Houston, Kelvin Sampson, American Athletic Conference

The American Athletic Conference was full of action during the first full week of February 2022.

The American Athletic Conference had some teams go perfect on the week and others continue with the struggle. With the winter storm hitting mid-week a couple of games were postponed, but some teams asserted dominance while others faltered.

This week’s winners:

  • Wichita State/coach Brown
  • Temple Owls/coach McKie

This week’s losers:

  • Tulsa basketball/coach Haith
  • Cincinnati Bearcats/coach Miller

This week’s matchups:

  • Monday 2/7
    • Temple @ USF at 6 p.m. CST
  • Tuesday 2/8
    • ECU @ Tulsa at 7 p.m. CST
    • Wichita State @ UCF at 8 p.m. CST
  • Wednesday 2/9
    • Cincinnati @ USF at 6 p.m. CST
    • Houston @ SMU 6 p.m. CST
    • Tulane @ Memphis 7 p.m. CST
  • Thursday 2/10
    • Wichita State @ SMU 6 p.m. CST
    • USF @ UCF p.m. CST
  • Saturday 2/12
    • Temple @ Tulane 1 p.m. CST
    • Memphis @ Houston 2:30 p.m. CST
    • SMU @ ECU 5 p.m. CST
    • Cincinnati @ Tulsa at 7 p.m. CST
    • USF @ Wichita State at 7 p.m. CST

Cincinnati Bearcats (5-4)

The Bearcats had its first game of last week postponed against Memphis and then lost big to Houston, 80-58.

Cincinnati did a few things right. The Bearcats took care of the ball, matched Houston in minimal turnovers, and in blocks. Unfortunately, Cincinnati found the team needs to be on point and hope Houston is off its game to come up with a win. The Bearcats’ poor shooting percentage from the field is not the path to win games. Cincinnati basketball was aggressive and got to the free-throw line and converted fine, going 18-for-24. The Bearcats also needed to focus on rebounding, as Houston dominated them on both ends of the floor.

ECU Pirates (2-8)

East Carolina battled in its first game but got blown out in its second week. The Pirates lost 71-63 to Temple and 86-66 to Tulane.

ECU did so many things right in the Temple game. The Pirates had good ball movement, limited turnovers, and shot free throws well. Unfortunately, ECU continued its poor shooting. The Pirates shot just 21.7% from the 3-point range and 32.8% from the field. East Carolina did its job from the free-throw line making 20-of-26.

In the Tulane game, ECU basketball improved its shooting from the field. The fight that ECU showed in this game was impressive, outrebounding the Green Wave and having good ball movement. However, the Pirates got out defended and played a more offensive team.

Houston Cougars (9-0)

Houston basketball continued its conference domination and solid basketball play. The Cougars grabbed a 73-62 win over Tulane and an 80-58 win over Cincinnati.

The Cougars continue to be one of the best defensive and rebounding teams in the conference. Houston dominated the boards and moved the ball very well. The Cougars turned the ball over too much, and Tulane got into passing lanes to cause issues. Houston also got sloppy on its fouling as most of the fouls led to free throws for the Green Wave.

Houston basketball did come to play against Cincinnati. The Cougars had a solid game in and outside the paint. Coach Sampson’s team continues to dominate boards, turns up the heat on defense, and moves the ball. Houston had a nice shooting day going 53.3% from the field and 38.1% from 3-point range. With an aggressive style of play, Coach Sampson preaches that fouls are likely to come, and so will the free throws, but as long as this team continues to create second-chance opportunities and dominate boards, it is a tough one to beat.

Memphis Tigers (6-4)

After a cancellation early in the week due to weather again in Cincinnati, Memphis basketball grabbed a win over UCF, 88-60.

The Tigers’ length caused issues for UCF as the Tigers came up with 12 steals on 14 turnovers and had nine blocked shots. The Memphis defense did lead to more free throw opportunities for the Knights, and surprisingly UCF got more offensive rebounds. The Tigers also had an excellent shooting day going 56.5% from the field and 35.7% from deep. Memphis forced UCF into taking a lot of threes, but the Knights only connected on 7-of-33.

SMU Mustangs (7-2)

On Thursday, the Mustangs were supposed to play against the Shockers, but Tuesday night’s winter storm caused another delay. The two games that SMU had hoped to play against Wichita State were down to one. There is a curse surrounding these two teams as this will be the sixth postponed game between these two teams.

SMU couldn’t do anything right in the team’s 72-57 loss to Wichita State. The size and defense of the Shockers ruined the Mustangs’ day. The looks that SMU typically makes, it missed or rushed for a poor shooting percentage. SMU shot 36.5% from the field and 25% from the long range. To make things even worse for the Mustangs was its inability to make its free throws going 14-of-21 from the charity stripe for 66.7%. SMU basketball also turned the ball over 17 times.

Temple Owls (6-3)

This week, Temple grabbed two wins in demanding games., The Owls defeated ECU, 71-63, and Tulsa by nine.

Temple basketball shot the ball well against ECU, which helped seal a win. The Owls moved the ball okay but had more turnovers than the Pirates. Temple was aggressive and got to the line for more opportunities, with more steals and more blocked shots.

The Owls grabbed more offensive rebounds in their second game and moved the ball significantly better. They took care of the ball and caused turnovers for Tulsa. While this game was close, Temple should have had more assists and struggled in shooting the ball from downtown. The good news for the Owls was that Tulsa also could not hit from deep, and the Temple defense stepped up.

Tulane Green Wave (7-4)

Tulane split this week, blowing out ECU, 86-66, on a great shooting day and then a brutal loss to Houston, 73-62.

The Green Wave’s first game against ECU was a pure offensive show as they shot over 45% from the field, three-point range, and the free-throw line. Tulane moved the ball well, took care of it, and forced East Carolina turnovers. The Green Wave’s weakness in the game came from its poor rebounding performance as the Pirates showed more hustle going after the ball and creating second-chance opportunities.

Tulane tried to battle against conference leader Houston. The Green Wave disrupted the Cougars, coming up with 10 steals on 14 turnovers. Tulane also took care of the ball and didn’t put Houston on the foul line often. Meanwhile, the Green Wave did make it to the charity stripe and converted 20-of-23 for 87%.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane (1-9)

Tulsa dropped two more games this week, falling clearly to the bottom of the conference. They came at the hands of Wichita State and Temple.

Tulsa basketball has been in so many close games but continues to struggle down the stretch. Tulsa is also struggling to knock down its shots. However, the Golden Hurricane managed to outrebound and somehow had a better shooting percentage from the field than the Shockers. The ball movement was an issue as the Shockers defense caused turnovers.

The Golden Hurricane continued its woes as it struggled to knock down threes against Temple. The ball movement and turnovers were issues again and led to another loss. Surprisingly, Tulsa shot the ball well within the arc and made its free throws. While I don’t believe this falls solely on Frank Haith, the Golden Hurricane’s inability to have better ball movement and knock-down shots are becoming a significant issue. Tulsa needs to find some fight and aggressiveness.

UCF Knights (5-6)

UCF basketball split its games this week against USF and Memphis.

While the Knights shot the ball well, moved the ball well, and outrebounded the Bulls, problems with fouling and turnovers were the weakness of UCF again. The surprise was the number of threes taken by the Knights. This allowed UCF to rely on its talent and not challenge it.

After doing that against USF, it didn’t work against Memphis. UCF wasn’t able to win the battle against the big men of Memphis. The Tigers are notorious for over-fouling, but the Knights could not convert on free throw opportunities going 13-of-25. UCF basketball turned the ball over too much, and when they did have a good opportunity on offense, the Tigers came up with nine blocks and 12 steals. The lone bright spot for UCF was the offensive rebounding, where it came up with some second-chance opportunities.

USF Bulls (1-7)

This week, USF basketball lost its lone game against UCF by 19 points.

USF struggled in execution, shooting the ball, and rebounding. The positives for this Bulls team were its ability to get to the free-throw line, cause turnovers, and take care of the ball. But the Bulls couldn’t knock down free throws or any of its shots. This team is struggling and hoping to have almost a full week to prepare and come up revamped this week.

Wichita State Shockers (3-5)

Wichita State basketball leaped this week, grabbing its second American Athletic Conference win against Tulsa, 58-48, and third against SMU, 72-57.

The Shockers had a few areas that showed up in the stats and one that does not. Dexter Dennis was a huge bright spot. While it was on the offensive end, he locked down Jeriah Horne, who shot 1-of-11 from the field and 0-for-3 from three-point range. Wichita State was able to convert on their second-chance opportunities. The Shockers turned over the Golden Hurricane 17 times, nine of them coming from steals. The Shockers also came up with nine blocks and shared and took care of the ball. Despite shooting poorly from the field, they moved the ball well to get open shots. If the Shockers continue to play like this, the future is bright.

Wichita State came to play at home against a top conference contender in SMU. The Shockers defense stepped up and harassed the Mustangs. Wichita State caused 17 turnovers, with ten coming from steals. There was some luck involved because SMU missed some shots it usually makes, and the Mustangs could not even make free throws at its regular clip. The confidence that WSU shot the ball with shows that this team has the ability. They just need to harness it. Coach Isaac Brown did or said something that sparked this team, and it looks like a team that we saw glimpses of early in the season.

American Athletic Conference Rankings

A couple of changes happened this week as one team is moving up while others falter.

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