Kelvin Sampson, Houston Cougars, AAC Basketball

The Nerd gives his AAC basketball power rankings for week 14 of the 2022-23 college basketball season.

Matchup of the week: UCF vs. Wichita State

Sneaky good matchup of the week: Temple vs. Memphis

All games listed are EST.

1) Houston Cougars

Last week’s ranking: 1 (-)

Record: 23-2 (11-1)

Last week: @ Wichita State (W) 70-61, @ Temple (W) 81-65, Tulsa (W) 80-42

Next week: Off

Best wins: Virginia, Saint Mary’s, Oregon, @ Tulane

Worst losses: Temple

Houston survived a hard blow from the Shockers as it grabs a win. The Cougars created separation in the final six minutes, where the team stepped up defensively and had good ball movement. Marcus Sasser and Jarace Walker both finished with 15 points. Houston had one of its best free throw shooting nights, going 13-for-15 or 86.7% from the charity stripe. A solid offensive performance as the team handed out 14 assists, shot 44.6% from the field and 35% from 3-point range.

Houston became first team to hit double-digit conference wins for the American Athletic Conference as the Cougars got revenge against Temple. The Owls led going into the half, but Houston made some changes and was ready. Temple did all they could, but the execution by the Cougars was just too much. The Cougars forced 15 turnovers, with 9 coming from steals. Houston only turned the ball over eight times, as the team has 20 assists on 29 made baskets. Jarace Walker went beast mode as he put up 23 points in the win. Marcus Sasser had 13 points, five assists, one rebound, and one block.

Houston stopped the Golden Hurricane in this matchup. Houston played well as Marcus Sasser went off. Sasser scored 10-for-17 from the field and 5-for-10 from 3-point range as he scored 25 points. Houston dominated the boards, bringing down 53 rebounds to Tulsa’s 27 rebounds. The Cougars also shared the ball as the team handed out 21 assists and only had 9 turnovers. The Cougars remain on the track for a 1 seed in March.

2) Tulane Green Wave

Last week’s ranking: 4 (+2)

Record: 16-7 (9-3)

Last week: SMU (W) 74-52, @ Memphis (W) 90-89, Cincinnati (W) 101-94

Next week: East Carolina (Feb. 11 – 2 p.m.)

Best wins: Memphis (x2), @ Temple, Cincinnati

Worst losses: George Mason, @ Tulsa

Tulane had a highway robbery against the Mustangs. The Green Wave caused 22 turnovers, with 16 coming from steals. Even as Tulane struggled shooting from 3-point range, only 27.8%, but made up for it on the free throw line at 79.3% and from the field at 44.2%. Tulane controlled the game from the under-8-minute timeout in the first half. The Green Wave played well, with some minor miscues, but on the stat sheet, they easily won. Jalen Cook led was the high point man with 22.

A big win for the Green Wave as the team snapped Memphis’ home winning streak, but more importantly for coach Hunter and the team was, this was the school’s first sweep of Memphis. Tulane played a great game against the Tigers, even if it had to be in overtime. Hunter knew what he had to do, and the most frustrating part was the poor free throw shooting for the Green Wave. One of the best free throw shooting teams, Tulane shot 54.2%, going 13-for-24 from the charity stripe. The nice offensive outing was seen from the stat sheet as Tulane went 52.4% from the field and 39.3% from 3-point range. Cook led the team in scoring 25 points and Kevin Cross.

This game showed the true grit of the Green Wave as the team took down Cincinnati in overtime. The Bearcats had a lead of as high as 13 points after losing Viktor Lakhin to a right ankle injury in the first minutes. Surprisingly, Rob Phinisee went out in the second with an injury. Hunter’s passion showed in his players. After having 8 turnovers in the first half, Tulane only had 5 in the second half and overtime. The Green Wave flipping the switch started with Jalen Cook, who scored five points in the first half. Cook was the first player to a double-double on his way to 27 points and 14 assists. Kevin Cross was the second player to a double-double as he scored a career-high 27 points and 14 rebounds. Tulane played an excellent game with great ball movement, shot selection, and even fight as the team outrebounded Cincinnati. This was the first time since 2017 against LIU that Tulane scored over 100 points.

3) Memphis Tigers

Last week’s ranking: 3 (-)

Record: 18-6 (8-3)

Last week: Tulane (L) 89-90, @ South Florida (W) 99-81

Next week: Temple (Feb. 12 @ Noon)

Best wins: Auburn, Texas A&M, @ Temple

Worst losses: Tulane (x2)

The Tigers had the nation’s third-longest home win streak before this loss to Tulane. Memphis’ last loss at home was on Jan. 20, 2022, against SMU. With 12 seconds left in overtime, Jaylen Forbes missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Kendric Davis grabbed the rebound and brought the ball across half-court for a time-out. Seeing the layout, Tulane called a time-out, coach Hardaway put it in Davis’ hand, and he wrapped around for a good look, but the 3-pointer did not fall. Memphis got the offensive rebound but could not finish. Ultimately, Memphis lost because of turnovers and some big blocks from Tulane. The Tigers did win the battle of the boards, pulling down 20 more rebounds. Davis led the team in scoring 26 points.

Memphis was offensively excellent as the team bounced back against the Bulls. The Tigers shot 52.9% from the field, 42.9% from 3-point range, and 87.5% from the free throw line. Memphis did so many things right, from ball movement, taking care of the ball, forcing difficult shots, and jumping passing lanes. The athleticism of the Tigers was too much for USF to handle. Memphis handed out 20 assists on 36 made shots, had 9 steals, and forced 17 turnovers. DeAndre Williams led his team in scoring 26 points. The Tigers looked like a team that could be dancing in March.

4) Temple Owls

Last week’s ranking: 2 (-2)

Record: 14-11 (8-4)

Last week: #3 Houston (L) 65-81, @ SMU (L) 71-72

Next week: , @ Memphis (Feb. 12 @ noon)

Best wins: @ Houston, Rutgers, UCF

Worst losses: Wagner, Vanderbilt, Penn, Maryland Eastern Shore, @ SMU

Temple had a tough loss after leading at the half but could not finish it against the Cougars. The Owls leaned on 3-pointers in the first half and made most of them, going 9-for-15, while only going 3-for-12 in the second half. The disparity brought down Temple as the team could not make its shots from the field, only shooting 39.2%. Temple outrebounded the Cougars and even had more second-chance opportunities but could not convert. Khalif Battle was the consistent player the Owls needed putting up 24 points, but no one else was able to do enough to pull off another upset over Houston.

After struggling to score in the opening eight minutes, Temple battled back before falling short to SMU. The Owls won the battle of the boards on both ends of the floor, had good ball movement, and even altered SMU shots, but it was not enough. The Owls handed out 19 assists on 24 made shots, and the team also had 40 rebounds to SMU’s 32. The issue for Temple was turnovers, as SMU forced 12 steals on 19 turnovers. Battle led the team with 27 points.

5) Cincinnati Bearcats

Last week’s ranking: 5 (-)

Record: 16-9 (7-5)

Last week: Tulsa (W) 81-55, UCF (W) 73-64, @ Tulane (L) 94-101

Next week: South Florida (Feb. 11 – 7 p.m.)

Best wins: Tulane, UCF, Bryant

Worst losses: Northern Kentucky

The Bearcats put on a clinic against Tulsa in almost every aspect. Cincinnati fell short as they struggled at the free throw line, but every other metric was a step above. With five players in double-digits and one having a double-double, the victory was as good as expected. Jeremiah Davenport led the way with 20 points. Landers Nolley added 13 points and 13 rebounds. The Bearcats’ offense was in a rhythm, coming up with 22 assists, shooting 46.3% from the field.

Against UCF, Cincinnati had a nice lead only to see it dwindle from 15 to zero with two minutes left in the game. Good news for the Bearcats as UCF could not make its shots in the closing minutes. Cincinnati forced three turnovers in the final minutes that led to free throws. The Bearcats were on point defensively, forcing 24 turnovers. Cincinnati had good ball movement, made its shots, and came up with three blocks. The Bearcats were led by Viktor Lakhin’s 20 points.

Losing Lakhin and Rob Phinisee in the game, the Bearcats had a battle they lost in overtime to Tulane. This was the first overtime loss for Wes Miller at Cincinnati and the first time the team lost when Ody Oguama had six or more rebounds. Overtime got out of hand, and there was a scrum for a loose ball that led to an ejection of David DeJulius, who pushed Jalen Cook in the back. Sion James was also ejected for intervening with 36 seconds left in OT. While DeJulius was being escorted off the court, a technical was called on Cook. Landers Nolley took the free throws and made them both. The Bearcats got the ball back, and on the inbounds play, Nolley got the ball and stepped out of bounds. It was reviewed and was a turnover. Coach Miller received a technical. Jaylen Forbes went to the line and made both of his free throws. Nolley led the team in scoring with 26 points and added 8 rebounds. It was a career game for Oguama, as he scored 16 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.

6) UCF Knights

Last week’s ranking: 6 (-)

Record: 14-9 (5-6)

Last week: @ Cincinnati (L) 64-73, @ Wichita State (W) 72-67

Next week: Tulsa (Feb. 11 – 7 p.m.)

Best wins: Memphis, Oklahoma State, Santa Clara

Worst losses: UNC Asheville

The Knights’ turnovers led to a loss against Cincinnati. UCF had 24 turnovers, which the Bearcats capitalized on. The Knights shot the ball very well from three at 40% from 3-point range, but couldn’t capitalize in other areas. The Knights also crashed the boards on both ends, which helped the team battle back to tie the game with a little over two minutes left. Unfortunately, UCF could not make shots in the closing minutes and had some big turnovers, creating separation for the Bearcats. Taylor Hendricks led his team offensively, scoring 21 points.

Finding themselves in the hole, coach Dawkins ensured his best player got the ball, creating an offensive rhythm for the Knights. UCF beat the Wichita State Shockers on Hendricks’ 23 points. After shooting 4-for-16 from 3-point range in the first half, the Knights went 8-for-16 from downtown in the second half, propelling them to a win.

7) Wichita State Shockers

Last week’s ranking: 7 (-)

Record: 12-12 (5-7)

Last week: #3 Houston (L) 61-70, @ Tulsa (W) 86-75, UCF (L) 67-72

Next week: SMU (Feb. 12 – 4 p.m.)

Best wins: Richmond, Grand Canyon, @ SMU

Worst losses: Alcorn State, East Carolina

The Shockers played well for 34 minutes against Houston before the team ran out of steam, struggling to score in the final minutes. Jaykwon Walton’s frustration flared in the final minute after missing a 3-pointer and a lay-up before he fouled out, grabbing Marcus Sasser’s hand. Walton (24 points) was the only Shocker to make a three in the entire game as the team went 3-for-20 from outside. The Shockers fell short at the free throw line missing three free throws during their scoring drought in the last six minutes.

After a difficult loss for the Shockers, the team came in ready for a win against Tulsa. Wichita State had one of its better games: great ball movement, a will to rebound, and showing fight. The Shockers shot 51.5% from the field, showing much-improved efficiency. Wichita State also came up with 20 assists on 35 baskets. The Shockers had four starters in double-digits, and Craig Porter was just short of being the fifth. The team was led offensively by Jaron Pierre’s 19 points. If the Shockers continue to play like this, it could ruin some team’s hopes of making it to the tournament.

After leading for most of the game, the Shockers let the game slip away at home against UCF. Free throws, offensive rebounds, and turnovers were the reasons for Wichita State’s loss. The Shockers got lucky in the first half. UCF had eight turnovers, and the Shockers converted. In the second half, Wichita State built the lead to double-digits, went cold, and started missing free throws. The Shockers shot 51.1% from the field, which is another positive. The ball movement was why the team had the lead, as they attacked the paint for good looks. The second-chance opportunities and Taylor Hendricks’ big game were the reason the Shockers lost.

8) SMU Mustangs

Last week’s ranking: 8 (-)

Record: 9-16 (4-8)

Last week: @ Tulane (L) 52-74, @ East Carolina (L) 72-77, Temple (W) 72-71

Next week: @ Wichita State (Feb. 12 – 4 p.m.)

Best wins: Utah State, Iona, Temple

Worst losses: Louisville, Louisiana, Jackson State, Wichita State, @ East Carolina

The Mustangs missed another weapon to be competitive against Tulane. Zach Nutall was the only SMU player in double-digits with 23 points. Efe Odigie missed time picking up two fouls in the first half and two more in the second half. Zhuric Phelps tried to help but struggled offensively. Even SMU’s bench fell short in the 22-point loss.

SMU did play a solid game against the Pirates. The Mustangs were competitive in every aspect, and the team took care of the ball, having just 10 turnovers with 7 coming from steals. Phelps scored 23 points and Nutall added 18. But unfortunately for SMU, the Pirates were just that much better.

The Mustangs started strong and were able to hold off Temple for the win to close out the week. A Phelps free throw sealed it. SMU was on from 3-point range, hitting it at a 41.2% rate, which happens more often than not at Moody Coliseum. SMU was outrebounded on both ends, moved the ball fine, but won by creating transition opportunities. Forcing 19 Temple turnovers was a big boost for SMU. On top of that, the Mustangs’ free throw opportunities sealed the win and were a big reason they won. SMU shot 30 free throws compared to Temple’s 20. Phelps led his team with 19 points. Odigie had a double-double as he scored 10 points and had 11 boards.

9) South Florida Bulls

Last week’s ranking: 9 (-)

Record: 10-14 (3-8)

Last week: East Carolina (W) 71-63, Memphis (L) 81-99

Next week: @ Cincinnati (Feb. 11 – 7 p.m.)

Best wins: Saint Joseph’s, Hofstra, @ ECU

Worst losses: Southeast Missouri State, Austin Peay, Stetson, Wichita State, @ SMU

USF put on an offensive show against the Pirates. The Bulls shot 48.1% from the field, 43.5% from 3-point range, and 75% from the free throw line. Tyler Harris led the way with 21 points and Jamir Chaplin added 17 points. Russel Tchewa grabbed another double-double putting up 10 points to go along with his 11 rebounds. It isn’t easy to win against a team playing that well offensively.

The Bulls would have had to have its best game to win against Memphis’ offense in this matchup. USF played well, led by former Tiger Tyler Harris who went for 28 points in the loss. He had some help from Selton Miguel, who scored 18 points. Russel Tchewa grabbed another double-double but struggled against Memphis’ mobile big men. USF needed to reduce its turnovers because 17 is too many against a talented Memphis team. A surprise, the Bulls edged out Memphis on the boards, grabbing two additional defensive rebounds.

10) East Carolina Pirates

Last week’s ranking: 10 (-)

Record: 12-12 (3-8)

Last week: @ South Florida (L) 63-71, SMU (W) 77-72

Next week: @ Tulane (Feb. 11 – 2 p.m.)

Best wins: Toledo, South Carolina, Mercer

Worst losses: Old Dominion, South Carolina State, South Florida (x2), Wichita State

ECU could not handle the Bulls’ horns as they defended their arena. The Pirates struggled with ball movement and converting offensively but remained aggressive. ECU created second-chance opportunities forcing 9 steals and 20 turnovers. The Pirates also grabbed 11 offensive rebounds, but it was not enough. This game was kept close by the Pirates’ ability to make free throws as they went 17-for-21 or 81% from the charity stripe. Just 9 assists and 23.5% from 3-point range contributed to this loss. R.J. Felton put up 18 points in the loss.

The Pirates had a solid offensive day and did it efficiently against SMU. ECU was 44.6% from the field, 44.4% from deep, and went 19-for-23 from the free throw line. With 25 made baskets, the Pirates handed out 16 assists. The Pirates limited mistakes, only having 11 turnovers, and it was just an excellent pace of play for ECU in the win. Brandon Johnson was feeling it, going off for 27 points. Ezra Ausar added a double-double for the Pirates, scoring 19 points and grabbing 13 boards. ECU is back to .500 on the year.

11) Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Last week’s ranking: 11 (-)

Record: 5-18 (1-11)

Last week: @ Cincinnati (L) 55-81, Wichita State (L) 75-86, @ #3 Houston (L) 42-80

Next week: @ UCF (Feb. 11 – 7 p.m.)

Best wins: Loyola-Chicago, Central Michigan, Jackson State

Worst losses: Charlotte, Murray State, Wichita State (x2)

Coach Konkol continues to struggle in the American. Tulsa continues to work with poor offensive performances. Against Cincinnati, The Golden Hurricane went 34.6% from the field and 22.2% from 3-point range but looked good from the free throw line. Tulsa was aggressive enough to get to the free throw line and go 17-for-21 or 81%. This team needs to find a fire because the 5 assists, 1 steal, and 32 total rebounds are rough. The 32 rebounds are extremely telling, as Cincinnati had 31 defensive rebounds alone. Sam Griffin put up 15 points and Anthony Pritchard had 12 as the two highest scorers. While he struggled offensively, Bryant Selebangue pulled in almost half the team’s rebounds with 15.

The Golden Hurricane battled back but could not overcome Wichita State. A pretty impressive offensive showing for Tulsa as the team shot 40% from 3-point range and 42.4% from the field. The Golden Hurricane missed an ample opportunity at the free throw line as the team went 13-for-21 or 61.9% from the charity stripe. Tulsa just ran into a Shocker team that is figuring it out. The ball movement and defensive intensity caused issues. Tulsa took advantage of the Shockers sitting its “starters” and came back from being down 24-8. It forced coach Brown to put his starters back in, but the run was just too late for the Golden Hurricane. Tim Dagler led the team in scoring with 24 points plus 7 rebounds.

After playing a solid game against Wichita State, the Golden Hurricane could not carry that momentum into Houston. Scoring was tough for Tulsa, and only two players made double-digits. Dagler led the way with 13 points, but Sam Griffin was the other play to hit double-digits with 11 points. Tough to compete against the best team in your conference and second in the nation when the team shoots 27.8% from the field, 13.8% from 3-point range, and 57.1% from the free throw line. The two positives came from the ball movement, one of the 15 made shots, and ten came off of assists. On top of that, the Golden Hurricane only turned the ball over nine times.

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