 0-1) (LW 3)

The Tigers split their two games last week, losing to SMU before getting a big win against South Carolina. The SMU game could have important implications later in the season, but for now the Tigers can take solace in the win over South Carolina. Markel Crawford scored a season-high 28 points against the Gamecocks, hitting 9-of-13 shots from the field. Those points were critical, considering guard K.J. Lawson had his worst game at Memphis only scoring one point on 0-of-6 shooting.

This week: vs. Connecticut, at Tulane

No. 3 Houston (11-3, 2-0) (LW 4)

The Cougars went 2-0 last week, beating both UConn and USF on the road. Damyean Dotson and Rob Gray Jr. scored 50 of the Cougars 70 points against the Bulls as Gray Jr. continued his early season dominance. He’s currently listed as third in the nation in offensive rating according to KenPom and was just awarded the AAC Player of the Week award. The Cougars best win so far this season is against Rhode Island, but they’ll have a chance to change that when they face Cincinnati at home on Saturday where they beat the Bearcats 69-56 last season.

This week: vs. Tulsa, vs Cincinnati

No. 2 SMU (12-3, 2-0) (LW 2)

SMU extended its winning streak to eight games with a win on the road against Memphis and another at home against East Carolina. The Mustangs are in prime position for an NCAA tourney berth with all five starters contributing at a high level. Their main weakness so far has been depth — their bench scored just six points in a blowout win against ECU and three points against Memphis.

This week: vs. Temple, vs USF

No. 1 Cincinnati (12-2, 2-0) (LW 1)

The Bearcats hold onto the top spot after beating Temple in Philadelphia earlier in the week and then Tulane at home on Sunday. Jarron Cumberland secured AAC Rookie of the Week honors for the second time in three weeks after he scored a career high 19 points in the win over Tulane. The Bearcats defense looked great this week, holding Temple to just 26.7 percent shooting and Tulane to 27.4 percent.

This week: at Houston