We have finally hit conference play in AAC basketball. While Temple did play UCF in the middle of December, the entire conference is now in play. With so many interesting results leading into conference season, it’s good to finally get a good head-to-head view of these teams.
Houston was in the headlines seemingly every day of Christmas week. Many were intrigued to see how they’d fare without their leader Marcus Sasser, who is out for the season with a toe injury. Houston fared well in their first game against Temple on the road. This team will be intriguing to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
AAC Basketball Weekly Headlines
COVID continued to wreak havoc on the AAC this past week. Another five games were either canceled or postponed. Enough games were played, however, to give us some early looks at how the conference could shake out. The two teams that haven’t played a conference game are South Florida and East Carolina. The Bulls are currently slated to host the Houston Cougars on Wednesday night. East Carolina hosts Tulane on Wednesday night as well for their first game.
While there haven’t been many surprises in AAC basketball, one team has come out of nowhere early. Not much was expected from the Tulane Green Wave this season. Less was expected after they had to suspend their season due to a COVID outbreak. After two games against Memphis and Cincinnati, however, Tulane sits tied atop the AAC at 2-0. It’ll be intriguing to see just how long Tulane can keep their play up.
Tulane Basketball Upsets Short-Handed Memphis
To put it bluntly, Tulane doesn’t have much staying power in the AAC. They have an okay offense but a subpar defense. One of the few ways that they can win in the AAC is if they simply can’t miss. Against Memphis, Tulane rode that perfect storm to victory.
Tulane shot 55% from the field and over 45% from deep. Their defense wasn’t good and their rebounding was horrendous. When you make more than half of your shots, however, that tends not to matter as much. Tulane came into this game knowing they’d have to make their opportunities count. They don’t have the size or physicality to measure up with Memphis. As a result, they needed to shoot at a high clip to even contend. On nights like Wednesday night, when that does happen, Tulane can beat anyone.
The biggest reason that Tulane won was that Memphis couldn’t key in on one guy. Four Tulane players scored in double-digits. While Jalen Cook did lead the way with 25 points, the others shot efficiently enough to pose a problem for Memphis. In normal games where Tulane shoots poorly, Memphis could just double Cook. With the supporting cast also scoring in bunches, however, there was little hope for the Tigers.
Memphis Basketball Steamrolls Wichita State
Although center Jalen Duren made his return to the lineup, Memphis was still shorthanded without Emoni Bates. Memphis basketball coach Penny Hardaway went with a bigger lineup against the Shockers, and it made an impact early. Duren had eight points in the first eight minutes of the game but had to make his way to the bench early due to foul trouble. With Duren on the bench, freshman forward Josh Minott stepped up in a big way.
When it comes to conference play, players usually play with a little more “juice” than other games. Minott came out hot and was flying around the court. Offensively, he was attacking the basket with menace and converting a few and-ones as well. Minott shot 6/10 from the field and finished with 15 points, six rebounds and two steals. Defensively, Minott was doing the dirty work. If there was a loose ball or a free rebound, Minott was somehow always there.
If Memphis can continue to get these types of performances out of Minott when Emoni Bates and Alex Lomax return, there is no doubt they will be a massive favorite the rest of the season in the AAC. That kind of play and effort is contagious and it may be just what Memphis needs to gain some consistency this season.
Updated AAC Basketball Standings
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Upcoming AAC Basketball Games to Note
With a full slate of AAC games on deck this week, there are plenty of games to watch. With the non-conference season over, every game counts just a little more.
Tulane at East Carolina
Date: Wednesday, Jan. 5
Time: 7:00 pm EST
TV Coverage: ESPN+
Tulsa at UCF
Date: Saturday, Jan. 8
Time: 2:00 pm EST
TV Coverage: ESPNU
South Florida at Tulane
Date: Saturday, Dec. 29
Time: 4:00 pm EST
TV Coverage: ESPNU
Cincinnati at Memphis
Date: Sunday, Jan. 9
Time: 3:30 pm EST
TV Coverage: ABC