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AAC Basketball Power Rankings: Week 12

Bearcats continue roll, Houston saves season.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Cincinnati The Enquirer-USA TODAY Sports

It was an eventful week in the American Athletic Conference, with home teams winning all but two games. Cincinnati won both of its games including the annual Crosstown Shootout against rival Xavier. Outside of Cincinnati, Houston and Connecticut were the big winners, securing two victories apiece and placing themselves squarely in the middle of the pack of the conference. Let’s take a look at how the rest of the conference fared.

No. 11 USF (6-14, 0-9) (LW 11)

This USF team is really bad, folks. The Bulls’ losing streak has now extended to nine games, and they had to play Cincinnati without star point guard Geno Thorpe. It’s been a rough season for USF already, but losing Thorpe would effectively end all chances of winning another game before the season ends.

This week: vs. Memphis, at Temple

No. 10 Tulane (4-17, 1-8) (LW 10)

Let’s be honest here. The bottom of this conference should be in Conference USA. Tulane lost both games again this week, and have now lost five straight and 10 of its last 11. The Green Wave have a very real chance of ending the season only beating teams with ‘South’ in their school name. Their four wins are over Southeastern Louisiana, Southern, Southern Miss and South Florida. They have one more game against USF on their schedule, so I’d put my money on a five-win season for them.

This week: vs. Temple, at East Carolina

No. 9 East Carolina (10-11, 2-7) (LW 9)

East Carolina snapped its own six-game losing streak with a big victory against Tulsa last week. Tulsa entered the game with a 5-1 record in conference play, but Kentrell Barkley’s 19 points and 11 rebounds were enough to grab a 69-66 win over the Golden Hurricane.

This week: at SMU, vs. Tulane

NCAA Basketball: Memphis at Temple Mark Weber-USA TODAY Sports

No. 8 Temple (11-11, 2-7) (LW 8)

Temple showed flashes of its early season doppleganger by upsetting Memphis 77-67. It was a win the Owls desperately needed since they had lost six of their previous seven. They followed that up with a loss on the road to Houston, a team many thought Temple would compete with for the fourth spot in the conference. Unfortunately, their 2-7 conference record has them squarely confined to the bottom of the standings without much hope of moving past the eighth spot.

This week: at Tulane, vs. South Florida

No. 7. UConn (10-11, 5-4) (LW 7)

The Huskies just won’t go away. Connecticut won both of their games this week to improve their conference record to 5-4. They’ve now won three games in a row, but all three games were against the bottom three teams in the conference (ECU, USF, Tulane). Christian Vital won AAC Rookie of the Week honors by averaging 15.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 steals per game in the two victories.

This week: at Cincinnati

No. 6 Tulsa (12-8, 6-2) (LW 6)

This Tulsa team is the most unpredictable team in the conference. After jumping out to a surprising 5-1 start in conference play the Golden Hurriance dropped a game to East Carolina this week, and then turned around to beat a legitimately solid UCF team.

At first glance, this is the type of team you’d expect to be at the bottom of the standings. Their best player is Junior Etou, a transfer from Rutgers averaging 12.7 points per game. They don’t do anything especially well according to KenPom, but they consistently find ways to pull off 70-66 wins. It’s baffling.

This week: at Cincinnati, vs. SMU

No. 5 UCF (14-7, 5-4) (LW 4)

The Knights lost both of their games last week, and are right in the middle of their toughest stretch of the season. Their next five games are at Houston, vs. Memphis, at Cincinnati, vs. Connecticut and vs. Tulsa. After losing to Tulsa last week, it’s not inconceivable that they could drop all five of those games. Tacko Fall had bounced back from a rough patch over the past four games, but foul trouble limited him to just four points in 19 minutes in the loss at Tulsa.

This week: at Houston, vs. Memphis

NCAA Basketball: Temple at Houston Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

No. 4 Houston (15-7, 6-4) (LW 5)

It was a big week for the Cougars who were able to stop the bleeding after losing four out of five games. Houston beat both Tulane and Temple, and managed to leapfrog UCF in the standings. Rob Gray earned an AAC Honorable Roll selection for his play last week. Gray averaged 20 points per game, including a 28 point performance in the win against Temple.

This week: vs. UCF

No. 3 Memphis (16-6, 6-3) (LW 3)

The Tigers stumbled at Temple last week, effectively ending any hope of winning the regular season conference title. It’s unlikely Cincinnati will lose three times, so the race is now between just Cincinnati and SMU. Memphis is still easily the third best team in the conference, but it will need to beat either SMU or Cincinnati to get a shot at the NCAA tournament.

This week: at South Florida, at UCF

No. 2 SMU (18-4, 8-1) (LW 2)

Shake Milton continued his dominant play and secured a selection to the weekly AAC Honor Roll. Milton scored 19 points and added six rebounds, four assists and three steals in the Mustangs 65-60 win over UCF. SMU looks like a look for the NCAA Tournament at this point, and are just outside of the AP Top 25 for at least one more week. Look for the Mustangs to finally give the conference its second top 25 team next week if they sweep ECU and Tulsa.

This week: vs. ECU, at Tulsa

No. 1 Cincinnati (19-2, 9-0) (LW 1)

Freshman guard Jarron Cumberland arrived in a big way this week. Cumberland helped bring the Bearcats back from an eight point halftime deficit against Xavier, before erupting for a career-high 26 points in the Bearcats win over USF. He was awarded the AAC Player of the Week for averaging 20.5 points per game. The Bearcats win streak now stands at 12 games, with Tulsa and Connecticut next on the schedule.

This week: at Tulsa, vs. Connecticut