AAC Exhibition Impressions: Part II

Posted by Mike Lemaire on November 14th, 2014

Yesterday we offered our initial impressions of UConn, Cincinnati, Memphis, and UCF in recent exhibition games. Today we are back with more quick-trigger analysis of games that hardly matter.

Depth May be an Issue for Tulsa Head Coach Frank Haith. Haith has never been afraid to roll with a very short rotation if his team lacks depth, and the Golden Hurricane may actually be better off playing that way this season because of the quality of their starters. In a recent exhibition game against Southwest Oklahoma State, the Tulsa starters played a lot of minutes and his bench looked painfully thin. Haith used an eight-man rotation that night but Keondre Dew and Brandon Swannegan looked more like bit players than role players. The pair are expected to help in the frontcourt this season, but if Haith can’t trust them against a Division II opponent, how will he do so against teams like UConn and SMU?

Anthony Collins remains the key to making a young team click (Kim Klement/USA Today)

Anthony Collins Is Healthy And Ready To Lead A Young South Florida Team (Kim Klement/USA Today)

South Florida’s Anthony Collins Finally Looks Healthy. It seems like it was a decade ago when Collins was a mercurial freshman point guard leading the Bulls to an NCAA Tournament appearance. One of the best distributors and shot-creators in the country that season, Collins failed to break out as a sophomore and logged only eight games last season because of complications from offseason knee surgery. He finally got some good news in September when the NCAA approved his hardship waiver, giving him two more years of eligibility, but those two years won’t matter much if Collins can’t stay healthy. Playing without preseason All-Conference forward Chris Perry, the Bulls eked out a five-point win over Indiana University (PA) this week and Collins was the star of the show. The diminutive floor general contributed 22 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals in 36 minutes. The caliber of his opponent makes that stat line significantly less impressive, but it was good to see Collins flying around the floor again and making plays. If anyone deserves a chance at a healthy season, it’s him.

Houston’s Danrad “Chicken” Knowles Has NBA Tools. The 6’10”, 200-pound Knowles has always had an NBA body and skill set, but the question was whether he could ever put it all together. He impressed in a limited role with his athleticism and touch last season but was still very raw, especially offensively. It now looks as if he is starting to refine his game nicely after dominating North Alabama. The Lions had no one on their roster who could adequately cover Knowles, but the redshirt sophomore made the most of it by going for 20 points and four rebounds on 8-of-9 shooting (and a perfect 4-of-4 from behind the three-point arc). Knowles has always been very skilled for his size, but his tools could make him an ideal stretch forward in the NBA if he can become a consistent three-point threat. Kelvin Sampson is short-handed this season so he may have no choice but to cut Knowles loose, which will be fun for the rest of us.

Why Can’t Tulane’s Kajon Mack be 6’10”? Two seasons ago, Mack was a steady role player for the Green Wave, and after redshirting last season because of an ankle injury, he looks like he may be better than ever. Loyola may very well be the worst exhibition opponent of any AAC team, but the Los Angeles native scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds in just 22 minutes and generally looked good attacking the basket and creating his own shot. The problem is that Mack is a 6’3″ shooting guard, something that Tulane head coach Ed Conroy already has plenty of. Mack will undoubtedly be a key piece for Conroy and the Green Wave this season, but it would better for the team if he could grow seven inches and play power forward or center.

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