Report Card: Finals Week Wrap in the American

Posted by Jared Kotler on December 22nd, 2015

Finals week is always one of the slower times of the college basketball season, but there was still a decent amount of action that took place in the American last week. With the events of the last week in mind, here’s an AAC Report Card.  

A: SMU. This was a great week for SMU. Not only did the Mustangs roll over Nicholls State and Hampton to stay undefeated, but head coach Larry Brown also returned from his nine-game suspension for rules violations. What has made this SMU team so potent? Based on the most recent KenPom ratings, SMU owns the eighth most efficient offense in college basketball and the 55th most efficient defense. That offense, with potential AAC Player of the Year Nic Moore leading the way, has carried SMU through its relatively soft non-conference schedule, but there is hardly a Mustang who hasn’t joined the party: seven of SMU’s eight rotation players have offensive ratings among the 115 best in the country. The lone exception, Keith Frazier, is still 371st nationally with an offensive rating of 116.9. There will be no postseason in Dallas, but this is a fun team that really knows how to run an offense.  

A: UConn. Following close losses to Maryland, Gonzaga and Syracuse, UConn was looking for another quality win to go along with its late November victory over Michigan. The Huskies found it in a 20-point demolition of Ohio State, a team that has struggled but managed to beat Kentucky last weekend. Kevin Ollie tightened up his rotation against the Buckeyes, reserving major minutes for only seven players. This meant no playing time for Sam Cassell Jr. and Phil Nolan and only a minute of mop-up action for freshman big man Steven Enoch. UConn will look to build on this win as they play one-win Central Connecticut on Wednesday before heading to Austin to face a rising Texas team in its final non-conference game.

A: Cincinnati. Last week Cincinnati came up just short against crosstown rival Xavier, leaving the Bearcats still looking for a resume-enhancing road win. In a subsequent back-and-forth game against VCU, Mick Cronin‘s team finally pulled away late in the second half to earn that elusive victory. Cincinnati’s improved offense was again on display with three players scoring in double figures, including perimeter players Troy Caupain and Farad Cobb. Its defense stood strong in holding the Rams’ best offensive player, Melvin Johnson, to just two points. The Bearcats wrap up non-conference play with another major opportunity at home tonight against Iowa State.

Mick Cronin (USA Today Images)

Mick Cronin (USA Today Images)

B-: Houston. Now sitting at 8-2 after last night’s home loss to Grand Canyon, Houston has still been a bit of a surprise in the American. Its only other loss came to Rhode Island (KenPom #51), and the Cougars snagged a win over Ben Simmons’ LSU squad a little over a week ago. We will find out more about the Cougars as conference play heats up, but this transfer-heavy bunch looks like an AAC sleeper.

C: Tulsa and Memphis. Memphis and Tulsa both had the chance to pick up resume-building non-conference wins last week versus Ole Miss and Oregon State, respectively. Neither team was successful, although the methods of failure were not the same. Tulsa blew a large lead in its eventual defeat, while Memphis fell behind big before mounting a comeback that would ultimately fall just short. The Tulsa offense seemed to be clicking earlier this season, but shots have not been falling and it now ranks 123rd nationally in effective field goal percentage. Memphis’ offense has been a train wreck, ranking among the bottom 20 teams in college basketball in three-point field goal percentage (27.7%) and generally having trouble putting together a viable half-court offense.

F: South Florida. South Florida picked up its third win of the year last week but also suffered an enormous loss when Roddy Peters fractured his left foot. The Maryland transfer will be out indefinitely and the Bulls’ anemic offense will only get worse in his absence. While Orlando Antigua’s squad wasn’t likely to be a factor in the league race this season, it looks to officially be another year of basketball irrelevance in Tampa.

Jared Kotler (9 Posts)

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