Things are beginning to get interesting in the American Athletic Conference.
After dropping as far as eighth in the power rankings with a 7-10 record, the UConn Huskies have gone 7-2 in their past nine games with nail-biting wins over UCF, Memphis and Temple. Their 9-5 conference record could very well put them in position to make a major run at the NCAA tournament, when they essentially host the AAC tournament at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut. That very well could be the only way the American gets three teams into the dance this year. Let’s see how the rest of the teams fared last week.
No. 11 USF (7-19, 1-14) (LW 11)
The Bulls lost to both Cincinnati and Tulane this week. They lost to Tulane by 23 points, making it the second time this season they lost to the Green Wave by more than 20 points. USF has definitively established themselves as the worst team in the American. Congrats.
This week: at Tulsa
No. 10 Tulane (5-20, 2-13) (LW 10)
The streak continues for Tulane. They’ve now won five games this year, with all five wins coming against teams with ‘south’ in their name.
I don’t know what to make of that, but in a season where you’ve lost 20 of the 25 games you’ve played, perhaps you take this under advisement for future scheduling.
This week: vs. ECU, at Temple
No. 9 East Carolina (13-15, 5-10) (LW 9)
Sophomore Kentrell Barkley came through with perhaps his most complete performance of the season in ECU’s 78-64 over Temple. Barkley scored 19 points and added 13 rebounds and four assists. After beating Tulane last night, the Pirates have now won two of their past three games, and still have an outside shot at ending the season at .500 or above.
This week: at Tulane, at Tulsa
No. 8 Temple (14-14, 5-10) (LW 8)
It was a rough week for the Owls. Temple lost to both East Carolina and UConn, and has cemented its fate of playing on day one of the AAC tournament. The loss to UConn was especially painful, considering Temple had a seven-point lead late in the game. The Owls have an especially weak schedule remaining, but given how inconsistent they’ve played all season, nothing is a given for them.
This week: vs. UCF
No. 7 Tulsa (12-14, 6-8) (LW 7)
The bleeding continued for Tulsa. It lost twice last week, running its losing streak to six games. The Golden Hurricane should finally be able to stop this streak this week when they face both USF and East Carolina at home.
This week: vs. USF vs. ECU
No. 6 UCF (17-10, 8-7) (LW 6)
UCF barely escaped ECU with a 61-58 victory on Saturday. Clutch shooting from Matt Williams coupled with some bad decisions from the young ECU team gave the Knights the victory. ECU employed a bit of a hack-a-Tacko strategy late in the game, that kept it within a possession, but a costly turnover and missed three pointers prevented late game heroics.
This week: at Temple, vs. Cincinnati
No. 5 Memphis (18-9, 8-6) (LW 4)
As UConn rises, Memphis continues to fall. The Tigers were a favorite of mine early in the season, but have hit a rough patch in conference play. They haven’t even been losing to the top teams in the conference. Their past three losses are to UCF, Temple and UConn, and they still have games remaining against Cincinnati, Houston and SMU. At this point, I don’t think anything short of a AAC tournament championship will get the Tigers into the NCAA tournament.
This week: at Cincinnati, vs. Houston
No. 4 UConn (14-12, 9-5) (LW 5)
As mentioned earlier, the Huskies are on fire. They beat both Temple and Memphis last week and have now won seven of their past eight games. The Huskies look primed to make a deep run in the AAC tournament. They could still easily grab the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament, but will have to beat either SMU or Cincinnati in regular season play to make that happen.
This week: at Houston, vs. SMU
No. 3 Houston (18-8, 9-5) (LW 3)
The Cougars became the latest victims of a red-hot SMU team. Rob Gray nabbed the AAC Weekly Honor Roll by scoring 23 points and adding six rebounds in the loss. Houston now has its most important stretch of the season coming up with UConn, Memphis and Cincinnati next on the schedule. If the Cougars can hold off the Huskies for that No. 3 seed, it could make a big difference in how far they can go in the AAC tournament.
This week: vs. UConn, at Memphis
No. 2 Cincinnati (24-3, 13-1) (LW 2)
Cincinnati had a relatively easy week, beating both USF and Tulsa comfortably. Consider that the calm before the storm. The Bearcats close out the season against Memphis, UCF, Houston and UConn; all four of those teams have the ability to beat the Bearcats. At this point they’ve essentially locked up the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the conference tournament, so the big hope is that they can play injury free over these past two weeks, and that the Mustangs somehow pick up a loss.
This week: vs. Memphis, at UCF
No. 1 SMU (24-4, 14-1) (LW 1)
The Mustangs have won 20 of their past 21 games, and seem unstoppable at this point. Their six-man rotation has not been a problem for them, and Semi Ojeleye seems to just be getting stronger as the season progresses. The Duke transfer is now averaging 22.0 points per game over past four contests. SMU even gets a bit of a rest this week, with only one game on the schedule. The Mustangs will travel to UConn to face the Huskies in a game that has all the makings of the AAC Game of the Week.
This week: at UConn