Every week the four AAC microsite writers will come together in an effort to make sense of and answering questions about what happened in the AAC over the course of the previous week. In the future, we hope these thoughts will post on Monday and the questions will get more interesting as the schedule does.
1. Does Connecticut’s win over Indiana coupled with Louisville’s loss to North Carolina mean the Huskies are the team to beat in the conference?
Mike —Connecticut’s win over Indiana was unexpected and Louisville looked terrible in its loss to North Carolina, but I still think the Cardinals are the better overall team. They struggled with foul trouble, didn’t find a lot of quality looks against the Tar Heels’ zone defense, and ran into the Marcus Paige buzzsaw, yet they still only lost by nine points. The game proved that Louisville has plenty of flaws and a lot of work to do before it can repeat as national champions, but they are the deeper team and will get it sorted out by the end of the regular season. The Huskies impressed a lot of folks by beating the Hoosiers, but they were lucky that Shabazz Napier is unstoppable right now because otherwise things could get ugly. The team proved that it can play with anyone and will always be in contention with Napier at the helm of the offense, but their secondary players did not show up, and they can’t let Napier carry them and expect to win the conference.
C.D. —Probably not, even though it seems a more reasonable query than before the Cardinals’ miserable weekend in Connecticut. However, the Huskies lack the one thing that allowed North Carolina such success Sunday — talented bigs. Without being able to expose Louisville on the interior, UConn’s still in second — but gaining.
Will —It’s hard to deny that the Huskies have clawed their way into the AAC driver’s seat. Although their wins over Maryland, Boston College and Indiana have come by a combined four points, the Huskies have taken care of business and become the team to beat, on paper. But looking further down the line, I can’t predict that they’ll stay there for long. Louisville’s experience and frontcourt talent still give the Cardinals a much higher ceiling. Even if we’ve overestimated how quickly the revamped lineup would mesh, it’s easier to convince Montrezl Harrell and Chris Jones to learn the defensive schemes and guard with discipline than it is to fill the holes in UConn’s roster. We’ll have a better sense of the pecking order at the top of the league by the end of December, after UConn hosts Florida and Louisville enters Rupp Arena.
Ross — Louisville is still the team to beat in the AAC, but it definitely has some issues to address if it wants to stay there. The loss of Gorgui Dieng may be much more difficult to cope with than the Cardinals originally thought. North Carolina scored basically at will in the paint against them on Sunday. While undefeated and playing a stronger schedule than Louisville, Connecticut has problems of their own by winning three games against unranked foes by a total of five points. Outside of Shabazz Napier and an occasional Niels Giffey three, the Huskies are struggling to put the ball in the basket when it matters.