Penny Hardaway shoes, American Athletic Conference

American Athletic Conference flows into the second week of conference play.

There were some surprising wins and losses in the American Athletic Conference. The AAC has had teams pivoting and still trying to figure out who they are.

This week, the big winners are Houston Cougars and coach Kelvin Sampson, and the Memphis Tigers, and coach Penny Hardaway. The Cougars had to change its identity with the loss of two guards and this week worked well for testing its change. Hardaway has found something in this team in a couple of challenging games. The talent and grit of the Memphis Tigers have led to wins.

The losers this week include Cincinnati Bearcats and coach Wes Miller, and Tulsa Golden Hurricane, and coach Frank Haith. Miller cannot seem to find the consistency among this team. With the tough losses to Tulane and Memphis, but a massive win over SMU. Haith had some tough battles against the top half of the AAC teams in SMU and Memphis. Both of these battles were hard-fought, but the Golden Hurricane couldn’t come up with a win.

Cincinnati Bearcats (1-2)

After a tough loss last week to Tulane, Cincinnati basketball came clawing back. Cincinnati moves to 11-5 and 1-2 in conference play. The Bearcats took down SMU mustangs 77-60 and lost in a heartbreaker to Memphis 87-80. The massive improvements for this team have come in ball movement and the number of 3-pointers the team is taking. While these were necessary based on the opponent’s game, Cincinnati basketball should include this in their repertoire.

In the game against Memphis, the Bearcats did not push the issue and get to the free-throw line. This was why they lost, as they had the opportunity to be the aggressors but missed out. Cincinnati basketball will host ECU Pirates on Wednesday, January 12, at 6 p.m. CST.

East Carolina Pirates (1-1)

After missing its two opening conference games, ECU basketball had a full week of games, winning against Tulane 88-80 and then a brutal loss to Temple 78-75. The Pirates moved the ball well in these two games with 18 and 25 assists in these two matchups. The biggest issue was that Temple did not turn the ball over as much as Tulane had. The last-second shot by Damian Dunn was the difference in the game. East Carolina could have given itself a better chance at winning by taking more 3-pointers. The Pirates head to Cincinnati for their next American Athletic Conference game.

Houston Cougars (3-0)

Houston and Sampson have entirely changed the team’s offense. Making such a change would destroy most teams, but the Cougars were up to the challenge defeating USF 83-66 and Wichita State 76-66. The Cougars went from a strong guard play team with Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark to running through big man Josh Carlton. Carlton is not only scoring but also creating shots for other players. The Cougars continue to dominant in every area except the glaring weakness of free throws. Houston is last in the AAC in free throw percentage. They travel to Tulsa on Saturday, January 15, at 7 p.m. CST.

Memphis Tigers (3-1)

Memphis had a couple of nail-biters but came out on top in both matchups this week. The Tigers won 67-64 over Tulsa and 87-80 over Cincinnati, two wins over quality opponents. Hardaway’s club continues to crash boards and turn over its opponents The biggest glaring weakness is turnovers and foul trouble for the Tigers. Memphis has the talent and length to be an issue, but the more significant problem is the inability to take care of the basketball. Memphis travels to UCF on Wednesday, January 12, at 6 p.m. CST.

SMU Mustangs (2-1)

SMU basketball struggled in its lone matchup against a bigger Cincinnati team. The Mustangs couldn’t score from the floor or from beyond the arc. Leading to SMU’s loss, sometimes the shot isn’t there, and while they tried to battle back from the large deficit at the half, they couldn’t make a comeback. SMU battled and was aggressive but could not capitalize on it. They’ll host South Florida on Wednesday, January 12, at 7 p.m. CST.

Temple Owls (2-2)

After losing its first matchup against UCF and Houston, Temple beat the Knights 66-62 and handled the Pirates 78-75. The Owls have been aggressive and won both games with the ability to get to the free-throw line. While that is not the only reason, that was the most glaring reason, along with their ability to make jumpers, layups, and dunks. Temple’s patience and fight have brought them through in challenging games. Damian Dunn had a massive game to win the ECU game. The Owls travel to Tulsa on Wednesday, January 12, at 6 p.m. CST.

Tulane Green Wave (3-1)

Splitting the week with a win and its first loss of American Athletic Conference play, Tulane lost to ECU 88-80 and then bounced back against USF 68-54. As East Carolina moved the ball better, Tulane simply got outplayed. The Green Wave needs to work on grabbing more rebounds.

Tulane, however, does a great job being aggressive as the team gets to the free-throw line and gives the team a boost to keep games close. The Green Wave has some impressive shooters and a lot of good things going for them. Tulane basketball travels to Wichita State on Wednesday, January 12, at 7 p.m. CST.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane (0-2)

The Golden Hurricane struggled to score in its lone matchup against Memphis. With two players making up 70% of the team’s points, the team struggled to score but remained competitive as two players scored zero points, one player scored one point, and another player scored two points. Tulsa had a lot of fight against a talented team, causing turnovers and exploiting weaknesses. The Golden Hurricane had its second game postponed due to COVID-19 protocols. Tulsa basketball will host the Temple Owls on Wednesday, January 12, at 6 p.m. CST.

UCF Knights (1-2)

The Knights lost their second game against Temple 66-62 and postponed its game against Tulsa due to COVID protocols. UCF gave itself a solid opportunity but didn’t take enough shots. The difference was an extra shot from the field and two additional free throw opportunities for the Owls. UCF took care of the ball and gave itself some second chance looks but didn’t convert enough. They didn’t shoot it well from the floor but have a lot of positives. The Knights will host Memphis on Wednesday, January 12, at 6 p.m. CST.

USF Bulls (0-2)

South Florida continues to discover the team it is. It isn’t easy starting the American Athletic Conference opener against Houston followed up by Tulane. The Bulls show glimmers but need to find an identity. USF needs to be an inside-out team. This team needs to focus on the strength and size of Tchewa and have him find the open shooter. Jalyn McCreary has contributed great minutes off the bench in these two matchups, and Jamir Chapman has been the consistent player in conference play. Caleb Murphy has talent but needs to recognize what the defense gives him. He runs the point well, but he needs to turn it over less.

Wichita State Shockers (0-2)

Wichita State basketball lost a tough matchup in a brutal environment 76-66 to Houston with a whole week of practice and preparation. The Shockers struggle to move the ball and knock down the open shots. Coach Brown came out with a plan but could not succeed as the team lost the battle in the paint and transition. While Wichita State basketball had opportunities, there were too many missed chances. Tyson Etienne is forcing his game and feeling the pressure of being the guy.

American Athletic Conference standings

The American Athletic Conference teams continue to be in flux with the familiarity of one another.

  1. Houston Cougars
  2. Memphis Tigers
  3. Tulane Green Wave
  4. SMU Mustangs
  5. ECU Pirates
  6. Temple Owls
  7. Cincinnati Bearcats
  8. UCF Knights
  9. Tulsa Golden Hurricane
  10. Wichita State Shockers
  11. USF Bulls