Lots of movement in the power rankings this week as teams like UConn and Houston begin making a surge toward the conference tournament. Of course the biggest outcome was when SMU topped Cincinnati in the premiere game of the season in the American Athletic Conference, pushing the Mustangs up to the top spot for the first time all season. At the bottom of the bracket, USF picked up its first conference win to set the stage for an epic battle for the basement against Tulane this week. Let’s see how everyone else fared.
No. 11 USF (7-17, 1-12) (LW 11)
USF snapped a 12-game losing streak by beating East Carolina 64-57 on Saturday. It was the Bulls’ first conference win of the season. Geno Thorpe was the star for the cause, scoring 22 points and adding eight assists in the victory.
This week: vs. Cincinnati, at Tulane
No. 10 Tulane (4-20, 1-11) (LW 10)
Tulane lost yet again this week, and is in danger of dropping to the bottom of the standings this week. The Green Wave will host USF for the AAC’s version of the Toilet Bowl. Loser gets last place.
This week: at SMU, vs. USF
No. 9 East Carolina (11-14, 3-9) (LW 9)
Tough week for the Pirates, who lost to the worst team in the conference. Making matters worse, their game against USF wasn’t even close. The Bulls controlled throughout, forcing ECU to shoot just 35.8 percent from the field and commit 15 turnovers.
This week: vs. Temple, vs UCF
No. 8 Temple (14-12, 5-8) (LW 8)
Yet again, Temple cements itself as the least predictable team in the conference. After being easily defeated at home against SMU, the Owls went on the road and beat a good Memphis team 74-62. It was the second time this season the Owls upset the Tigers, and results in a big hit to Memphis’ tournament hopes.
This week: at East Carolina, vs. UConn
No. 7 Tulsa (12-13, 6-7) (LW 6)
Tulsa lost twice last week, and then dropped a game against USF on Tuesday of this week. That puts its losing streak at five games with a trip to Cincinnati next on the schedule. The Golden Hurricane had overachieved for much of the season, but this rough patch in their schedule seems to have broken their spirit. They lost to UCF by 18 on Tuesday after playing both Cincinnati and Memphis to tight games.
This week: at Cincinnati
No. 6 UCF (16-10, 7-7) (LW 4)
UCF lost to both Cincinnati and UConn last week before picking up an easy win against Tulsa on Tuesday night. The Knights are in a fierce battle with Tulsa and UConn to avoid the American’s sixth seed. The sixth through 11th seeds have to play in the first round, while seeds one through five get a bye to the quarterfinals. UConn currently holds the edge after Central Florida lost to them on Saturday.
This week: at East Carolina
No. 5 UConn (12-12, 7-5) (LW 7)
The Huskies are starting to peak at just the right moment. They’ve won five of their list six games, including a clutch road win against UCF on Saturday. Rodney Purvis connected on 11-of-15 three pointers during the week and averaged 20.5 points per game in the Huskies two wins. It seems ridiculous, but if the Huskies show they can beat Houston, SMU or Cincinnati during the regular season, they could be a dark-horse candidate to win the AAC tournament in Hartford and make the NCAA tournament.
This week: vs. Memphis, at Temple
No. 4 Memphis (18-8, 8-5) (LW 3)
The Tigers just can’t figure out Temple. Memphis lost to the Owls for the second time this season, and have now slid back to fourth in our power rankings. Their end of season schedule is absolutely brutal with road games against both UConn and Cincinnati next up and then a road game against SMU to end the season.
This week: at UConn
No. 3 Houston (18-7, 9-4) (LW 4)
The Cougars won both games last week, and are now riding a five-game winning streak. Houston had to win those five games to set it up for a chance to get some a key win over either SMU or Cincinnati for its NCAA tournament resume. The Cougars are a longshot to make the tournament at this point, but still could play their way in with a strong showing over these last five games. That makes their home game against SMU all the more important on Saturday.
This week: vs. SMU
No. 2 Cincinnati (22-3, 11-1) (LW 1)
The Bearcats had flirted with losses several times during their 15-game winning streak, and finally couldn’t overcome their inconsistencies in their loss to SMU. The Mustangs got control of the game with around 10 minutes remaining and Cincinnati was never able to make it close again. Troy Caupain had perhaps his worst game as a Bearcat, scoring just two points with three assists in the loss. The two teams will now battle for the No. 1 seed in the AAC tournament, which actually has the advantage of both skipping the first round, and avoiding the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds until the championship game.
This week: at South Florida, vs. Tulsa
No. 1 SMU (22-4, 12-1) (LW 2)
Semi Ojeleye won AAC Player of the Week honors after averaging 24.0 points and 7.0 rebounds in the Mustangs two victories last week. Their 60-51 victory over Cincinnati was unquestionably their signature win of the season. Prior to that the highest ranked team they faced according to KenPom was 37th-ranked Houston.
The victory over Cincinnati saw them battle back from a nine-point deficit in the second half and easily take control to finish the game. They are a match-up nightmare and if they are hitting three pointers like they did against Cincinnati they’ll hang with any team in the nation.
This week: vs. Tulane, at Houston