Player of the Week
Amida Brimah, Connecticut
After flying under the radar a bit for most of the conference season, Amida Brimah has been making his presence known of late. This week, in a pair of wins over Tulane and at East Carolina that UConn couldn’t and shouldn’t have lost, Brimah connected on 14 of 15 shot attempts for 19 and 12 points respectively. He blocked 10 total shots (6 in 18 minutes against East Carolina as he had dealt with foul trouble) and grabbed 8 total rebounds, a number that leaves a little to be desired for the 7-footer, but is still not a horrible total for only 49 minutes of play with a team full of great rebounding perimeter players.
Brimah is now dominating the race for conference field goal percentage leader. He is currently shooting nearly 72%. Additionally, the improvement of his block per game total to 3.2 has him gaining on conference leader Austin Nichols of Memphis. The recent increase in his and Daniel Hamilton’s production, in addition to the obvious talents of Ryan Boatright could give UConn a chance at a miracle AAC tournament run to get a bid that they otherwise will not receive.
Louis Dabney, Tulane
The waters have been choppy for Tulane in conference play. They’ve lost three straight, they’ve lost eight out of nine, and they haven’t won a game in regulation by more than one possession since January 3rd. But from what I’ve seen of this Tulane team, they still continue to fight out there, and junior shooting guard Louis Dabney continues to be absolutely tenacious. On Sunday, he shot a mere 5/15 against UConn, but all of his makes were from behind the arc and he ended up with 19 points. And on Wednesday against Tulsa, Dabney appeared to be the only Tulane player with a pulse, but what a pulse it was. He scored 32 on 10/19 shooting, including 5 3’s. This week, Dabney has shot 10/18 (56%) from behind the arc, a very impressive statistic. Throw in the fact that Dabney hasn’t committed a turnover in his last 4 games (135 minutes of gameplay) and it’s really a shame he wasn’t able to lead his team to a road upset this week.
Cincinnati Front Line
After a three-game win streak, the Bearcats got back on track with a pair of wins this weekend over Houston and UCF, and they did it with strong efforts inside. UC’s trio of front court starters, Octavius Ellis, Gary Clark, and Shaquille Thomas combined for 33 points on 11/19 shooting (58%) and 15 rebounds (14 from Clark) against Houston, then combined for 43 points on an excellent 18/24 shooting (75%) with 14 rebounds as they pounded it inside against UCF. These two wins were vital for the Bearcats’ tournament hopes, so they will continue to scratch and claw for a tournament bid as they get their first crack at Tulsa and a chance for revenge against Tulane this week.
Danrad Knowles, Houston
Though the Cougars are in free-fall mode right now, with 6 straight losses, “Chicken” Knowles is developing into a very intriguing player. Standing at a rail-thin 6’10”, 190 lbs., he isn’t exactly a bruiser inside. So the fact that he’s been developing an outside shot could combine with his athleticism and length to make him into a real force to be reckoned with in his upperclassman seasons. This week, Knowles recorded a near double-double in a near-upset of Cincinnati as he scored 16 on 5/7 shooting with 9 rebounds. He then scored 13 against Temple. Knowles connected on 4/8 three-pointers this week, demonstrating a deft outside stroke for a man his size. Unfortunately, Houston already has enough guys that think they can shoot from the perimeter. What they need is toughness and strength inside, which Knowles can’t really give them. But he’s shown promise as a shot-blocker and versatile offensive weapon and his future is bright as he finishes up his sophomore season.
B.J. Taylor, Central Florida
The winning streak is over, and so is the stellar play by freshman BJ Taylor. After winning three straight, Central Florida dropped both against Memphis and Cincinnati this week. They got next to no offensive production from their young leading scorer, as Taylor shot a total of 4/24 (17%) and 2/14 from outside (14%) as he put up a mere 12 points. The talent is there and the consistency will develop for Taylor, who sits at 10th in the conference in scoring. But for right now, the Knights are mired near the bottom of the conference standings.
Top 5 Draft Prospects
I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t talked a lot about who has a shot at getting drafted out of the AAC this season because, well, there isn’t much to talk about. Following the departure of Louisville, Shabazz Napier, Sean Kilpatrick and Joe Jackson, the AAC is in a down year. Few players among the member teams have any prospects of getting drafted in 2015 or 2016. This conversation would be a little different had Emmanuel Mudiay not foregone NCAA ball and had played at SMU. But there is talent here. So here are five names that really do have the talent to turn some heads in the future:
1)Daniel Hamilton, Connecticut
Though he hasn’t been mentioned too often on this blog because his production is overshadowed at times by that of teammates Ryan Boatright and Amida Brimah, Hamilton has a lot going for him. He’s long and athletic; he can handle and shoot the ball; he can create offense and play pretty good defense. He’s really come on strong in conference play, particularly since he got moved to the starting lineup. He may be a year away, as this site has him in the 2016 mock draft (at #5). But the future shines very bright for the star recruit of the AAC’s 2014-2015 freshman class.
2)Ryan Boatright, Connecticut
Boatright is clearly the best player in the conference, but at 5’11”, his prospects are always going to be a little limited. He is currently the only AAC player in this site’s 2015 mock draft and, with how obviously talented he is, he’ll get selected. It hurts him that the Huskies aren’t doing particularly well this season, but he’s shown such tremendous progress in his college career and he deserves to get NBA looks.
3)Austin Nichols, Memphis
Nichols has really blossomed this season, averaging over 13 points and 6 rebounds, and his whopping 3.5 blocks per game leads the entire conference. Though he’s shown himself to be a great rim protector, he stands at only 6’8” and, since he lacks much of a perimeter or mid-range game, he will likely translate as a slightly-undersized power forward in the NBA. But he’s been perhaps the most consistent big man in the conference and will get some serious NBA looks at the end of his four years at Memphis. Right now he’s only a sophomore and should continue to develop into a nationally elite big man.
4)Yanick Moreira, Southern Methodist
Moreira really turned heads over the summer with a great performance for the Angolan National Team at the FIBA World Championships, and has helped lead SMU to the top of the AAC. Moreira is the anchor inside for SMU and ranks in the conference’s top 10 in rebounds, blocks, and field goal percentage. He also ranks 10th in the conference in offensive efficiency according to Kenpom.com. Though he isn’t dominant at the college level, as SMU doesn’t throw it inside that often, the fact that he has already shown that he can compete with NBA big men is huge for him. He’s a senior, so he doesn’t have much time to improve his stock, but he has some prospects.
5)James Woodard, Tulsa
Woodard put up great numbers last season when his team was in Conference USA, but the question for him was whether he could translate well to the superior competition of the AAC. And he has. He has his team at the top of the conference standings, and his 14.7 PPG ranks 3rd in the conference. He’s been very efficient, and he’s shown promise as a shot creator and a spot-up shooter. Though he hasn’t generated much draft buzz, he’s only a junior and he has another year to continue to put it all together. At 6’3”, his size could limit him, but he’s a good defender and a smart player, and there may be a spot on an NBA bench that he could be suited for.