Wednesday AAC Roundtable: On What to Make of Cincinnati, South Florida & More…Posted by mlemaire on December 11th, 2013
Every week the four AAC microsite writers (only three for this edition) will come together in an effort to make sense of and answering questions about what happened in the AAC over the course of the previous week.
The biggest AAC game of last weekend was Cincinnati’s loss to New Mexico. Did the Bearcats’ performance alter your perception of the team going forward?
Mike – Saturday’s showdown with the Lobos was the public’s first chance to get a good read on Cincinnati and the result basically reinforced what we thought of the Bearcats at the start of the season. They still play good defense, Sean Kilpatrick is the still the first, second, and third option on offense, and they are going to be undersized and undermanned against teams with good bigs (like New Mexico, for example). The Pit is a difficult place for anyone to play and the Lobos are quite good this year, so let’s give Cincinnati some time to show us more, but they look like a quintessential bubble team at this point.
C.D. – There’s no shame in losing to Lobos in The Pit, and Cincinnati was certainly competitive. Still, I think you have to be concerned that it remains so difficult for the Bearcats to score. Cincinnati ranks in the bottom half of Division I in effective field goal percentage, and while they’re an excellent offensive rebounding team (#4 nationally in offensive rebound percentage), they would be much better off if they could make shots the first time around. If that doesn’t improve, they’re going to struggle to make it to the Dance, much less survive and advance.
Ross – The Bearcats’ performance didn’t change my perception of the team because I didn’t expect them to go on the road and beat a good New Mexico team. Cincinnati will have a hard time breaking into the top three of the AAC with Louisville, Memphis and Connecticut, but the Bearcats should be able to fit right in behind those teams and like usual find themselves with a #7 to #11 seed, making it difficult to win more than one NCAA Tournament game, if that.
South Florida scored a pair of exciting wins last week over respectable competition and is looking like a dangerous opponent. What is different about this year’s Bulls’ team that has led to the success?
Mike – I’ll admit, I picked the Bulls to finish last in the conference this season and it has become very clear they are much better than that already. Close wins over an average George Mason team and an Alabama team that has its fair share of offensive issues don’t make the Bulls a Tournament team, but the arrival of Corey Allen Jr. and John Egbunu is paying immediate dividends and the defense is better than it was last year, so I think I probably owe South Florida a small apology.
C.D. – Coach Stan Heath focused his recruiting on big men, and landed a relatively highly touted pair pair in John Egbunu and Chris Perry. He has to be pleased with how they have contributed thus far, averaging 16.9 points and 12.2 rebounds per game in 44 minutes a night with the two highest offensive ratings on the team. They don’t do much of anything well on offense (their three-point shooting is an abysmal 27 percent), but they are effective enough at the defensive end to hang around, particularly at the slower pace they prefer.
Ross – Stan Heath has his club playing good defense, similar to the team that won two NCAA Tournament games two years ago. The Bulls have held every opponent, with the exception of Oklahoma State, to 66 points or below. In a season where most teams are scoring at a higher rate, that’s impressive, even if the competition hasn’t been the greatest. The addition of Corey Allen Jr. and his 13 points per game hasn’t hurt either.
We are just past the quarter-point of the season. Which player has surprised you the most with his play and who else should we look for to break out as the schedule turns to conference play?
Mike – I know that Chane Behanan had a tough offseason and that coach Rick Pitino has suppressed his minutes, but the junior was a surefire all-conference player before the season started and he hasn’t resembled anything close to that this season. He is too talented and too important to Louisville’s chances at repeating this season to average right around 20 minutes per game, but he has to earn those minutes back with his play and we are still wondering when that might come to fruition.
C.D. – Ironically, since we were just talking about South Florida’s success, a knee injury has Anthony Collins off to a very slow start. He missed the first two games, but he’s averaging only 7.3 points per game in nearly 30 minutes in the past six games, with an assist to turnover ratio of just 1.6:1. He’ll need to be much better if the Bulls want to have any success in conference play.
Ross – Shaq Goodwin has been impressive with his scoring, rebounding and team leadership. Memphis would not have defeated Oklahoma State in the second match-up between the two if it were not for Goodwin. And if that win didn’t happen, this Memphis team would be considered the same old Memphis team of previous years with no quality wins. Now, the Tigers are considered a real threat to win the AAC and more.