AAC Bests and Worsts: Holiday Wrap-Up Edition

Posted by mlemaire on December 1st, 2014

Let’s start by putting it bluntly — the teams in the AAC did not have a very good week. The conference’s final three unbeaten teams — Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF — all lost for the first time this season and the supposed standard-bearers for the conference — UConn, Memphis, SMU, and even Tulsa — all lost high-profile games and the Huskies were the only team with a realistic shot to win their game. We are now nearly a month into the season and UConn’s 11-point win against Dayton remains the best win by an AAC team. These are not fun days to be an AAC basketball fan, but the season is young, and there is time for some of these teams to turn things around. So let’s get into the best and worst of the week:

For Ryan Boatright and the rest of the AAC, Thanksgiving week wasn't too kind. (US Presswire)

For Ryan Boatright and the rest of the AAC, Thanksgiving week wasn’t too kind. (US Presswire)

  • Worst Inbounds Defense With The Game On The Line: UConn had a chance for the conference’s first statement win of the season yesterday as they led Texas at home for most of the game. But Ryan Boatright missed a free-throw to put the Huskies up by three and Texas’ relatively simple play out of the timeout worked to perfection as Jonathan Holmes was left open to bury the game-winning three-pointer. Give the Longhorns credit, they executed the play about as well as it could have been executed. But Holmes is the Longhorns’ best player and it is inexcusable that he should be left all alone no matter how good the screen was and no matter how badly injured Boatright was on they play.

  • Worst Case Of Adding Insult To Injury, Literally: As the Holmes’ gut punch of a three-pointer wasn’t enough, Boatright was still writhing in pain after the game ended and the teams were lining up for the handshake. The preliminary postgame diagnosis is that Boatright merely sprained an ankle, which should be good news for Huskies’ fans considering how important the senior guard is. He was the entire UConn offense for stretches in the second half and the team is already missing Rodney Purvis because of an ankle injury so regardless of how mild Boatright’s injury is, UConn needs to find a way to weather the injury storm and get healthy for conference play.
  • Best Week From A Player You Probably Won’t Hear Much About This Season: It would be misleading to call South Florida senior Corey Allen Jr. a revelation since he was one of the Bulls’ best players last season as well, but he showed out in a big way this week for a team that has only lost once. On Tuesday, Allen scored 18 points, dished out 5 assists, and grabbed 4 rebounds in a one-point win over Hofstra that was arguably the best win of any team in the conference this week. He was even better against Jacksonville on Saturday as he went for 29 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds. He has also made seven of his last 10 three-pointers and has been one of the most efficient offensive players in the country on this young season. Pay close attention now, because Allen won’t have many more weeks like this. And even if he did, not many people pay close attention to South Florida basketball.
  • Worst Twitter Account To Follow If You Are A Memphis Fan: If you happened to miss Thursday’s matchup between Baylor and Memphis and were thinking of firing up the ole Twitter machine to see what happened, may I suggest avoiding the timeline of Memphis Commercial-Appeal beat writer L. Jason Smith. Skip through the play-by-play from the third-place game against Indiana State and you will see that when Memphis lost 71-47 to the Bears on Thursday, not only were they playing a team that isn’t the same national title contender it has been in the past but also that Thursday’s second half was the “worst basketball” Smith has seen in his five years covering the team. His mentions and replies are even more depressing and can be summed up best by saying that the Tigers’ fan base is nearly catatonic and the team has played just four games. Josh Pastner asked that all criticism be directed towards him, which would be a better strategy if there wasn’t so much readily available criticism to direct. The only thing more unfortunate than Memphis’ play this season is the realization that Pastner’s job status may be the most compelling storyline of the season in the conference.
  • Best Job Of Proving Your Doubters Right: Okay so not many folks thought Houston was the real deal after starting the season 2-0, but would it have been too much to ask of the Cougars to at least keep Tuesday’s game against Harvard competitive? Kelvin Sampson‘s club traveled halfway across the country to get their butts kicked by an Ivy League school as they lost 84-63. Incredibly, the Cougars weren’t all that sloppy with the basketball. Instead it was the team’s atrocious on-ball defense that allowed the Crimson to shoot better than 50 percent from the floor on two-point field goal attempts and coast to victory. The Crimson aren’t your average mid-major opponent and no one confused the Cougars with a good basketball team despite their start, but Tuesday’s 21-point loss was demoralizing in that it only further proved how mediocre the AAC is shaping up to be this season.
  • Worst Encore Performance: When Cincinnati lost more than half of its offensive production from last season, one of the first people looked at for replacement production was rising junior Shaquille Thomas. The New Jersey native had been inconsistent as a sophomore, but his talent was evident and it was thought that with another season of experience and development, Thomas would become a problem for opposing defenses. But in the team’s first six games, Thomas has been more of a problem for the Bearcats. His offensive rating is an ugly 64.8, he is playing far less than he did last season, and he scored just four points in the team’s disheartening loss to Mississippi. Unless he is injured or something deeply distracting is going on off the court, there is no reason Thomas should look this useless. It’s almost unbelievable to watch him shuffle up and down the court and realize he has regressed so much in just one year. Whether it’s assertiveness or focus that Thomas needs to develop, he better get on it quickly, because the Bearcats need him.
mlemaire (324 Posts)

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