2018-2019 American Athletic Conference (AAC) College Basketball Preview

by | Nov 7, 2018 | NCAA Basketball

AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (AAC)

Cincinnati Bearcats * Connecticut Huskies * East Carolina Pirates * Houston Cougars * Memphis Tigers * SMU Mustangs * South Florida Bulls * Temple Owls * Tulane Green Wave * Tulsa Gulden Hurricanes * UCF Knights * Wichita State Shockers 

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The American Athletic Conference, also known as the AAC and also The American, has been around for many years, and have been one of the more competitive conferences to bet on during their tenure in the NCAA.

Prior to changing to the AAC, the conference was referred to as the Big East, which most basketball fans are familiar with.  

The conference can lay claim to 3 teams, UConn Huskies (4), Cincinnati Bearcats (2) and Temple Owls (1) win a total of seven National Championship.

This year, the entire conference is expected to take a step backward as there are not as many prolific stars returning and 

no team really showing signs of being the overpowering powerhouse that we are used to seeing with Memphis, Houston and Wichita State.  

Let’s take a better look at each individual team from the American Athletic Conference.  

Cincinnati Bearcats

2017-2018 Overall Record: 31-5 | American Athletic Conference:16-2

Head Coach: Mick Cronin

Cincinnati should once again be one of the top teams in the country in 2018-2019.  They are always one of the top teams in the AAC, each and every year. Since joining the American 5 seasons ago, the team has averaged just under 27 wins per season.  

Mick Cronin is in his 12th year with the school and is one of the most successful coaches in the conference. Cronin has posted a 268-140 record as a Head Coach and is once again looking to post another successful season with the Bearcats.  Cronin has gone 72-18 in the AAC with Cincinnati and has posted 2 AAC Titles.

They have lost their entire frontcourt from last year but they still have plenty of talent to compete. They will feature Jarron Cumberland, who many feel is the next big star in Cincinnati.  Cumberland is going to be the guy that Cronin hopes can replace star Gary Clark.

Cumberland is a 4-star recruit that is now going to be expected to fill in the role of Clark, who has moved on to the NBA.  

Connecticut Huskies

2017-2018 Overall Record: 14-18 | American Athletic Conference: 7-11

Head Coach: Dan Hurley

Having a Hurley as a Head Coach seems to be a decent thing these days.  Dan Hurley is the man in charge in UConn and he will look to make some major changes to find their previous success.  

The Huskies have failed to make the NCAA Tournament in 3 of the last 4 seasons.  Hurley was brought in to change that aspect and get this team back to the promised land.  It won’t happen overnight but the admin at UConn are confident that they have hired the right guy for the job.  

Jalen Adams should be the top guy in UConn this year.  Adams is one of the most talented players in The American and will compete for the Player of the Year award for the American Athletic Conference.   

East Carolina Pirates

2017-2018 Overall Record: 10-20 | American Athletic Conference: 4-14

Head Coach: Joe Dooley

The Pirates will kick off the 2018-2019 College Basketball season with a new Head Coach in Joe Dooley.  Dooley has his work cut out for him if he wants to turn this team around. The Pirates were at the bottom of the AAC in nearly every offensive category and now Dooley must try to revive a stagnant team.

Joe Dooley has plans to make the Pirates a fast pace team that focuses on strong ball movement and make them compete at a much higher level. On paper, that sounds nice but when you have a team that has one senior, one junior and the rest underclassman, there really isn’t much hope for the squad that had just 4 conference wins last year.

Houston Cougars

2017-2018 Overall Record: 27-8 | American Athletic Conference: 14-4

Head Coach: Kelvin Sampson

The Cougars were a team that no one wanted to play past the regular season.  Rob Gray led the team last year but he is now gone. The Cougars must find a way to replace not only his minutes on the court but also his production.  

The Cougars have three players back that were starters last year and also will have Armoni Brooks in the lineup. Brooks was the AAC Sixth Man of the Year last season and should compete for starters minutes this year with replacing Gray on the court.  

Jalen Harris is a transfer from UMass that is expected to make big strides in replacing Gray on the court as well.  Harris could potentially become the top scorer with the Cougars and a intricate part of the team.

A name to know with the Cougars is Nate Hinton. Hinton enters the year with a ton of hype surrounding him.  If he gets the time on the court, this kid could be really special.

 

Memphis Tigers

2017-2018 Overall Record: 21-13 | American Athletic Conference: 10-8

Head Coach: Penny Hardaway

One of the top stories in all of the College Basketball is the return of Penny Hardaway to Memphis. The Tigers parted ways with Tubby Smith, which made room for Hardaway to come in and take over his hometown school.

When it comes to recruiting, Hardaway is expected to be very successful. Think about it, what kid around Memphis, Tennessee wouldn’t want to play for Penny Hardaway.

Hardaway is expected to redevelop the squad of players so this year could be a headache as it takes a year or two to get the players in place to fit Penny’s style of play but once he has his players in place, he is going to be successful!  

SMU Mustangs

2017-2018 Overall Record: 17-16 | American Athletic Conference: 6-12

Head Coach: Tim Jankovich

SMU has a young squad but they have returning stars in Jarrey Foster and Jahmal McMurray.  Foster is one of the top players in the league and if he is anywhere close to as good this year, as he was last year, SMU could be setting themselves up for a decent run this year.  

Last year, Foster scored in double figures in 14 of the 19 games but then went down with a injury. Foster suffered a season ending ACL injury that shelved him for the rest of the season.  Foster was Top 15 in points and rebounds when he went down with his injury and if he can return to form, he should have no problem taking over where Shake Milton left off.

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South Florida Bulls

2017-2018 Overall Record: 10-22 | American Athletic Conference: 3-15

Head Coach: Brian Gregory

For the Bulls to have a successful season and make it to a post-season tournament, Brian Gregory would need to pull off a complete miracle. Gregory took over a squad last year that was completely run down.  

This year, it doesn’t look much better.  There are just 3 players on the team that played in a game last year.  That means another season of growing pains for Gregory’s crew. This is going to be another season where the Bulls struggle but next year, watch out!  This team could compete next year as Gregory will be in his 3rd season and will have his players in place for success.

 

Temple Owls

2017-2018 Overall Record: 17-16 | American Athletic Conference: 8-10

Head Coach: Fran Dunphy

Fran Dunphy will be stepping down at the conclusion of the season. The team already has their replacement picked out and in place, with Assistant Coach Aaron McKie. McKie will learn the Temple system and then take over at the end of the year.  

Temple is trying to make the transition as smooth as possible and without any hiccups.  They have plenty of talent on the team but the question that surrounds the team is how they will play together.  

Shizz Alston and Quinton Rose both return from last year and both were double-digit scorers last season. They will be joined by JUCO transfer Quentin Jackson, who is expected to come in and make an immediate impact with the team from around the perimeter.   

 

Tulane Green Wave

2017-2018 Overall Record: 14-17 | American Athletic Conference: 5-13

Head Coach: Mike Dunleavy Sr.

There really isn’t much to get excited about when it comes to Tulane.  They lost their main scorers from last year to the NBA and now will hope that a trio of returners in Jordan Cornish, Ray Ona Embo and Samir Sehic to lead the team but their talents do not compare to what they lost.  

One thing that gives some optimism is they are coached by Mike Dunleavy and that means plenty of experience, knowledge and a coaching resume that can be compared to any in the AAC.  

 

Tulsa Golden Hurricanes

2017-2018 Overall Record: 19-12 | American Athletic Conference: 12-6

Head Coach: Frank Haith

Tulsa finished in 4th place last year with a 19-12 record.  Tulsa will return 3 of their top 5 scorers from last year but they are missing their top two guys in Junior Etou and Carlos Henderson Jr.  It’s nice having 3 returning guys that are their main scorers but replacing your top scorer and top rebounder, is not an easy task.

Sterling Taplin is back this season and will be relied upon as one of the teams top scorers.  Taplin averages just under 12 points per game last year and could take great strides in improving that number with Etou and Henderson gone from the team.  

The Golden Hurricanes are going to be a good defensive unit again this year.  They allowed their opponents to shoot just 42% from the field last year and should once again return a strong defensive unit.  

 

UCF Knights

2017-2018 Overall Record: 19-13 | American Athletic Conference: 9-9

Head Coach: Johnny Dawkins

Johnny Dawkins is ramping up for a good season with the UCF Knights.  Dawkins has a team full of talent and has one of the top big men returning from a nasty shoulder injury in Tacko Fall.  Fall is a 7 foot 6 inch monster in the paint that can truly develop under Dawkins as one of the best in the country at the position.

The Knights will also have BJ Taylor on roster this year healthy. Taylor is one of, if not the, best guard in The American.  Taylor is our pick for the AAC Player of the Year. Fall and Taylor will play alongside Johnny Dawkins son, Aubrey Dawkins, to formulate a trio of players that can compete with any team in the league.  

Last year, many of the main players in Central Florida were all injured but this year, they have the polar opposite effect.  The team enters the year healthy and ready to make a statement under Head Coach Johnny Dawkins. After all is said and done, they have 8 players that played double-digit minutes last year and the experience should show late in the season.  

 

Wichita State Shockers

2017-2018 Overall Record: 25-8 | American Athletic Conference: 14-4

Head Coach: Gregg Marshall

Over the past few years, we have become accustomed to seeing Wichita State compete at the top level of competition but this year, I expect we will see a drastic decline in success with the Shockers.  

The Shockers have lost their top 4 scorers from last year and now must find a way to replace those points and experience. The Shockers will hope that Markis McDuffie can fill the shoes of those lost through graduation.  

The Shockers are going to rely heavily on those new players coming into Wichita State, such as JUCO transfer Ricky Torres. Torres is coming into Wichita State with immediate eligibility and will be expected to jump right into the starting lineup and contribute both in points and assists.

 

2018-2019 American Athletic Conference Player of the Year

We could really go in 10 different directions this year in the AAC for selecting a Preseason Player of the Year but we will side with UCF Knights BJ Taylor.  Taylor is a 6’02 PG that weights around 200lbs. He shot 40% last year from the field and 38% from beyond the 3-point line. Taylor is a special player that we feel is going to win the Player of the Year award for the AAC.  

 

Our Pick for 2018-2019 American Athletic Conference Champions

The Cincinnati Bearcats will once again be one of the strongest teams in a relatively weak year for the American Athletic Conference. The Bearcats have the top Head Coach in the conference and no matter what the losses are from last year, he is going to find success and find ways to win.

The conference is weak this year.  The Cougars are sort of in a rebuild, the Tigers are under new Head Coach, Temple is in transition and Cincinnati is really the only powerhouse team in the conference that should once again be able to compete with the top teams in the country. They are our pick to win the American Athletic Conference Championship.  

 

2018-2019 American Athletic Conference Power Rankings

  1. Cincinnati Bearcats
  2. UCF Knights
  3. Memphis Tigers
  4. Houston Cougars
  5. Temple Owls
  6. Tulsa Golden Hurricanes
  7. SMU Mustangs
  8. UConn Huskies
  9. Wichita State Shockers
  10. USF Bulls
  11. Tulane Green Wave
  12. East Carolina Pirates

 

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