HOUSTON — DeJon Jarreau scored 17 points, Corey Davis Jr. added 15 and No. 9 Houston won its 11th straight with a 71-59 victory over South Florida on Saturday night.
Houston (26-1, 13-1 American Athletic Conference) shot 48 percent and never trailed in its 33rd straight home victory. Davis was 4 of 9 on 3-pointers as the Cougars shot 8 of 21 from behind the arc.
David Collins had 12 points on 2-of-14 shooting from the field and grabbed eight rebounds, and Alexis Yetna added nine points for USF (18-9, 7-7). The Bulls shot 31 percent from the field.
Houston jumped out to an 11-0 lead, hitting its first four field goals, including two 3-pointers from Davis. Trailing 23-13 with 8:44 left in the first half, USF went on a 10-1 run to cut the lead to one on Yetna’s layup with 5 minutes remaining.
Houston finished the half on a 10-3 run to take a 34-26 halftime advantage behind seven points from Jarreau and Fabian White Jr.
The Cougars scored the first seven points out of the break to push the lead to 41-26 on Davis’ 3-pointer 1 1/2 minutes in the second half. USF got no closer than 12 the rest of the way.
South Florida: The Bulls started 0 for 7 from the field and finished the half 7 for 25. USF struggled from behind the arc, shooting 8 for 27, but also committed 15 turnovers. The Bulls outscored Houston in second-chance points 13-4.
Houston: The Cougars had great ball movement throughout, finishing with 13 assists on 25 field goals. Houston also controlled the paint, outscoring the Bulls 30-14. Houston committed 12 turnovers.
With the win in their lone game of the week, the Cougars could rise in the rankings.
FACES IN THE CROWD
Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and Ravens linebacker Tyus Bowser sat courtside next to Houston’s radio, while Saints running back Alvin Kamara sat next to the USF bench.
AAC Reset: Cincinnati, Houston, UCF established as frontrunners
College basketball’s non-conference season is finally coming to a close.
To help you shake off post-holiday haze and the hangover of losing in your fantasy football playoffs, we’ll be providing you with some midseason recaps to get you caught up on all the nation’s most important conferences.
Who has been the best player in the biggest leagues?
Who is on track to get an NCAA tournament bid?
What have we learned about the conference hierarchy?
What is still left for us to figure out?
We break it all down here.
Today, we’ll be taking a look at the American Athletic Conference.
MIDSEASON AAC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: B.J. Taylor, UCF
The 6-foot-2 guard has bounced back from injury brilliantly, averaging 17.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game while shooting 40.9 percent from the floor, 39.3 percent from 3 and 81.3 percent from the free-throw line. He needs to be more consistent (that 2-for-10 against Alabama stands out), but he’s an electric scorer that will make the Knights go.
THE ALL AAC FIRST TEAM
B.J. TAYLOR, UCF
MARKIS MCDUFFIE, WICHITA STATE: The senior has rediscovered his all-conference form after a disastrous sophomore season, even if the Shockers aren’t winning at that level. He’s averaging 18.8 points while shooting 42.3 percent from the floor and 37.5 percent from 3. He’s also grabbing 5.1 rebounds per game.
JARRON CUMBERLAND, CINCINNATI: The best player on the league’s best team, Cumberland is putting up a career-best 16.2 points while shooting a scintillating 47.1 percent from distance.
SHIZZ ALSTON, TEMPLE: The conference’s top scorer at 19.3 per game, Alston has helped Temple to a surprise 10-2 record in Fran Dunphy’s final season at the helm.
COREY DAVIS, HOUSTON: The 6-foot-1 senior is averaging 15.3 points in efficient manner, shooting 34.7 percent from 3 and 94.3 percent from the line. He’s also putting up 3.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game
NCAA: Cincinnati, Houston, UCF
NIT: UConn, SMU, Temple
OTHER/NO POSTSEASON: Memphis, Wichita State, Tulsa, ECU, South Florida, Tulane
THREE THINGS WE’VE LEARNED
1. THREE AT THE TOP
This isn’t so much something we’ve learned as has been confirmed through the season’s first two months. It seems pretty apparent that Cincinnati, Houston and UCF are the class of the conference, sporting a combined record 34-4. All three teams are in the KenPom top-40 while the rest of the league is outside the top-70.
Among those three, you could argue that Houston and Cincinnati may be a smidge ahead of the Knights as the Cougars and Bearcats both have good wins and no bad losses, something UCF can’t say with a loss to FAU on the resume and a home win against a so-so Alabama team leading the win docket. Still, the Knights belong in this trio given the strength of the roster and only one hiccup.
It’s almost assured that the league champion will emerge from this group of three, and it’s probably likely that the trio will comprise the entirety of the conference’s NCAA tournament bids.
2. PENNY HARDAWAY MAKES THINGS INTERESTING
Memphis hasn’t been particularly successful on the floor in the first year of the Penny era, with South Dakota State its best win and with losses to Charleston and Oklahoma State, but there have been more than a few moments that make the Tigers’ hire of their star alum already an absolute winner.
First off, Hardaway landed five-star recruit James Wiseman in the 2019 class, giving the Tigers not only a monster recruit, but one who hails from Memphis as well. Succeeding with kids from the city – five-star kids or otherwise – is a huge part of the Memphis job, and one Hardaway looked ready to immediately excel in and he has. Not just with Wiseman, but with Tyler Harris, who is having a splendid freshman season. Then there’s the feud with Rick Barnes, who I don’t think has ever been in a feud of any type in his life, but found Hardaway cursing him out after Barnes’ Tennessee team beat the Tigers in a rivalry game. Bringing a little juice to that matchup is a heck of a lot of fun.
Maybe most importantly, though, Memphis fans are flocking back to games. The Tigers are averaging nearly 15,000 fans per home game after averaging just over 6,000 per game in Tubby Smith’s last season. Memphis basketball – despite not yet winning a bunch of games – matters. That was half the battle, one Penny is winning in a major way.
3. WICHITA STATE IS WHAT WE THOUGHT THEY’D BE
You could have talked yourself into Wichita State this past offseason, banking on a Markis McDuffie return to form and Gregg Marshall just bending reality to his whim to keep the Shockers near the top of the AAC and in the NCAA tournament. It looks like you would have been kidding yourself, though.
The Shockers appear to be taking the step back that looked all but inevitable after losing the likes of Landry Shamet, Connor Frankamp and Shaw Morris off last year’s team. Now, the Shockers haven’t hit rock bottom – they’ve got wins against Providence and Baylor – but losses to Louisiana Tech, Davidson, Alabama and VCU makes it seem all the more likely that this isn’t going to be a caliber of team Wichita State has become accustomed to fielding during its seven-year NCAA tournament streak, which appears destined to end this spring.
THREE STORYLINES TO FOLLOW
1. HOW LONG CAN HOUSTON STAY PERFECT?
Kelvin Sampson’s team hasn’t exactly had a murderer’s row schedule, but the Cougars are 13-0 heading into AAC play. That’s undefeated, for those of you keeping score at home. Their next toughest tests come at Temple (KenPom 74) on Jan. 9 and at SMU (89) on Jan. 16. If they make it through those two games, they very well could be blemish-free heading into an interesting three-game stretch to begin February at UCF, vs. Cincinnati and at UConn.
No one is expecting Houston to run the table, but given the meh-ness of their non-conference schedule and the blah-ness of the AAC at large, they’re going to need to rely heavily on simple win accumulation to boost their NCAA tournament resume and seed line. Getting to February undefeated would help that, for those keeping score at home.
2. THE HURLEY REBUILD AT UCONN
Spirits seem to be high in Storrs, where the hometown Huskies sit 8-4 in the first two months of the Dan Hurley era. UConn is playing respectable basketball and hope seems to be in the air, a welcome change after what looked to be a miserable finish to Kevin Ollie’s tenure, which still has an ugly cloud over the university. So, that’s an improvement.
UConn probably isn’t all that good, though. At least not right now. The Huskies’ did beat Syracuse on a neutral, but beyond that, they’ve lost every game of consequence on their schedule. Jalen Adams and Alterique Gilbert are playing well, and that might be enough to score a few AAC victories to keep everyone happy while Hurle continues the rebuild.
3. CAN A FOURTH TEAM SNEAK INTO THE DANCE?
For a team other than Houston, Cincinnati or UCF to make the NCAA tournament, it’s probably going to take a magical run through the conference tournament, which is hosted by Memphis at the FedEx forum this year, if you’re looking for a real juicy storyline.
Other than that, though, there doesn’t really seem to be a path. No one has done enough in the non-conference to really put themselves in a strong position, and the conference just doesn’t appear to have enough opportunities to win games that move the needle. If it’s going to happen, though, it’ll likely need to be UConn, SMU or Temple really surprising and notching a whole host of victories – including a few against that top trio.
1. CINCY TAKES THE TITLE
Houston may be undefeated, but Mick Cronin’s team looks to be the best the AAC has to offer. The Bearcats’ two losses both came to Power 5 teams, the first a season-opening home loss to Ohio State and the second in Starkville to Mississippi State. Neither of those give any indication other than the Bearcats aren’t quite a top-25 team.
Cincinnati looks to have another borderline-elite defense, which is constructed from the inside out, with opponents struggling to score around the basket while the Bearcats are also generating a host of turnovers. The offense isn’t quite as strong, but Jarron Cumberland can help cover up some deficiencies.
2. THE NATION REMEMBERS TACKO FALL
The UCF big man became of national interest early in his career simply by the fact that he stands 7-foot-6 and has a great name, but injuries – and playing in the AAC – had him fade into the background some.
Expect that to change, with UCF having legit talent that will make the Knights an AAC contender and an interesting team to watch – if you can stomach their slow pace. The big man is sporting a 14.6 block percentage at the moment. There are few players that can impact a game defensively like he can – and nearly none are as interesting to watch given his height.
3. PENNY WILL GENERATE MORE HEADLINES
Maybe he won’t tell another coach to get the “@*&! out of here” but here’s guessing the Memphis coach will continue to make things interesting, even if wins aren’t expected to come in bunches next year. It’s clear after having an All-Star NBA career and then being a big fish in high school basketball, he’s not too concerned about the decorum that keeps so many head coaches from being truly interesting characters. Bless him for it.
AAC plan men’s basketball tourney at new Texas arena in ’20
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The American Athletic Conference will hold its men’s basketball tournament in a new arena in North Texas in 2020.
AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco announced Wednesday that Dickies Arena in Fort Worth has been selected to host the tournament for three years, starting in March 2020. That is only four months after the facility is scheduled to open.
On the same day of a groundbreaking ceremony for the 14,000-seat arena last April, the NCAA announced that first- and second-round games of the 2022 NCAA men’s basketball tournament would be held there. The NCAA women’s gymnastics championships are scheduled there from 2020-22.
The closest AAC school to the new arena is SMU, with its campus in Dallas about 40 miles away.
Orlando will host the 2018 AAC tournament, which moves to Memphis in 2019.
Players from Seton Hall, USF make Dominican Republic’s Pan-Am Games team
With the basketball competition at the Pan-American Games scheduled to begin July 21, the eight participating teams are beginning to announce their 12-member rosters for the event. Wednesday afternoon the Dominican Republic revealed its roster, and two current college players made the cut and will compete for a medal in Toronto.
Seton Hall forward Angel Delgado and USF guard Nehemias Morillo are among the 12 players on the roster, with both looking to use the event as a springboard into the 2015-16 season.
Delgado was the Big East’s best freshman a season ago, as he won the conference’s Rookie of the Year award after averaging 9.3 points and 9.8 rebounds per contest. Delgado and fellow sophomores Isaiah Whitehead and Khadeen Carrington will be asked to lead the way for the Pirates, who add grad student Derrick Gordon to the rotation after losing Sterling Gibbs (now a grad student at UConn).
As for Morillo, he’s coming off of a junior season in which he averaged 10.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. Including Morillo, USF will return its top four scorers from a season ago with Corey Allen Jr. and Chris Perry both having their seasons shortened due to injury.
The Dominican Republic is competing in Group A in Toronto, with hosts Canada, Argentina and Mexico being the other teams in the group. They’ll open up with Canada, whose roster hasn’t been announced as of yet, July 21. Among the players trying out for Canada’s Pan-Am Games squad are current collegians Dillon Brooks (Oregon), Jamal Murray (Kentucky) and Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga).
South Florida gets transfer guard from Big Ten program
South Florida added an experienced guard on Sunday as Penn State transfer Geno Thorpe committed to the Bulls. The 6-foot-3 Thorpe will have to sit out the 2015-16 season due to NCAA transfer regulations, but he’ll have two seasons of eligibility remaining to make an impact in the AAC.
A native of Pittsburgh, Thorpe appeared in 34 games during the 2014-15 season and played 24.3 minutes per game. Thorpe averaged 8.7 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game for the Nittany Lions while his shooting percentage dipped to 39 percent from the field. While Thorpe has struggled as a 3-point shooter at the college level — shooting 30 percent in both seasons at Penn State — he did improve a lot from the free-throw line as a sophomore, increasing his percentage to 83 percent from 69 percent as a freshman.
Head coach Orlando Antigua has hit the transfer market hard to bring talent into South Florida. Besides Thorpe, South Florida has also landed Maryland transfer Roddy Peters and Gonzaga transfer Angel Nunez in the last few months.
South Florida commit Troy Baxter posterizes opponent at NBPA Top 100 Camp (VIDEO)
On the first day of May, 6-foot-9 small forward Troy Baxter made the decision to end his recruitment, as he became the first member of the South Florida head coach Orlando Antigua’s 2016 recruiting class. The Florida native has been lauded for his ability on the defensive end, and his athleticism was also on display during the first day of the NBPA Top 100 Camp in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Receiving a pass on the baseline, Baxter took a drop step towards the rim and threw down an emphatic one-handed dunk on 2017 center Nick Richards. Richards will have opportunities to return the favor, as the camp runs through Saturday.