AAC Afternoon 5: 01.02.14 Edition

Posted by Ross Schulz on January 2nd, 2014

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  1. Louisville will have a hard time securing a top seed in the NCAA Tournament with its 105th-rated non-conference strength of schedule. The Cardinals’ only two strong opponents to date, versus Kentucky and North Carolina, both ended in losses. As a comparison, the 2004-05 squad collected 27 wins to just four losses in Conference USA and ended up with a #4 seed. That team’s non-conference strength of schedule was rated 107th. Louisville needs to hope to dominate the AAC if it wants a high NCAA seed this time around. It wouldn’t hurt if Memphis continued its strong play and remained ranked to help the league’s overall perception. Connecticut, for its part, already seems to be headed in the wrong direction by losing its conference opener at Houston.
  2. Sean Kilpatrick is struggling with his shot in recent games, and head coach Mick Cronin said the reason is that he’s rushing and that the ball “is on fire” when he releases it. In Cincinnati’s last two games, Kilpatrick has connected on only 5-of-25 shots from the field and 1-of-12 from three-point land. Kilpatrick said that his shots are not that far off and he’s not worried about it other than to say it’s just a slump. Cronin said he wants to make sure he gets his accuracy corrected before the slump turns into something more substantial. Contrastingly, one place were he has not struggled is at the foul line, making 23-of-24 attempts over the last two games, both of which were Bearcats’ victories.
  3. The Cincinnati program and fans will have to get used to life outside of the old Big East this season. Last year, in what was considered one of the nation’s best basketball conferences, Cincinnati’s first three conference games were against Pittsburgh, St. John’s and Notre Dame. This year, heading in geographic opposition, the Bearcats start with SMU (a win), Memphis and Houston. As a league, the AAC currently ranks ninth nationally, according to CBSSports.com’s Rating Percentage Index, a far cry from the former powerhouse status of the Big East. Cronin said he expects the league to develop a flow over time, as all leagues do — he compared it to Conference USA and expects to have plenty of success in the new AAC as they once did in C-USA (and the Great Midwest before that). It’ll be interesting to see what type of respect the new conferences garners on Selection Sunday this year — is this a three-team league?
  4. Temple’s rebuilding year became even more so recently when sophomore forward Daniel Dingle was sidelined with a tear in his right meniscus suffered last weekend. He’s expected to miss the rest of the season. Dingle was averaging 6.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, but more importantly, he had been playing his best basketball lately, scoring 25 points and dishing nine assists in the Owls’ previous two games. Temple’s roster was already thin with just nine scholarship players, so this puts even more of a burden on Fran Dunphy’s group headed into conference play.
  5. SMU can no longer hide behind a gaudy record earned from its non-conference schedule. After winning five straight, the Mustangs opened AAC play with a loss on the road to Cincinnati and the tough slate only continues with Connecticut coming to town Saturday before a date at Louisville. The record of SMU’s first five conference opponents is a sterling 51-12, a major and quick step up in their quality of competition. The Mustangs received their first vote for the AP Top 25 in a decade this week and they’ll have plenty of upcoming opportunities to prove they belong there and with the AAC’s elite in the coming weeks.
Ross Schulz (34 Posts)


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