AAC Tournament, Memphis, Penny Hardaway

The American Athletic Conference struggles in big games.

This past week, the American Athletic Conference had a lot of good games, but in ones that would help boost the conference, teams struggled. There are a lot of issues going on in the AAC that are hurting the conference as a whole. It will be exciting to see if these teams bounce back with some outstanding games this week.

Cincinnati Bearcats

Cincinnati basketball lost 83-63 to Xavier and moved to 7-3. The Bearcats played on their heels as the Musketeers pushed the tempo and were the aggressors. Xavier basketball had a massive day from Jack Nunge, who put up 31 points and forced the issue. The Musketeers made it to the free-throw line going 28-35. Xavier wanted it more, outrebounding the Bearcats while moving the ball well. Cincinnati basketball was just outmatched in this game, and while the team showed a lot of heart, but could not get back into this game. The Bearcats will host Florida A&M on Tuesday, December 14, at 6 p.m. CST.

East Carolina Pirates

This week, the Pirates only had one game in a matchup that allowed this team to regroup and fine-tune. ECU won over North Carolina A&M 81-72 to advance to 8-2. ECU basketball is on a journey to find itself. Brandon Suggs suffered an ankle injury that gave Vance Jackson the game-high 23 points, followed closely by J.J. Miles 20 points, narrowly missing out on a double-double grabbing nine rebounds.

Newton orchestrated these big games handing out eight assists and adding 14 of his points. The Pirates need to work on boxing out as the team had a good night at the free-throw line but grabbed and allowed 13 offensive rebounds. ECU has a challenging game ahead on Friday, December 17, at 12:30 p.m. CST.

Houston Cougars

With two games on the slate, the Cougars had two very different opponents. Houston basketball started against Alcorn State. In an easy game, Houston won 77-45, where Tramon Mark continued his success. Josh Carlton continues to earn his minutes with his third double-digit outing. The Cougars continue to be aggressive on defense, and more often than not, it pays off.

The next game was not as easy against Alabama basketball. The Cougars got into trouble by fouling too much in this game. The over-aggressive play here allowed the Tide to get to the free-throw line 31 times. The Cougars showed how good they are at rebounding. Their ability to rebound on both ends of the floors caused issues for Alabama as the Tide brought in seven offensive rebounds to Houston basketball’s 21. These opportunities kept the Cougars in the game.

While it ended controversially, the game had elite eight vibes all the way. Houston basketball will have redemption before another tough matchup over the weekend in Oklahoma State. The Cougars will host Louisiana Raging Cajuns on Tuesday, December 14, at 7 p.m. CST. Right now, Houston remains the team to beat in the American Atheltic Conference, however, there is obviously a lot more time before that is determined.

Memphis Tigers

Memphis basketball continues its slide as it falls to 5-4, losing to Murray State 74-72. Coach Penny is still trying to figure it out, and I think he is getting closer. The Tigers are figuring it out slowly with 17 assists in this game, shot the ball well, and the expectation is that he will focus on rebounding. Memphis basketball had ten offensive rebounds but allowed Murray State to grab 12 of their own.

With the talent of the Tigers, this team should not be outrebounded. Give credit to the Racers, who took care of the ball while moving it very well. The Tigers have a very rough week playing two ranked teams this week. Memphis basketball will play Alabama Tuesday, December 14 at 8 p.m. CST in an attempt to earn respect for themselves and the American Athletic Conference.

SMU Mustangs

SMU basketball had a nice win over Dayton 77-69 to move to 8-3 and remain undefeated at home. The Mustangs shot the ball very well, which led to a great win. My worry remains that this team lives and dies by the 3-pointer. The Mustangs make games enjoyable by shooting the ball well. Davis continues to have success and can create points.

SMU basketball is not a grind-it-out team, which is why it will likely lose three or four games in conference against Memphis, Houston, WSU, and maybe even USF. The Mustangs will travel to New Mexico on Sunday, December 19, at 2 p.m. CST.

Temple Owls

The Owls helped the AAC with a big win on the road against a tough Vanderbilt team. Temple basketball won in overtime 72-68. The Owls were super aggressive on offense and got into Vanderbilt to get to the free-throw line 37 times. Temple basketball outrebounded a tough Commodores team. This team without Battle will have to fight. Without Battle, the team is going to change a lot. Temple basketball looks like Dunn and Strickland will lead it, but it will be interesting to see how it works out.

The next game proved to be more difficult for Temple basketball as it fell to Saint Joseph’s 68-49 to become 6-4. A stale offensive scheme and the inability to make shots cost the Owls this game. The team tried to isolate, and without the talent of Battle, no one could take over the game. Temple’s next game will be its first conference against UCF on Wednesday, December 15, at 6 p.m. CST.

Tulane Green Wave

The Green Wave had a good matchup but have canceled their next two games as it faces a Covid-19 outbreak. Tulane basketball was causing turnovers and blocks, but Charleston basketball had success scoring low. The Green Wave lost 86-72 to advance to 3-6. With these two forfeits with the new rules, Tulane basketball will move to 3-8.

The Green Wave is missing a dominant big man or ball-hungry forwards. Hoping this team can pick up the pace and have a nose for the ball, Tulane basketball will have some time to figure it out. Assuming there are no further issues with Covid-19, Tulane will host New Orleans on December 21 at 7 p.m. CST. Tulane is the clear bottom feeder in the American Atheltic Conference at the moment, but are hoping to turn it around in upcoming weeks.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Tulsa basketball started this week with a loss, getting taken down by Loyola Marymount 60-55. The Golden Hurricane got hustled on the boards as Loyola Marymount outrebounded Tulsa 40 to 25 and had five more offensive rebounds than Tulsa. Tulsa basketball and Jeriah Horne struggled to score. Griffin was the only player in double-digits. The Golden Hurricane had the opportunity to cause the Lions to turn the ball over 22 times, with 12 of them being steals. The opportunity was there, but Tulsa basketball couldn’t get it done.

The Golden Hurricane became .500 on the year, becoming 5-5 with a 69-65 over Southern Illinois. Tulsa basketball shot the ball very well to win this game. This team needs to work on boxing out and rebounding. The Salukis stayed competitive by shooting and making 15-of-34 3-pointers. Tulsa basketball attacked Southern Illinois, got to the free-throw line, and made 18-of-24. Tulsa basketball plays Alcorn State Thursday, December 16, to prepare for its more demanding game over the weekend.

UCF Knights

The Knights move to 6-2 with a win over North Carolina A&T 83-68. UCF basketball ball movement was on point creating nice shots. The team had 19 assists in this game. The Knights need to work on not turning the ball over as it turned the ball over 17 times, with 12 of them being off steals. The team dominated the boards, grabbing ten more rebounds than the Aggies. UCF will head to Temple on Wednesday, December 15, at 6 p.m. CST.

USF Bulls

After a week off, the USF will host Austin Peay on Tuesday, December 14, at 6 p.m. CST. At noon, the Bulls will have a formerly ranked opponent in Florida on Saturday, December 18.

Wichita State Shockers

The Shockers played decently to move to 7-2 with a 71-58 win over Norfolk State. Wichita State basketball moved the ball very well for the most part in this game. While playing inside out, the Shockers found cutters, moved without the ball, and made the adjustments needed after its loss against Kansas State last week. Wichita State basketball’s Dexter Dennis continues to lock down leading scorers. Joe Bryant went 2-of-13 from the field and scored 9 points.

Coach Brown, surprisingly, did not move Dexter to Tate, who went off with 22 points, but it was the right move as the team grabbed a win. Wichita State basketball will host Alcorn State on Tuesday, December 14, at 7 p.m. CST.

There are a lot of good games this week for the American Athletic Conference. Memphis has a shot at Alabama and Tennessee, both teams are ranked, and one beat Houston. This week has the first conference game between UCF and Temple. The ECU Pirates will have a fun and exciting matchup in Liberty on Friday, December 17. UCF faces Florida State in Orange Bowl Classic on Saturday, December 18.

Wichita State will face future American Atheltic Conference member North Texas. Temple will also face a future AAC member in Drexel on Saturday, December 18, at 1 p.m. CST. A neutral game for Tulsa basketball could help the American Athletic Conference as the team takes on undefeated Colorado State Saturday, December 18.