WHERE DID DEFENDING CHAMP UCONN GO? THE AMERICAN ATHLETIC HAS DISAPPEARED!

Before the 2014-15 season began, things were looking very rosy for the American Athletic Conference. National Champion Connecticut was a proud member. SMU under head coach Larry Brown seemed to be on the brink of becoming very important. Cincinnati, Memphis, and Temple have great histories…and were featured in early season TV spots.

Here in early February…all the talk is about the ACC, the Big 12, and individual powerhouses currently leading the SEC (Kentucky), West Coast (Gonzaga), Big 10 (Wisconsin), Pac 12 (Arizona) and Big East (Villanova). What happened to the American Athletic Conference? Where did all of those teams go?!

Here’s how the AAC was featured in Preseason Rankings.
#17 Connecticut
#22 SMU
#34 Memphis
#37 Cincinnati

Nobody was a national championship threat. Of course, UCONN wasn’t one last year and they ran the table in the Dance! But, you had two teams in the top 25, and two more within the top 40.

Right now…
#23 SMU
#34 Tulsa
#38 Temple

Respect has fallen so far…that Tulsa’s 9-0 record in AAC play only has them at #34 nationally. SMU is 9-1 in league action, which has only kept them about where they were to start the season. Connecticut, Memphis, and Cincinnati have fallen off the map, at least in terms of the rankings.

What about Bracketology?
SMU is currently projected as a #7 seed
Cincinnati is currently projected as a #9 seed
Tulsa is currently projected as a #11 seed
Temple is on the wrong side of the bubble, not in the last four in
Memphis and Connecticut aren’t even in the discussion

Joe Lunardi of ESPN only has two teams safely in right now (SMU and Cincinnati), and it’s possible that only those two will make it unless Tulsa continues its surprising play through the second half of the round robin.

Connecticut won’t get a chance to defend it’s title!

Here’s how the most respected computers have everyone in the league through the action of this past Monday Night…

SMU: #22 in Pomeroy, #27 in Sagarin
Cincinnati: #35 in Pomeroy, #48 in Sagarin
Tulsa: #60 in Pomeroy, #60 in Sagarin
Temple: #63 in Pomeroy, #91 in Sagarin
Connecticut: #75 in Pomeroy, #83 in Sagarin
Memphis: #90 in Pomeroy, #80 in Sagarin
Tulane: #174 in Pomeroy, #174 in Sagarin
East Carolina: #230 in Pomeroy, #240 in Sagarin
Houston: #237 in Pomeroy, #241 in Sagarin
South Florida: #247 in Pomeroy, #238 in Sagarin
Central Florida: #259 in Pomeroy, #243 in Sagarin

Wow…college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy and USA Today computer whiz Jeff Sagarin only have two teams in the Dance. Usually about the top 45 are safe because so any automatic bids go to teams further down the rankings latter (conference champions of lesser leagues). Tulsa has some work to do. Temple is so far off the mark with Sagarin that you wonder how their resume could impress anyone on the selection committee.

Worse…how can anyone score any quality wins?! The bottom half of this league is so pathetic that you take a hit if you don’t blow all of them out. Tulsa fans would surely like us to run the standings right now. They’ve outperformed computer projections fairly significantly, which is why Lunardi currently has them in the Dance.

THE TOP OF THE AAC
Tulsa 9-0
SMU 9-1
Cincinnati 6-3
Temple 6-3
Memphis 6-3
Connecticut 4-4

The other teams are so bad they’ll mostly just beat each other. The standings and computer ratings set up an important week in the AAC, which is why we’ve chosen to run this conference recap today.

Thursday: “Computer” Game of the Year
Cincinnati at SMU (the two best teams in the Pomeroy/Sagarin composite, as well as the two best seeds in Lunardi’s Bracketology)

Saturday: “Conference” Game of the Year
SMU at Tulsa

Saturday brings the first two meetings between the two league leaders. They will have a rematch over the final weekend of the regular season (March 8 in Dallas) that may or may not determine the champ and #1 seed in the conference tourney. We KNOW this Saturday’s game will be important, which makes it…for now…the most important AAC game played this season. Only a collapse from BOTH Tulsa and SMU would bring other teams into the race.

Unfortunately for AAC fans, the league is likely to stay off the radar the rest of the way. It will be up to SMU or Cincinnati (and maybe Tulsa) to make headlines in the Big Dance. Connecticut’s fallen so far so fast that the main “TV” team of the conference is no longer relevant. Handicappers should monitor SMU’s performances Thursday and Saturday to get a read on how the team might perform in March. There are so few real tests in the AAC this year.

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College hoops coverage continues in the NOTEBOOK the next few days, as we cross the nation to check in on a variety of conferences…

Thursday: College Basketball…UCLA at Stanford in the Pac 12
Friday: College Early Look…Georgetown at Villanova in the Big East
Saturday: College Basketball…Kentucky at Florida in the SEC
Sunday: NBA Big Game Preview (Clippers/Thunder, Hawks/Grizz, or Spurs/Raptors)
Monday: College Basketball Preview (either Duke/FSU or Iowa State/OU)

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