AAC M5: 12.11.13 EditionPosted by Will Tucker on December 11th, 2013
- The praise continues to roll in this week for USF forward Chris Perry, whom CBSSports.com named their National Freshman of the Week after he logged consecutive double-doubles in wins at George Mason and versus Alabama. Perry, who is now averaging 9.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game on the season, is the first AAC freshman to claim the title, and joins an exclusive group alongside former honorees Jabari Parker of Duke and Tyler Ennis of Syracuse. Given that he seems to have earned a starting role for the foreseeable future, Jeff Borzello points out that the 6’8” Florida native appears “set to emerge as one of the better freshmen in the American Athletic Conference.”
- Memphis fans received some good news when MRI results indicated that starting guard Chris Crawford suffered a medial ankle sprain – rather than anything more serious – against Northwestern State last Saturday. The senior has yet to miss a game in more than three seasons at Memphis, but coach Josh Pastner said Crawford’s status remains day-to-day and it’s possible he could sit out Friday’s contest against Arkansas-Little Rock. The bigger issue is whether he will be fully recovered by the time the Tigers face off against Florida in Madison Square Garden next Tuesday, now that the Gators’ backcourt is returning to full strength. Crawford is averaging 9.7 points per game and is among the top 15 players in the AAC in terms of steal percentage this year.
- Speaking of Florida, Sports Illustrated writer Kelli Anderson asserts that Shabazz Napier’s performance against the Gators last week was enough to thrust the UConn senior into the thick of the Wooden Award conversation. In addition to averaging 15.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 2.1 steals per game, last week the senior point guard became just the fourth player in UConn history to both score 1,000 points and dish 500 assists. Responding to the inevitable Kemba Walker comparisons, Napier credited Walker’s leadership as having a major influence on his own development: “That was the biggest problem I had coming in… I understood only what I needed to do on the court, not necessarily what my teammates needed to do. I didn’t know how to talk to my teammates.” The AAC claimed two of the 10 spots in SI.com’s Wooden Watch this week, with Napier at #5 and Louisville’s Russ Smith listed at #7.
- The AAC enters exam week ranked ninth in conference RPI, following a lackluster assortment of non-conference schedules that resulted in few quality wins for the league’s members. RTC’s C.D. Bradley notes that “only once since 2000 has a conference ranked as low as ninth in the RPI sent even four teams to the tournament,” which belies Memphis coach Josh Pastner’s former prediction that the AAC would earn six bids in its inaugural season. Interestingly, Louisville and Cincinnati were among the teams that came out of the four-bid Conference USA in question in 2005, and conference RPI didn’t prevent the Cardinals from making it to the Final Four that year. Bradley identifies Louisville at Kentucky, Cincinnati versus Pittsburgh, and Memphis versus Florida as the most significant of the remaining opportunities for the league to redeem itself.
- Shortly after revelations that former player Derrick Randall is suing Rutgers for mistreatment at the hands of coach Mike Rice, The Star-Ledger reports that three other former players have filed notice of possible lawsuits against the university. A Rutgers spokesperson refused to identify the players involved, but said the university’s lawyers had asked the complainants “to clarify their filings,” believing they did not meet certain legal conditions. According to the spokesperson, Randall remains the only player to sue the school at this point.