The Nerd gives his AAC basketball power rankings for week 17 of the 2022-23 college basketball season.
Matchup of the week: Houston vs. Memphis
Sneaky good matchup of the week: UCF vs. Temple
All games listed are EST.
1) Houston Cougars
Last week’s ranking: 1 (-)
Record: 27-2 (14-1)
Last week: Tulane (W) 89-59, @ East Carolina (W) 76-57
Next week: Wichita State (Mar. 2 – 7 p.m.), @ Memphis (Mar. 5 – Noon)
Best wins: Virginia, Saint Mary’s, Memphis, @ Tulane, Oregon
Worst losses: Temple
The Cougars are back on top of the NCAA and made a statement against the second-place team in AAC basketball, Tulane. J’Wan Roberts led the team in scoring, with a career-high 26 points. Marcus Sasser was the other player with over 20 points, as he scored 22 points. Houston almost had all of its starters in double-digit scoring except Jarace Walker, who scored 9 points and had 13 rebounds. On top of the offensive performance, The Cougars forced a season-high 16 steals, putting on a complete clinic.
After a scary start for Houston, with Marcus Sasser being escorted off the court with an ankle injury, the Cougars had total control against ECU. Even without Sasser, the team built a 17-point lead in the first half. Sasser would return and lead his team in scoring with 22. Roberts added another double-double to his resume scoring 17 points and pulling down 12 rebounds. Tramon Mark was the only other Houston player in double-digits, as he scored 20 points. Houston relied heavily on points in the paint in the first half, scoring 18 to East Carolina’s 0. This Cougars’ win crowned them the regular season champions in the American Athletic Conference.
2) Memphis Tigers
Last week’s ranking: 3 (-1)
Record: 22-7 (12-4)
Last week: @ Wichita State (W) 83-78, Cincinnati (W) 76-73
Next week: @ SMU (Mar. 2 – 9 p.m.), #1 Houston (Mar. 5 – Noon)
Best wins: Auburn, Texas A&M, VCU, Cincinnati (x2), Vanderbilt
Worst losses: @ UCF
Keonte Kennedy’s season concluded with a loss to Houston, as he punched a wall and broke his hand. But Memphis added another win against the Shockers and is the lone team to shoot over 50% consistently. The Tigers got all they could handle, but the offense was there to boost them to the win, shooting 54.7% from the field and 47.4% from deep. The Tigers, led by its one-two punch in Kendric Davis, scored 19 points, and DeAndre Williams 18 points. Coach Hardaway continues to have Wichita State’s number as he is 8-1 against the Shockers.
DeAndre. Williams. 🔥 🔥 🔥 pic.twitter.com/wpk7aNik7h
— Memphis Basketball (@Memphis_MBB) February 26, 2023
Memphis built a first-half lead, scoring 13 points off turnovers on its way to victory against the Cincinnati Bearcats. Davis led in scoring, without hitting a 3-pointer, with 22 points. Williams followed with 21, but came up big with his shot-blocking. Memphis struggled at times, as they allowed the Bearcats to stay close, being outrebounded. The big plus was just the Tigers’ ball handling, only having eight team turnovers, with five coming from steals. Memphis was able to force 20 turnovers, with 15 coming from steals. This was the difference in the game.
3) Tulane Green Wave
Last week’s ranking: 2 (+1)
Record: 17-9 (10-5)
Last week: @ #1 Houston (L) 59-89, Wichita State (L) 76-83
Next week: @ East Carolina (Mar. 1 – 9 p.m.), East Carolina (Mar. 3 – 7 p.m.), Temple (Mar. 5 – 2 p.m.)
Best wins: Memphis, @ Temple, Cincinnati
Worst losses: Western Kencuky, George Mason, @ Tulsa, Wichita State
The Green Wave faced the nation’s number-one team and had no answer for Houston. Two of their three stars scored double-digits. Jaylen Cook scored 23 points and Jalen Forbes had 14. After playing some of his best games, Kevin Cross scored only 8 points. Tulane had its season-high turnovers with 19. The Cougars had a point to prove, and Tulane was on the receiving end.
The Green Wave broke early as Wichita State was just off and running offensively as they had one of their best three-point shooting days of the season. Tulane matched the energy but missed too many opportunities from the field and then fouled too much against the Shockers. Cook had another massive game putting up 30 points but fell short when the team couldn’t lean on Cross, who struggled again.
4) Cincinnati Bearcats
Last week’s ranking: 5 (+1)
Record: 19-11 (10-7)
Last week: Temple (W) 88-83, @ Memphis (L) 76-73
Next week: SMU (Mar. 5 @ 2 p.m.)
Best wins: Tulane, UCF (x2), Bryant
Worst losses: Northern Kentucky, Ohio State, @ East Carolina
Cincinnati was making free throws bringing on the overtime win against Temple. Viktor Lakhin came back for the first time since an injury and was eased in as he scored 10 points. David DeJulius and Landers Nolley were the leaders and combined for 11 points in overtime. The Bearcats won at the free throw line, going 28-for-30 for 93.3%.
Nolley with a dime! 🎯@espn | https://t.co/BLm7GlwPwb pic.twitter.com/bzBSofZGNn
— Cincinnati Men’s Hoops (@GoBearcatsMBB) February 26, 2023
The Bearcats battled back in the second half but could not claw back against Memphis. Cincinnati had better ball movement, made good shots, and impressively outrebounded the Tigers. It was a solid offensive day, but the lack of aggressive play to get to the free-throw line hurt the Bearcats. The team could not convert its second-chance opportunities but could hang around, shooting 37% from deep and nearly 50% from the field. The regular suspects scored well but needed more help. DeJulius led the team in scoring with 16 points and Nolley added 13.
5) Temple Owls
Last week’s ranking: 4 (-1)
Record: 15-14 (9-7)
Last week: @ Cincinnati (L) 83-88
Next week: UCF (Mar. 2 – 7 p.m.), @ Tulane (Mar. 5 – 2 p.m.)
Best wins: @ Houston, Rutgers, Villanova
Worst losses: Wagner, St. John’s, Richmond, Penn, @ Ole Miss, Maryland Eastern Shore, @ SMU, Wichita State
The Owls had only one game last week and fell short against Cincinnati in an overtime bout. Khalif Battle did not travel with the team and was out for personal reasons. Temple battled all it could without him, led by Damien Dunn scored his 1,000th career point as he led the team in scoring with 34. The Owls shot well, shooting 47.5% from the field and 43.5% from 3-point range. Temple’s aggressive defense caused the team to lose, as the Bearcats had 30 free-throw opportunities.
6) Wichita State Shockers
Last week’s ranking: 6 (-)
Record: 15-13 (8-8)
Last week: Memphis (L) 78-83, @ Tulane (W) 83-76
Next week: @ Houston #1 (Mar. 2 – 7 p.m.), South Florida (Mar. 5 – 2 p.m.)
Best wins: @ Tulane, Grand Canyon, @ Temple
Worst losses: Alcorn State, East Carolina, UCF
James Rojas’ incredible first half of play kept the Shockers in the game early against Memphis. However, foul trouble took him out of his rhythm. Rojas scored all of his 19 points in the first half. Jaron Pierre showed up in the second half as he scored 15 points. Wichita State continued to struggle from 3-point range, only shooting 22.2% as a team. The Memphis zone eased Wichita State into a 3-point shot, and again, was its downfall. The Shockers lost their aggressiveness as they settled for the deep ball.
Live on @ESPNU pic.twitter.com/sNDfodPKJk
— Wichita State Men's Basketball (@GoShockersMBB) February 26, 2023
The Shockers averaged hit 45.5% of their shots from downtown, which was more than enough to help them to take down Tulane. Jaron Pierre showed out in front of his home crowd, putting up a career-high 28 points. Craig Porter Jr. was a star as he scored 15 points, handed out 10 assists, and grabbed 10 rebounds. Rojas continues to impress and be the pounder as he battled to 22 points – a big win for Shocker basketball as they have a five-game road winning streak.
7) UCF Knights
Last week’s ranking: 7 (-)
Record: 16-12 (7-9)
Last week: South Florida (L) 75-82, @ Tulsa (W) 68-49
Next week: @ Temple (Mar. 2 – 7 p.m.), East Carolina (Mar. 5 – 1 p.m.)
Best wins: Memphis, Oklahoma State, Santa Clara
Worst losses: South Florida (x2)
The Knights dropped a game against in-state rival USF. Ithiel Horton’s 28 points led UCF. Taylor Hendricks followed close behind, scoring 18 points. However, as a whole, they struggled from the field, shooting just over 36%. Making free throws helped keep UCF in it as they went 22-for-29. UCF even forced 19 turnovers and came up with 0 steals. It was just not enough to overcome the Bulls.
Likely the AAC basketball freshman of the year, Hendricks showed out against Tulsa in front of NBA scouts as the Knights came away with a win. He scored a career-high 25 points, with 23 coming in 23:40 of gameplay. Hendricks also had 8 rebounds, 2 blocks, a steal, and an assist, as he could vault into first-round draft pick at the end of the day.
8) South Florida Bulls
Last week’s ranking: 9 (-)
Record: 13-16 (6-10)
Last week: @ UCF (W) 82-75, SMU (Feb. 25 – 7 p.m.)
Next week: Tulsa (Mar. 1 @ 7 p.m.), @ Wichita State (Mar. 5 @ 2 p.m.)
Best wins: Saint Joseph’s, Hofstra, @ East Carolina
Worst losses: Southeast Missouri State, Stetson, Austin Peay, Wichita State, @ SMU
Coach Gregory’s interesting start of Dok Muordar over Russel Tchewa against UCF seemed to pay off. The Bulls came out grabbing the lead with 4:10 left in the first half and never gave it up. The Knights got within one point with 1:27 left in the game before USF separated again, making key free throws. The Bulls wanted it more as they dominated the boards with 47 rebounds. Unfortunately, USF turned the ball over a bit, keeping the Knights in the game. Four Bulls scored double-digits as everyone contributed and played as a team.
No. 88 on the season for No. 2 https://t.co/UsCSeD6sbc pic.twitter.com/yGAVP84dA6
— USF Men's Basketball (@USFMBB) February 26, 2023
Against SMU, Tyler Harris broke the Mustangs in the second half, scoring 27 of his 30 points to lead the Bulls to victory. USF’s second half was an impressive showing of will, ending the day shooting 50% from the field and 38.1% from 3-point range. Tchewa had a slow start but an efficient day. He finished with 12 points, 8 of which came in the second half and fell just short of a double-double with 9 rebounds. The Bulls struggled with handling the ball, but with their aggressive play, they made it to the free-throw line to clinch the game.
9) SMU Mustangs
Last week’s ranking: 8 (-)
Record: 10-19 (5-11)
Last week: @ South Florida (L) 67-71
Next week: Memphis (Mar. 2 – 9 p.m.), @ Cincinnati (Mar. 5 – 2 p.m.)
Best wins: Utah State, Iona, Temple
Worst losses: Louisville, Louisiana, Jackson State, Wichita State (x2), @ East Carolina, @ South Florida
The Mustangs looked like they were going to gallop off with a win taking a 38-26 lead into halftime, but USF came back on a special day from Tyler Harris to win it. Zhuric Phelps led the team with 22 points but had some missed opportunities at the charity stripe that could have led to a win. Efe Odigie had another double-double putting up 14 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. The loss came down to missed free throws as the team went 14-for-22, plus the inability to stop Harris from scoring in the second half.
10) East Carolina Pirates
Last week’s ranking: 10 (-)
Record: 14-14 (5-10)
Last week: @ Tulsa (W) 62-60, #1 Houston (L) 57-76
Next week: Tulane (Mar. 1 – 9 p.m.), @ Tulane (Mar. 3 – 7 p.m.), @ UCF (Mar. 5 – 2 p.m.)
Best wins: Toledo, Cincinnati, South Carolina
Worst losses: @ Old Dominion, South Carolina State, UCF, South Florida (x2), Wichita State, @ SMU
Falling behind in the first half 32-25, the Pirates had to open the sails to beat Tulsa. Jaden Walker and R.J. Felton turned it on in the second half, scoring 21 points. Walker led his team with 24 points and 13 in the second half. Felton scored 8 of his 14 in the second half and was just short of a double-double as he had nine rebounds. ECU’s aggressive play got them to the line, and they made the most of the opportunities in the second half, going 13-for-18. The Pirates went 5-for-7 in the first half from the charity stripe.
.@ezraausar with the spin and slam #PurpleReign pic.twitter.com/kP2roT8qoO
— East Carolina Men’s Basketball (@ecubasketball) February 22, 2023
Against Houston, The Pirates struggled to make open shots in the first half but found the paint in the second. It was just too late, as ECU lost to the Cougars. Only three Pirates made it to double-digits, and the clear star in the game was Ezra Ausar, who scored 15 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. The ball movement was there for the East Carolina, but they could not knock down their shots. The Pirates did an excellent job taking care of the ball and were even aggressors offensively. ECU just struggled from the field, going 32%. Coach Schwartz has some foundation to build off of.
11) Tulsa Golden Hurricane
Last week’s ranking: 11 (-)
Record: 5-23 (1-16)
Last week: East Carolina (L) 60-62, UCF (L) 49-68
Next week: @ South Florida (Mar. 1 – 7 p.m.)
Best wins: Loyola-Chicago, Central Michigan, Jackson State
Worst losses: Charlotte, Murray State, Wichita State (x2), South Florida, @ East Carolina
On the verge of grabbing its second AAC basketball win, Tulsa fell short against the Pirates. The Golden Hurricane had the lead until only 5:40 left in the game. Tulsa would not retake the lead. The Golden Hurricane forced 16 turnovers, with six coming from steals. These led to 14 points but were not enough. Tulsa also struggling from 3-point range, hitting just 16.7% from deep. Brandon Betson led the team in scoring with 20 points. It was an excellent turn for Tulsa, but they still can not grab a win.
The UCF game was balanced for the Golden Hurricane, but they could not make shots, losing to UCF. Tulsa was led by Bryant Selebangue, who had a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Four of the five starters had double-digits in points. But even then, Tulsa shot 35.6% from the field and 27.8% from downtown. While the team struggled to score, they overall looked much improved on the year with good ball movement.