Here’s How The American Currently Stands

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference Date:

Here’s a look at how the 10 teams in The American sits as we head into the start of conference play:

UCONN

Record: 12-0

Highlights: The defending national champions are off to a great start, leading the nation in four different statistical categories.

Last season: 35-4

Coach: Geno Auriemma, 29th season

Top players: F Breanna Stewart, C Stefanie Dolson, F Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis

Keep an eye on: G Bria Hartley is having a strong senior year after battling an ankle injury last season. Stewart is the AAC’s preseason player of the year and his ahead of last season’s scoring pace.

The skinny: The Huskies returned about 90 percent of their offense from a team that won its eighth national championship last season and have survived long-term injuries to both Mosqueda-Lewis and Morgan Tuck.

LOUISVILLE

Record: 12-1

Highlights: The only loss came at Kentucky (69-64) on Dec. 1. But the Cardinals have taken down LSU, Oklahoma and Florida State.

Last season: 29-9

Coach: Jeff Walz, 7th season

Top Players: G Shoni Schimmel, F Sara Hammond, G Bria Smith

Keep an eye on: Schimmel brings great confidence – and perimeter shooting – to Louisville’s offense. But she has struggled from the field this season, barely shooting over 40 percent

The skinny: The Cardinals leave for the ACC next season, but not before one more conference battle for supremacy with UConn, which has defeated them in national championship games twice (2009, 2013). But they will do it without senior Antonita Slaughter, lost for the year with a blood clot in her lung.

SOUTHERN METHODIST

Record: 8-2

Highlights: G Keena Mays averages around 20 points and has had three player of the week awards. She has eclipsed 20 five times this season, and ranks among the league leaders in assists, steals and three-point percentage (12th-35.4 percent).

Last season: 21-10

Coach: Rhonda Rompola, 23rd season

Top players: Mays, G Gabrielle Wilkins, F Akil Simpson

Keep an eye on: Mays was player of the year in Conference USA last season and made the AAC’s first preseason all-star team. She averaged 18.4 points and shot 40 percent from three last year.

The skinny: The Mustangs are without question the strongest import from Conference USA. They come off a third regular season title, but have not played an NCAA Tournament game since 2008. Their home, the Moody Coliseum, reopens Jan. 4 after a $47 million renovation.

SOUTH FLORIDA

Record: 5-5

Highlights: Traditionally strong during nonconference play, the Bulls have struggled somewhat this season, particularly on offense, one of their usual strong points.

Last season: 22-11

Coach: Jose Fernandez, 14th season

Top players: G Inga Orekhova, G Tamara Taylor, G Courtney Williams

Keep an eye on: Orekhova, a 6-2 native of the Ukraine, was selected to the AAC’s first preseason all-star team. She made 82 three-pointers last season, but is off to slow start this season, shooting under 30 percent from the floor.

The skinny: The Bulls, who won their first NCAA Tournament game last season at Texas Tech before losing in overtime to Cal, were hoping this might be a breakout year. A strong conference season could still make it happen.

TEMPLE

Record: 6-4

Highlights: Natasha Thames is coming off a knee injury that sidelined her last season. Shi-Heria Shipp transferred this year from George Washington University. In the games where both score 10 or more points, the Owls are 4-0.

Last season: 14-18

Coach: Tonya Cardoza, 6th season

Top players: G Tyonna Williams, G Rateska Brown, Thames

Keep an eye on: Freshman G Feyonda Fitzgerald is leading the team in scoring and three-point shooting. Brown, second in scoring on the team last season (10.8), has been somewhat overshadowed.

The skinny: Cardoza, the former UConn assistant, is now in the same conference with her coaching mentor, Auriemma, and her best friend, Cincinnati coach Jamelle Elliott, who she coached and coached with at UConn.

RUTGERS

Record: 9-2

Highlights: Sophomore forward Kahleah Cooper, the team’s leading scorer, has been named to the AAC’s Honor Roll three times this season. But Rutgers still has a loss to UMass on its record.

Last season: 16-14

Coach: Vivian Stringer, 19th season

Top players: F Betnijah Laney, Cooper, G Tyler Scaife

Keep an eye on: Laney was a prolific high school scorer in Delaware and a UConn recruit. She averaged 11.8 points in Big East play last season and is on the same pace. But Scaife is the AAC’s preseason rookie of the year and she is averaging double-figure points.

The skinny: Rutgers leaves after the season for the Big 10, ending its long and notable association with UConn. Whether Stringer will still be with the program is not clear. Her contract is up.

MEMPHIS

Record: 7-5

Highlights: Memphis came into last weekend above .500 at the end of nonconference play for a sixth straight season under coach Melissa McFerrin. Before her arrival, Memphis had not posted a winning record at the end of nonconference play since 2004-05.

Last season: 17-15

Coach: Melissa McFerrin, 6th season

Top players: G Mooriah Rowser, G Ariel Hearn, F Asianna Fuqua-Bey

Keep an eye on: Hearn, the Tigers leading scorer, made the Conference USA all-freshman team after averaging 13.8 points last season. Now Rowser has already been the AAC’s rookie of the week twice.

The skinny: McFerrin is a former WNBA assistant coach and GM. Last year’s team played in the WNIT, its fourth straight postseason. But this one has only two seniors and no juniors.

CINCINNATI

Record: 7-4

Highlights: The Bearcats defeated Ohio State on Dec. 15 at home, the first time since 1988 a Cincinnati team had ever beaten the Buckeyes

Last season: 12-18

Coach: Jamelle Elliott, 5th season

Top players: G Dayeesha Hollins, F Tiffany Turner, G Kayla Cook

Keep an eye on: The maturation of G Alexis Durley into a starter was one of the bright spots last season. She is being heavily counted on this year.

The skinny: Elliott’s rebuilding process took a little slide in 2012-13. But Hollins is an AAC preseason first-team pick who averaged 15.4 points last year and is averaging 14.3 this season.

CENTRAL FLORIDA

Record: 7-4

Highlights: By winning their seventh game, the Knights matched the 2007 and 2010 teams for the most wins before conference play during the Joi Williams era. Only the 1985 team had eight nonconference wins in UCF’s 29-year history as a Division I program.

Last season: 16-18

Coach: Joi Williams, 11th season

Top Players: G Briahanna Jackson, G Bryeasha Blair, F Brittni Montgomery

Keep an eye on: Williams is a veteran coach with extensive USA Basketball experience at the U-18 and U-19 levels over the last three seasons.

The skinny: The Knights played for the Conference USA title last season but had only five players returning from last season’s team.

HOUSTON

Record: 4-7

Highlights: The Cougars have already been defeated by Mississippi State, Washington and Alabama

Last season: 13-17

Coach: Wade Scott, interim coach

Top players: F Marche’ Amerson, C Yasmeen Thompson, F Te’onna Campbell

Keep an eye on: Amerson was named to the Conference USA’s all-freshman team last season after averaging 10.1 points in league play.

The skinny: Coach Todd Buchanan resigned last weekend because of personal reasons. Scott, in his eighth season as associate head coach, will be interim head coach for the season. … The Cougars, 3-26 two seasons ago, have only two players averaging double-figures.

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