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This week in the American Athletic Conference: A nod to the underdogs of AAC women’s basketball

No. 1 UConn’s national dominance overshadows the good works of other teams in the American Athletic Conference, like the Tulane Green Wave and the South Florida Bulls. Let’s fix that.

South Florida v Rutgers
The South Florida Bulls in the game they lost to Rutgers on Feb. 26, 2013, giving C. Vivian Stringer her 900th career win. | EDITOR’S NOTE: Although the Bulls started the season at No. 17 in the AP rankings, this is the most recent photo available to us. Had Stringer not reached a career milestone, this image probably would not exist. For context, Stringer attained her 1000th career win in 2018, illustrating that photos of women basketball players often are severely out-of-date. At Swish Appeal, we prefer to feature the current players we cover as the lead art for our articles, since they are the ones who make the game come alive in any given season. Unfortunately, these photos are not always available, leaving us to make do with what is available. This nearly six-year-old photo is just the latest evidence of wider problems in women’s sports coverage that we at Swish Appeal — and the wider women’s basketball community — would prefer to see addressed.
Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images

The UConn Huskies dominate the basketball world so resoundingly that fans may forget they even belong to a conference. But, they do — the American Athletic Conference (AAC), which includes 11 other teams. UConn tops the conference standings, of course, but here’s a look at what has been going on with a few of other teams in the AAC this season.

Nearly-undefeated in the American

The No. 21* Tulane Green Wave have a respectable 6-1 record for the season and are second in the AAC, behind UConn. However, all winning records are not created equal, which makes the Green Wave’s record look a tad less stellar upon closer inspection. This team’s five wins came against unranked teams, while the sole loss was handed to them by No. 2 California, on Nov. 23. Additionally, all of Tulane’s wins came at home, in the Big Easy, except for its Nov. 24 win against Cleveland State at the San Diego Thanksgiving Tournament. Thus, for Tulane to be considered a conference challenger, the Green Wave will need to beat some ranked teams and win some games on the road.

Also sitting on a 6-1 record in the AAC are the No. 40 Central Florida Knights who, unlike the Green Wave, have had the chance to tally more road wins (three). The Knights’ sole loss — also on the road — came against Central Michigan, on Nov. 21. The Knights are third in the conference right now, but upcoming contests against Duquesne, No. 7 Syracuse and No. 27 Quinnipiac later this month — as well as a tilt with in-conference rival South Florida in early January — could put that standing to the test.

Just a few weeks ago, the South Florida Bulls were in the AP top-25, at No. 17. But a season-ending knee injury to Kitija Laksa — the reigning Latvian National Player of the Year — tipped the Bulls into struggle. In the next game following Laksa’s injury (on Nov. 18), Laura Ferreira stepped up big, with a 34-point game that included 8 three-pointers (both career-highs), to get the Bulls the 17-point win over Oklahoma. South Florida then lost two games in a row at the Paradise Jam over Thanksgiving weekend, but has since put together a two-game win streak that includes a four-point victory over UCLA in its third Paradise Jam contest (on Nov. 24), and a 43-point blowout of New Hampshire (on Nov. 30). The Bulls should have no trouble with their schedule through Christmas, but the end of the month brings stiffer competition, with January’s in-conference battles bringing the Bulls opportunities to prove their mettle — at least against the AAU teams not named UConn.

*Rankings in this article are according to the NCAA Women’s RPI, as of games played through Sunday, Dec. 2.

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