The Nerd gives his AAC basketball power rankings for week 9 of the 2022-23 college basketball season.
Matchup of the week: Houston vs. Cincinnati
Sneaky good matchup of the week: Wichita State vs. South Florida
All games listed are EST.
1) Houston Cougars
Last week’s ranking: 1 (-)
Record: 14-1 (2-0)
Last week: McNeese (W) 83-44, @ Tulsa (W) 89-50, UCF (W) 71-65
Next week: SMU (Jan. 5 – 7 p.m.), @ Cincinnati (Jan. 8 – 3 p.m.)
Best wins: Virginia, Saint Mary’s, UCF, Oregon
Worst losses: N/A
A sweep over the holidays for the Cougars and grab two wins in conference play. Houston shot the ball well with two wins against easier matchups in McNeese and Tulsa. Then in a much more difficult matchup, the Cougars struggled against UCF. The rebounding discrepancy usually in Houston’s favor was significantly less against the teams in the American. UCF battled on the boards, but Roberts’ late-game scoring lifted the Cougars to a win. Coach Sampson will make changes after what he saw in his first American Athletic Conference games. In the new year, I expect Houston to come out with a new scheme and more preparation for these upcoming games.
2) Memphis Tigers
Last week’s ranking: 2 (-)
Record: 11-4 (1-1)
Last week: Alabama State (W) 83-61, USF (W) 93-86, @ Tulane (L) 89-96
Next week: East Carolina (Jan. 7 – 2 p.m.)
Best wins: Auburn, Ole Miss, Texas A&M
Worst losses: @ Tulane
After grabbing its final nonconference win against Alabama State, Memphis got an awakening in AAC play. Memphis struggled to shoot the deep ball but was caught sleeping by the Bulls. With less talent and length, the Tigers did not seem to want it, as USF could outbound Memphis. The good news is the length for the Tigers caused more turnovers and got the Tigers to the charity stripe for the win.
In its second game, the Tigers were not so lucky. Memphis shot the ball well, shooting over 40% from the field and 3-point range. However, again, the Tigers got outrebounded and put the Green Wave on the free-throw line too many times.
3) UCF Knights
Last week’s ranking: 3 (-)
Record: 10-4 (1-1)
Last week: Stetson (W) 73-58, Wichita State (W) 52-45, @ #3 Houston (L) 65-71
Next week: @ East Carolina (Jan. 4 – 7 p.m.), SMU (Jan. 8 – 2 p.m.)
Best wins: Santa Clara, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss
Worst losses: UNC Asheville
UCF had a grind of a game coming into AAC basketball play against the Wichita State Shockers. The Knights were lifted by a healthy Darius Johnson, who was the only double-digit scorer for UCF. Struggling from beyond the arc, the Knights were able to pull off that win by shooting under 25% from downtown and the impressive freshman Taylor Hendricks not getting to double-digits.
The next game was another hard-fought battle at Houston. When the Knights grabbed a lead with 12 minutes left in the second half, it looked like they might upset the Cougars, but the tenacity of the Cougars was too much. Again, UCF struggled to shoot the deep ball below 25%. Coach Johnny Dawkins will again be looking for an answer to his team’s confidence. The Knights continue to have unlucky stretches that hurt their confidence in big matchups and fall short.
4) East Carolina Pirates
Last week’s ranking: 4 (-)
Record: 10-5 (1-1)
Last week: High Point (W) 60-49, Temple (L) 57-59, @ Wichita State (W) 79-69
Next week: UCF (Jan. 4 – 7 p.m.), @ Memphis (Jan. 7 – 2 p.m.)
Best wins: Toledo, South Carolina, Mercer
Worst losses: Old Dominion, South Carolina State, Temple
After grabbing a win against High Points, ECU cruised into conference play. Coach Schwartz has gotten this team to buy in. The Pirates are battling for rebounds and dominating boards in the AAC play. A hard-fought battle against the Owls just had East Carolina fall short. Considering the team’s poor shooting performance, the Pirates only losing by two was impressive. Forcing turnovers and being the aggressors, the Pirates could get to the free throw line, but even there, struggled, only knocking down 57% of its shots. ECU shot below 28% from the field and under 24% from deep.
Off and running in Wichita @ezraausar #PurpleReign🏴☠️ pic.twitter.com/FSroCBHhVy
— East Carolina Men’s Basketball (@ecubasketball) December 31, 2022
Going on the road, ECU found itself leading most of the game. The Shockers battled back early in the second half to take the lead, and it seemed like the team was going to run away with it. However, the Pirates locked in defensively. East Carolina outrebounded, moved the ball, forced turnovers, and continued to be aggressors getting to the free throw line for 22 attempts. The Shockers only shot ten free throws and only made six of them. The Pirates had a solid offensive rhythm making over 40% from the field, 3-point range, and over 85% from the free throw line. All massive boosts in comparison to the first game against Temple.
5) Cincinnati Bearcats
Last week’s ranking: 5 (-)
Record: 10-5 (1-1)
Last week: Detroit Mercy (W) 72-54, Tulane (W) 88-77, @ Temple (L) 61-70
Next week: @ Wichita State (Jan. 5 – 9 p.m.), #2 Houston (Jan. 8 – 3 p.m.)
Best wins: Bryant, La Salle, Tulane
Worst losses: Northern Kentucky, @ Temple
Wrapping up nonconference play with a win, the Bearcats hoped to carry its success into the AAC basketball play. Facing off against Tulane, Cincinnati disrupted Tulane with its length. The Bearcats caused six steals, came up with five blocks, outrebounded, and moved the ball like professionals giving out 20 assists and shooting over 50% from the field. Cincinnati was too aggressive and put the Green Wave on the free-throw line for 28 attempts.
Traveling to Pennsylvania, the Bearcats seemed to be tamed. The Bearcats forced turnovers and shot the ball well. Cincinnati shot over 38% from the field, and 3-point range then shot an ugly 53% from the free throw line. The Owls just seemed to want it more and grabbed the win.
6) Tulane Green Wave
Last week’s ranking: 6 (-)
Record: 8-5 (1-1)
Last week: Mississippi Valley State (W) 84-63, @ Cincinnati (L) 77-88, Memphis (W) 96-89
Next week: Tulsa (Jan. 4 – 7 p.m.), @ Temple (Jan. 7 – 2 p.m.)
Best wins: Memphis, Rhode Island, Buffalo
Worst losses: George Mason
Taking down Mississippi Valley State seemed an easy enough way to finish the nonconference play, traveled to Cincinnati for a fight. The Bearcats played very well in this game, but the Green Wave shot the ball well from the field and had an impressive 89% at the free-throw line. Tulane only turned the ball over 11 times. The Green Wave could not sink its three-pointers, and Cincinnati’s height was too much to overcome.
He was COOKED#RollWave🌊 pic.twitter.com/yBEHWZDPaZ
— Tulane Men's Basketball (@GreenWaveMBB) January 1, 2023
After struggling to shoot the three, the Green Wave turned it up against the Tigers. Shooting over 42% from 3-point range and 48% from the field, the team also shot 79% from the free-throw line and managed to outrebound the Tigers. The ball movement and ability to get to the basket allowed Tulane to score and get to the free-throw line. The Green Wave could have reduced its turnovers but did enough to pull off a nice win against a challenging and talented Tiger squad.
7) Temple Owls
Last week’s ranking: 9 (+2)
Record: 8-7 (2-0)
Last week: @ ECU (W) 59-57, Cincinnati (W) 70-61
Next week: @ USF (Jan. 4 @ 7 p.m.), Tulane (Jan. 7 @ 2 p.m.), @ Tulsa (Jan. 10 @ 8 p.m.)
Best wins: Villanova, Rutgers, Cincinnati
Worst losses: Wagner, Vanderbilt, Penn, Maryland Eastern Shore
It was starting with a couple of nice wins for the Owls. The team pulled off a win in a game where Temple struggled shooting the ball, under 37% from the field and under 27% from 3-point range. Temple got outrebounded, had 13 turnovers, and allowed second-chance opportunities against the Pirates was an impressive feat. Coach Aaron McKie had some things to work on, and this showed the peaks and valleys of the Owl’s gameplay.
Temple came out battling against the Bearcats. Temple took the lead around the five-minute mark left in the first half. The team never looked back. Zach Hicks and Hysier Miller were the sparks for the team. Making the shots, dominating the boards, and moving the ball gave the Owls a chance to score and win. Coach McKie got to his players, and if this team could lower its turnovers, the Owls could have had an even bigger win. The game against Temple will be an exciting game to watch.
8) South Florida Bulls
Last week’s ranking: 8 (-)
Record: 7-7 (0-1)
Last week: NJIT (W) 92-73, @ Memphis (L) 86-93
Next week: Temple (Jan. 4 @ 7 p.m.), Wichita State (Jan. 8 @ 1 p.m.)
Best wins: Saint Joseph’s, Hofstra, St. Francis-BK
Worst losses: Southeast Missouri State, Austin Peay, Stetson
USF had a solid last nonconference win. The Bulls then had to battle against one of the teams at the top in Memphis. Tyler Harris facing off against his former team, led his new team to the brink of taking them down. Grabbing the lead with three minutes left, but it was all Tigers from there. Kendrick Davis showed why he was the most sought-after player in the transfer portal, putting up 24 points and being a part of all the Tigers’ closing points.
9) Wichita State Shockers
Last week’s ranking: 7 (-2)
Record: 7-7 (0-2)
Last week: Texas Southern (W) 65-56, @ UCF (L) 45-52, East Carolina (L) 69-79
Next week: Cincinnati (Jan. 5 – 9 p.m.), @ South Florida (Jan. 8 – 1 p.m.)
Best wins: Richmond, Grand Canyon, Central Arkansas
Worst losses: Alcorn State, East Carolina
Wichita State grabbed its last nonconference win over Texas Southern. The Shockers were playing at a grinding pace and forced UCF to play at it. The Shockers seemed to be groggy from traveling to the East coast. Wichita State shot the ball fine but allowed too many second-chance opportunities to the Knights. The Knights moved the ball better, blocked shots, and forced the Shockers into turning the ball over 15 times, with eight coming from steals. This game was played with Craig Porter sidelined with an ankle injury, and Quincy Ballard sidelined with a back injury.
The Shockers hosted ECU and had the lead twice. The game was kept competitive in the first half by a surprising show from Shammah Scott, who started ahead of Porter, whose injury is still lingering, knocking down three 3-pointers. The Shockers also had a massive offensive day from Kenny Pohto, who had impressive numbers and looked solid. Wichita State stopped getting it to him down low and settled for outside shots. This is when ECU returned and got the lead in the second half. Jaykwon Walton also could not find his shot from 3-point range, going 0-for-6. On top of that, the Shockers continue to struggle with turnovers that led to some significant second-chance opportunities for the Knights.
10) SMU Mustangs
Last week’s ranking: 11 (+1)
Record: 6-8 (1-0)
Last week: Iona (W) 85-81, Utah State (W) 77-74, @ Hawaii (L) 57-58, Tulsa (W) 92-67
Next week: @ #2 Houston (Jan. 5 – 7 p.m.), @ UCF (Jan. 8 – 2 p.m.)
Best wins: Iona, Utah State, Lamar
Worst losses: Louisville, Louisiana, Jackson State
SMU closed out its nonconference play in a tournament and took it to a championship round to fall just barely short. These wins became a building block for Coach Rob Lanier. The Mustangs ran wild at home in its lone AAC game against Tulsa. SMU shot the ball well and had excellent ball movement having 25 assists on 33 made shots. The Mustangs limited their turnovers, had five blocks and came up with six steals. This team could be sneaky good as it moves through the AAC.
𝐘𝐞𝐬 𝐒𝐢𝐫 #PonyUp pic.twitter.com/VYTyGJF4r7
— SMU Basketball (@SMUBasketball) January 1, 2023
11) Tulsa Golden Hurricane
Last week’s ranking: 10 (-1)
Record: 4-9 (0-2)
Last week: @ Loyola Marymount (L) 64-76, #3 Houston (L) 50-89, @ SMU (L) 67-92
Next week: @ Tulane (Jan. 4 – 7 p.m.), Temple (Jan. 10 – 8 p.m.)
Best wins: Loyola-Chicago, Central Michigan, Jackson State
Worst losses: Charlotte, Murray State
Tulsa skidded from nonconference play into AAC basketball play but couldn’t stop it. Taking on Houston, the Golden Hurricane had a lot to overcome as Houston asserted itself. The positive was the second chance opportunities that Tulsa got from offensive rebounding. Unfortunately, the turnovers hurt Tulsa, and just the talent of Houston was too much.
Coach Eric Konkol got a tough start after playing against the dominant Houston team. Tulsa had to go to Moody Coliseum to play. SMU did what it does at home and shot the ball insanely well from everywhere. SMU shot over 50% from the field and in three-point range. Tulsa came up with eight steals and shot the ball well, 41.8% from the field and 30% from three-point range. However, SMU’s offense was just too difficult to overcome. Unfortunately, Tulsa has a couple more difficult matchups this week but has a shot against Temple at home.
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