American Athletic Conference Preview

American Conference Preview

Conference Outlook

This year the American looks like it will have a down year, as a lot of the teams are in rebuild mode. Cincinnati and Wichita State both were hit hard this offseason by graduation, losing most of their players from last year. On the other side, programs like Memphis and Uconn have hired new coaches and are looking to get their programs back on track. The league’s depth is impressive this season, as the league has eight teams that could reasonably make the NCAA Tournament this season. I think this league will be a tough one night in and night out because of that depth. I expect the league to get 2-3 tournament bids this year, I think anyone in the Top-8 of the conference does have a chance to make it if they have a good conference season.

Power Rankings along with Team Breakdowns

1.Memphis: In year one of the Penny Hardaway era, the Tigers have the talent and potential to win the league, this in part is because of the core of returning players, mixed with new impact players. Jeremiah Martin is the teams best player and he should lead the team in scoring, while players like Kevin Davenport, Kareem Brewton, Isaiah Maurice, Antwan Jones, Tyler Harris, and Alex Lomax will all be key contributors. This team stacks up to be the deepest and most talented team in the AAC. I look for Memphis to go around 14-4 in conference play, which should win them the league and get them into the NCAA Tournament.

2.UCF: The Knights once again have a team that has the potential to make the NCAA Tournament but the question is whether they can stay healthy. The Knights trio of Tacko Fall, BJ Taylor, and Aubrey Dawkins will do the majority of damage on offense, while the Knights mostly behind Tacko Fall will be great on defense. Look for the Knights to be atop the AAC standings for a while, if they can stay healthy this is a team that could win the AAC outright and make it to the NCAA Tournament.

3.Cincinnati: The Bearcats lost a lot from last years team that won the AAC but they will have some quality players back that could help them stay atop the conference standings. Jarron Cumberland returns as the Bearcats best player, while Cane Broome, Justin Jenifer, and other players should step into bigger roles. I expect the Bearcats to be at or near the top of the AAC standings throughout the season, finishing around 13-5 in conference play, which should get them into the NCAA Tournament once again.

4.Uconn: After a couple of down years, the Huskies enter this season with hopes of becoming a top tier AAC team under new head coach Dan Hurley. The Huskies should once again be led by Jalen Adams, who should lead the team in scoring, the duo of Christian Vital and Alterique Gilbert should be pretty stable behind him, while other players will look to contribute in other aspects of the game. I think the Huskies should surprise a few people and finish near the top of the AAC standings by going around 12-6 in conference play, in doing that they could potentially go back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016.

5.Houston: The Cougars are fresh off one of the best seasons they have had in a while, where they made the NCAA Tournament as a six seed and won a game in the tournament. Off that great season, the Cougars have some solid pieces returning that can help them contend this year in the AAC, as they have a solid trio of Corey Davis Jr, Galen Robinson Jr., and Armoni Brooks and some other solid pieces that could help. I think the Cougars should be near the top of the AAC standings throughout the season, likely going around 11-7 or 12-6 in conference play, which probably keeps them out of the NCAA Tournament.

6.Temple: The Owls enter Fran Dunphy’s final season as a head coach looking to finish atop the AAC and make the NCAA Tournament. The Owls once again will be led by Quinton Rose and Shizz Alston Jr. who should once again put up big stats, while other players look to help those two out. Temple has shown the potential to beat good opponents in years past, so the talent is there to make the tournament but they will need to not lose to bad teams to make the tournament. I think ultimately the Owls finish around 10-8 in conference play, which would find them missing the NCAA Tournament.

7.Wichita State: The Shockers lose almost everyone from last years team, setting up a likely rebuild season for the Shockers. The Shockers should be led by Markis McDuffie, who should put up great numbers, Semajae Haynes-Jones should be a good second option, other than that there’s not a whole lot to like on this roster. The Shockers should probably go around 9-9 in conference play based on their talent but don’t be surprised if they surprise behind the coaching of Gregg Marshall.

8.SMU: The Mustangs enter into this season as one the teams in the middle of the pack of the AAC but will be hoping to surprise and finish at the top of the standings. The Mustangs should be led by Jarrey Foster, who should lead the team in scoring, while Jahmal McMurray, Jimmy Whitt, and Ethan Chargois all could be double digit scorers. This team will probably finish around 9-9 in conference play and miss the tournament for the second straight season.

9.Tulsa: Tulsa enters this season at the bottom of the middle of the pack, losing to stay near all the other teams this season. The Golden Hurricanes should be led by Sterling Taplin, while DaQuan Jeffries, Curran Scott, Martins Igbanu, and Elijah Joiner should be good role players around him. This team will probably go around 7-11 in conference play, beating up on some of the lower teams in the conference, while picking up a win or two against teams that are probably better than them.

10.Tulane: The Green Wave enter into this season looking to surprise some teams and try to stay relevant in the AAC. The Green Wave have some solid pieces in Samir Sehic, Ray Ona Embo, and Jordan Cornish that should allow them to beat other teams in conference play. I think they should go around 5-13 in AAC play, which should help Mike Dunleavy Sr. keep his job.

11.East Carolina: East Carolina got what appears to be a good head coach in Joe Dooley, who should help them in the future but this season probably won’t be a good one. Isaac Fleming, Shawn Williams, and Dimitri Spasojevic will probably be the leading scorers on the Pirates. I think they’ll probably finish around 3-15 in conference play, which should get them away from the bottom of the conference.

12.South Florida: The Bulls enter this season looking to revamp their roster and to help them get a better record in conference play. The Bulls should be led by Laquincy Rideau, who should put up good numbers, while other players should help around him. This team should win a game or two in conference play, although they will probably finish at the bottom of the conference.

All-Conference Teams

First Team

Jeremiah Martin (American Player of the year)

Jarron Cumberland – Cincinnati

Jalen Adams – Connecticut

BJ Taylor – UCF

Tacko Fall – UCF

Second Team

Corey Davis Jr – Houston

Jarrey Foster – SMU

Quentin Rose – Temple

Shizz Alston Jr – Temple

Markis McDuffie – Wichita State

Third Team

Cane Broome – Cincinnati

Christian Vital – Connecticut

Aubrey Dawkins – UCF

Kyvon Davenport – Memphis

Galen Robinson Jr. – Houston

Five Best Freshmen

Rodgerick Brown – Wichita State

Antwann Jones – Memphis

Tyler Harris – Memphis

Logan Johnson – Cincinnati

Morris Udeze – Wichita State

Five Best Newcomers

Aubrey Dawkins – UCF

Isaiah Maurice – Memphis

DeJon Jarreau – Houston

Ricky Torres – Wichita State

LaQuincy Rideau – USF

Five Breakout Players

Galen Robinson Jr. – Houston

Jarron Cumberland – Cincinnati

Armoni Brooks – Houston

Jarrey Foster – SMU

Cane Broome – Cincinnati

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