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Player of the Week

Justin McBride, Central Florida

Justin McBrideJustin McBrideSeemingly out of nowhere, the (really, really, really) big man Justin McBride scored 31 points to lead UCF over Bethune-Cookman on Sunday, then scored 14 in a win over Georgia Southern. After averaging only 7 minutes and 1.8 points in UCF’s first 4 contests, McBride saw over twenty minutes in his past two games and has made the most of them. To one who didn’t follow the Knights last year, McBride’s emergence may seem like a totally unexpected anomaly, but after sitting out until halfway through January of 2014, McBride had a handful of double-digit outings and looked great when he got minutes. Still, 31 points is 18 points better than his previous career high and the UCF coaching staff has to be excited.

The 6’10”, 325 lb. sophomore can understandably only play limited minutes, which is a shame he’s a career 70% shooter from the field. He’s such a load in the paint, and he’s got a soft touch around the rim, so he creates great mismatch potential whenever he’s on the floor. Currently, McBride is averaging an astounding 29 points per 40 minutes, so coach Donnie Jones will surely try to get him on the court more often. His conditioning is an issue, but he could soon find himself in the starting lineup.

Who’s Hot

Corey Allen Jr., South Florida

The 6’1” guard exploded for a career-high 29 points last Saturday in a Bulls win over Jacksonville, a promising continuation to a streak of good offensive performances this season. He followed that up with 16 in a loss to Alabama and is now averaging 15.9 PPG for the year. What’s especially promising is his 56% shooting on the year, including 43% from beyond the arc. Last season, his first at USF after playing JUCO ball, he was often guilty of being an inefficient chucker and shot a mere 39%. But now he’s shooting drastically better on a higher volume of shots, shots that he is now taking because he’s stepping up and being the guy that replaces Victor Rudd. He really trailed off last season in conference play with one double-digit performance in his last 11 games. Hopefully for the Bulls, that won’t the case this year, because they’ll need the 15.9 PPG and quick hands (1.4 steals per game) in order to stay relevant in the AAC race.

James Woodard, Tulsa

Probably the best of the newcomers from the Conference USA, it’s little surprise to Tulsa fans that James Woodard is fourth in the conference in scoring and playing all-around great basketball. The Golden Hurricane played two tough games this week, the first against #9 Wichita St., in which Woodard poured in 19 on 8/13 shooting in a 20-point loss, and the second in a great resume-building win against Creighton, in which Woodard scored a season-high 23 on 7/13 shooting. With wins over Creighton and Auburn, Tulsa is certainly getting into the swing of things, and most teams in the AAC will be hard-pressed to stop James Woodard.

Who’s Not

Amida Brimah, UConn

There was just one game this week for the Huskies, and they gave #7 Texas a scare in a one-point loss. And with a more characteristic performance from center Amida Brimah, they probably would’ve won the game. Brimah isn’t known for being much of a scorer, but he’s shot 6/16 (38%) in his past three games for an average of 5.3 PPG, and the Huskies will need more out of him to win games like this. His rebounding numbers have been awful for a man his size, with 2 against Texas, 5 or less in every game this season, and an average of 3.6 RPG in 26.8 minutes per game. Overall, his offensive performance has been much improved this season, but his rebounding isn’t any better and it will need to be. All four of the other Huskies starters outrebounded their center and that will have to change.

Will Cummings, Temple

One of the premier scorers in the conference, Will Cummings, has found himself in a slump of late. This week, he shot 7/28 (25%) in games against LIU-Brooklyn and St. Joe’s. In the second half against St. Joe’s, Cummings shot 2/9 and the Owls lost by 2. Similar to last year, Cummings is oftentimes looking like just a high volume shooter who gets numbers because of the amount of shots he takes, despite a lack of efficiency. He’s shot under 30% in 3 of 7 games this season, and his Owls have accumulated three losses already. He needs to get more efficient and become a better distributor (3.4 assists per game versus 4.6 last year) for the Owls to get the production they need out of him. Temple plays Villanova in under two weeks, and a big performance out of Cummings would be huge.

Top 5 Coaches in the AAC

1. Larry Brown, SMU

It’s hard to argue against Rick Pitino being the best coach in this conference…and I’m not going to try. But Larry Brown is on the fringes of coaching legend. The man finds a way to win wherever he goes. He’s had 6 losing seasons in 39 seasons of coaching and has won both an NCAA and NBA championship as a coach. He took an SMU team that went 13-19 and brought them to 27-10 and widely regarded as the main snub of the tournament last season. There are few coaches in the nation that I would rather have coach my team to win a game, and Brown is still one of the greats.

2. Kevin Ollie, UConn

It’s quite reasonable to believe that the second coach on this list is headed someday for #1. Ollie, in his second season as a coach, in his first season as the coach of a tournament-eligible team, won his first six tournament games and a hard-earned national championship. He’s got a great and natural basketball mind, so we’ll see how well he does without a Shabazz Napier-caliber player at the helm. But he is undeniably THE top, young coach in college basketball after his performance last season.

3. Mick Cronin, Cincinnati

Cronin is quite possibly the best defensive coach in the AAC and his UC teams consistently boast the lowest scoring averages allowed in the conference. He has a challenge this year, rebuilding a Sean Kilpatrick-less team that was reliant on Sean Kilpatrick last season. If he extends Cincinnati’s streak of four straight tournament bids, he may deserve a higher spot on this list. But for now, I’ll give him fourth and the title of Conference’s Best Defensive Coach.

4. Kelvin Sampson, Houston

Some people love him, a lot more hate him, but most people had probably forgotten about him. I, for one, was certainly surprised to find that Sampson was the winningest college coach in the conference by far with 496 career NCAA victories. Kelvin Sampson is back on the college basketball landscape at Houston and, despite his top two players, TaShawn Thomas and Danuel House, transferring before the season, he’s a talented in-game coach who took Oklahoma to the Final Four in 2002. It shouldn’t be too long before he has the Cougars relevant again.

5. Fran Dunphy, Temple

The Owls coach has long flown under the radar at both Temple and Penn, but he ushered in an era of six straight tournament bids for a Temple program that had fallen off the map early in this century. His roster was a little depleted last season and the Owls missed out on the Big Dance, but Dunphy has been at this for a while, having had years of success, winning 10 Ivy League titles in his last 14 years at Penn, and it's likely he'll have the Owls dancing once again in the next few seasons.

giddyup123
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Joined: 11/07/2013
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SMDH...

Rick Pitino DID just earn his 700th coaching victory, he DOES have 200 more wins than the next closest coach in the conference, he does HAVE 2 championships, and his team WILL contend.

But he coaches in the ACC, so not much more to say about him

Otherwise, great write up!!

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