AAC report: Kilpatrick, Napier, Smith chasing POTY award

10 things we learned about the AAC this week:

  1. I’M A BELIEVER: The Owls say coach Fran Dunphy predicted they would beat SMU and that’s just what happened Sunday with Temple’s 71-64 victory. Minus top rebounder Anthony Lee (knee), the Owls won the glass battle 38-25.
  2. THE RACE IS ON: Cincy’s Sean Kilpatrick, Louisville’s Russ Smith and UConn’s Shabazz Napier figure to take their Player of the Year chase down to the wire. You can make a case for any of them, but Kilpatrick has the head-to-head edge so far.
  3. EARLY CLINCHERS: With three weeks left in the regular season, Cincinnati, Louisville and SMU have all clinched first-round byes (top six teams) in the AAC Tournament.
  4. DOWN TO FOUR: The Mustangs’ loss to Temple bounced them from the top 25. But, the four teams that remain ranked are in both polls: Cincinnati (7th in AP/9th in USA Today), Louisville (11/5), UConn (21st in both), Memphis (22/24).
  5. HIGH TIMES: Louisville dropped a conference season-high 102 points on Rutgers in a 48-point win Sunday. Since losing to Cincy 69-66, the Cardinals have been bottom feeding with wins over UCF, Houston, Temple and the Scarlet Knights.
  6. WELL FED: In last week’s loss to UConn, UCF created a fan favorite in 7-foot, 350-plus pound freshman center Justin McBride. After slowing returning from an ACL injury suffered in high school, McBride earned the conference’s rookie of the week by averaging 9.5 points and 6 rebounds while shooting 72.7 percent.
  7. A CLEAR SPLIT: The gap between the top and bottom part of the conference continues to grow. UConn, Cincy, Louisville and Memphis are all 4-1 in their last five games, while Houston, Temple, UCF and USF are all 1-4. SMU at 3-2 and Rutgers at 2-3 are the exceptions.
  8. TOO CLOSE TO CALL: The American has its first great rivalry in the two Florida schools, UCF and USF. The Bulls won the first meeting 79-78 in OT on Feb. 5. The Knights took the rematch Sunday, snapping a nine-game skid with a 79-78 win. Isaiah Sykes (27 points) hit the game-winning shot with 1.8 seconds left.
  9. NOT GOOD ENOUGH: Houston shot 53.3 percent from the field and put four players in double figures scoring, but still lost to Cincinnati 73-62.
  10. SWEPT UP: For the first time since the 2000-01 season (Southern Mississippi), Memphis was swept by a conference opponent as UConn took the rematch Saturday 86-81 in OT.


Louisville at Cincinnati, noon, Saturday (CBS): The 12-1 Bearcats dictated the game’s low-scoring tempo the first time around, but will their defense be able to stop Louisville at home. A win would just about lock up the regular season title for Cincinnati.




William Paxton