AAC Bests and Worsts: 01.13.15 Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on January 13th, 2015

It was an up-and-down week for the AAC as conference play is well under way and the top six teams in the conference have started beating up on each other. There weren’t a ton of conference gamesl week, but there were more than enough to make some quick-trigger observations. After a rough start to the season, Tulsa remains the only unbeaten team in conference play, but the Golden Hurricane needed to rally from a double-digit deficit just to beat a Temple club without arguably its best player. Memphis continues to spiral out of NCAA Tournament contention while heavyweights like Connecticut and SMU are getting comfortable and playing up to their potential. Let’s take a look at the bests and worsts from last week.

If Omar Calhoun Can Become A Consistent Offensive Threat, UConn Is All The More Dangerous (Photo/USA TODAY)

If Omar Calhoun Can Become A Consistent Offensive Threat, UConn Is All The More Dangerous (Photo/USA TODAY)

Best Way to Step Up When Your Team Needed It Most: Connecticut has been a tough team to figure out this season. The Huskies are still playing championship-level defense but their offense has suffered a steep decline in large part because Kevin Ollie no longer has the three-point shooting of Shabazz Napier and Niels Giffey. The Huskies started conference play with a discouraging home loss to Temple and thus absolutely needed to beat Cincinnati when the Bearcats visited Storrs on Saturday. Luckily, Ryan Boatright knew the stakes were higb and put the team on his back. The senior went for 18 points, eight assists, four rebounds, and three steals as the Huskies rallied from a halftime deficit for a much-needed win. Sophomore Terrence Samuel deserves credit as well for handling UConn’s point guard duties, allowing Boatright to move off the ball where he was clearly more comfortable and focused. The senior was the best player on the floor by a pretty wide margin and he is the primary reason why we aren’t talking about how UConn is collapsing just one season after a national championship.

Best Comeback Story in a Small Sample Size: Since we are already talking about the Huskies, we would be remiss to not point out that junior guard Omar Calhoun has become a value-add since returning from injury. The former highly-touted prospect had a solid freshman season but regressed badly as a sophomore as his shot selection and decision-making left many wondering whether he would ever play up to his potential. He has only been back in action for seven games now, but he is already giving Huskies’ fans some hope that he can become a big-time contributor both this season and next. His best two games of the year have come in arguably the team’s two biggest wins to date. Calhoun notched 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting against the Bearcats and added 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting in the weekend before’s win against Florida. Ollie is still working Calhoun into the rotation slowly as he rounds into shape, but the team desperately needs his shooting ability. If the talented but inconsistent junior can become an efficient offensive player off the bench, UConn becomes a totally different team.

Worst Job Of Shouldering the Offensive Burden In the Absence Of An Injured Teammate: When Temple point guard and team leader Will Cummings left Saturday’s match-up with Tulsa due to a strained muscle in his leg, it was all but assumed that the offensive burden then fell on fellow senior Jesse Morgan to pick up the slack. Morgan clearly understood that scoring was his responsibility, but it may have been better for the Owls if he hadn’t, as he turned in one of the all-time awful shooting performances with a 1-of-17 disaster that included 13 misses from three-point range. I understand that Morgan is considered an above-average shooter and I also can sympathize with the notion that a shooter needs to shoot himself out of a slump, but Saturday was more than ridiculous and it is becoming a bit of a pattern. Morgan’s teammates didn’t exactly help him out much, but it can be easily argued that part of the reason Temple gave up its double-figure lead is because Morgan shot them right out of the game. He has now attempted at least six three-pointers in each game he has played this season, but needless to say, Morgan hasn’t eased any of the shooting woes that have plagued the Owls this season.

Tulane Basketball (USA Today Images)

Tulane Basketball: Not Quite Ready For Prime Time (USA Today Images)

Worst Way to Convince the Rest of the Conference That You Are For Real: Tulane has quietly been one of the better stories in the conference this season as the Green Wave are now 12-4 overall and 3-1 in the AAC. Unfortunately, the reason the Green Wave have been flying so far under the radar is because no one actually believes that they are any good and they did nothing to assuage those concerns this week. They actually gave Temple a tough half at home before coming undone in the second half, but they followed that up with an uninspiring overtime win at home against a bad South Florida team. If the Green Wave want to be taken seriously by anyone outside of the Tulane athletic department, they will need to beat teams in the bottom half of the conference better than they beat the Bulls over the weekend.

Best Overinflation of the Importance of a Meaningless Win: Give credit to Memphis and those who are around the program, as they are doing an incredible job of willfully ignoring how bad the Tigers really are. Even the usually critical L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal drank the Kool-Aid after the Tigers demolished an absolutely awful Houston team on the road Sunday. In fairness to Smith, he was relatively measured in his praise and did raise a salient point about all of Memphis’ lineup juggling this season. Meanwhile, sophomore Austin Nichols called the victory over the Cougars “a huge, huge win,” while head coach Josh Pastner labeled it just a “good win.” Let’s not blame the players or Pastner for being overly positive here (how do you expect them to look at their first conference win?), but let’s also remember that Houston is quite possibly the worst team in the conference and has already lost to teams like Arkansas-Pine Bluff and South Carolina State. There were some positives to take from the win (hey Kedren Johnson! Nice to finally meet you!) but Memphis is still in a lot of trouble, especially if they get pasted this week by Cincinnati.

mlemaire (324 Posts)

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