AAC Bests and Worsts From Last Week

Posted by Mike Lemaire on November 24th, 2014

“Bests and Worsts” is a new Monday feature where we will recap the best and worst from the previous week of college basketball in the AAC. 

It was not a great week for the AAC as all of the expected top teams in the conference lost in uninspiring fashion and the conference still doesn’t have a marquee win to hang its hat on — unless you count UConn beating Dayton. But we never pretended that the AAC would be the best conference in the country, just that it would be an entertaining season to follow, and that much still holds true. While other conferences have seen teams emerge from the pack, the American is still totally up in the air and that’s what makes it interesting for us to cover.

Best Reason for UConn Fans Not to Panic: UConn basketball fans aren’t quite as unhinged on Twitter as say, Kentucky fans, but they can be pretty active. So obviously it wasn’t long after UConn‘s disappointing loss to West Virginia in the final of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off that the Huskies’ faithful started speculating on what the loss meant. The Huskies were very bad from downtown (3-of-17) and turned the ball over a lot (19), but the tweet that best summed up how UConn fans should feel about the loss came from our friends at the Bleed Blue Blog.

Bleed Blue

Nothing proves a point better than some well-placed snark. Also, Bleed Blue makes a larger point, even if they weren’t trying to. It’s easy to overreact to early season games because there is nothing else to go on. But none of the teams around the country as anywhere near as good as they will be in January and February, so reading the tea leaves of an early-season loss to West Virginia isn’t the best way to evaluate the Huskies’ chances of repeating.

Worst Job Of Proving You Don’t Need Your Starting Point Guard: It seems unfair to pick on the Cougars seeing as they are one of the conference’s three remaining undefeated teams and because their win against Murray State was one of the conference’s best thus far. But when they lost starting point guard L.J. Rose to injury, all hope for Houston’s NCAA Tournament hopes seemingly went out the window. And the Cougars may not have lost, but they haven’t exactly replaced Rose effectively. Through two games, the team has turned the ball over 40 times while posting just 20 assists. The team’s replacement for Rose, Cavon Baker, is averaging better than 20 points per game, but he has also turned the ball over nine times to just three assists. This terrible ball security will work against teams like Morgan State, but things will unravel quickly against better opponents unless they can cut down on the mistakes.

Best Idea to Succinctly Explain to Your Team That They Need to be Better: After Cincinnati‘s ugly five-point win against Eastern Illinois, coach Mick Cronin was asked what his message to his team was in the locker room. His response was classic Cronin as he told the media, “We were awful. That was my message. We were awful and if we don’t develop some humility and a better attitude, we’re never going to improve.” I guess constructive criticism is dead because that is a brutal message to send to your players. In fairness to Cronin, the Bearcats were awful yesterday and Cronin’s tough love approach has worked before, so it’s probably not worth reading too much into his remarks this early in the season. The good news is that the Bearcats’ schedule doesn’t get competitive until the middle of December, so they have time to figure some things out.

Central Florida's B.J. Taylor Fills Up A Box Score Like No Other AAC Freshman (Photo: Ashley White / Central Florida Future)

B.J. Taylor Fills Up A Box Score Like No Other AAC Freshman (Photo: Ashley White / Central Florida Future)

Best Way To Announce Your Candidacy For Freshman of the Year Honors: The opponent was the University of South Carolina Upstate, but Central Florida freshman guard B.J. Taylor still made folks stand up and take notice by pouring in 25 points, dishing out 7 assists, and grabbing 6 rebounds. He also put on a show from behind the arc, burying 6-of-9 three-pointers in the close win. Taylor scored a ton in high school too, so the point production isn’t totally surprising, but UConn’s Ryan Boatright might be the only other guard in the conference capable of filling a box score the way Taylor did yesterday. The Golden Knights don’t look very good, which means they should give Taylor plenty of opportunities to find his way on his own, which could mean a lot of points and rebounds for the fans watching.

Worst Way to Close Out a Game: After a somewhat disheartening loss to Gonzaga, SMU traveled to Indiana with a chance to redeem itself and instead did its best to hand the game to the Hoosiers. The Mustangs led by as many as 12 in the first half and five in the second half, but they couldn’t take care of the ball, turning it over 19 times and giving Indiana ample opportunities to climb back into the game. The Hoosiers did climb back into the game and then pulled away to win 74-68 when the Mustangs’ perimeter defense fell apart. Instead of an impressive road win, the Mustangs left Indiana still looking for a quality win.

Best Show in a Losing Effort: Temple lost both its games this week as they paid for their appearance in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic with two losses to good teams. The Owls played Duke pretty well despite the fact that they lost by 20 points and then they were actually beating UNLV for most of the first half before missing some shots and letting UNLV close the gap and eventually pass them by. Ironically, what should give Owls’ fans hope is that their team has been ice-cold from the field to start the season. The Owls are ranked No. 346 in the country in effective field goal percentage (35.2 percent) and are ranked nearly as low in three-point percentage (21.9 percent, good for No. 324 in the country). Some of the struggles have to do with poor shot-selection and offensive movement, but there is no way that the entire team shoots this miserably all season long, and Temple’s defense has been much better, so a more efficient offense could help the Owls win a lot of games.

Worst Start to Living Up to Your “Marksman” Reputation: Sam Cassell Jr. spent the exhibition games lighting up the scoreboard and making UConn fans genuinely wonder whether they would be better off with Cassell Jr. instead of Rodney Purvis in the starting lineup. Cassell is just the latest example of the “don’t believe the preseason box scores” advice but the issue isn’t that he actually is a bad basketball player, it’s that he hasn’t been able to find his shot yet. The redshirt sophomore is 4-of-18 through four games and looks nothing like the bomber some expected to fill Niels Giffey’s role as the designated outside shooter. Confidence doesn’t seem to be the issue as Cassell hasn’t looked hesitant and he is getting plenty of playing time, so inconsistent minutes aren’t to blame either. The best way to explain his slow start is that it is a small sample size. Everything eventually regresses back to the norm and the same is true with Cassell. He is still a good shooter, he is just slumping a bit to start, but things will get better in a hurry.

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