Just as one of the American Athletic Conference’s banner programs prepares for a comeback year, another will be relegated to playing the role of spoiler.
Competitive balance has been a problem through two seasons of the AAC, but the 2015–16 season has added another wrinkle. In the AAC’s second season, six league teams were in the top 100 of KenPom’s ratings. The other five were ranked outside of the top 200. In the AAC’s first season, five teams were in the top 40; the other five were outside of the top 100.
This season might not be very different, but the top has the added complication of one of the league’s best teams, SMU, being ineligible for the postseason due to NCAA sanctions.
That means UConn, which expects to be a top-25 team after missing the NCAA Tournament last year, might not have many NCAA-bound rivals to battle during the season. Cincinnati and Tulsa have plenty of experience and will challenge for Tournament bid, but neither rare as talented as SMU.
AAC predictions and a full preview of each team in the conference can be found in the Athlon Sports 2015-16 Preview Magazine, available online and on newsstands everywhere.
Podcast: Who should be No. 1 in College Basketball in 2015-16?
Player of the Year: Nic Moore, SMU
Best Defensive Player: Amida Brimah, Connecticut
Most Underrated Player: Shaquille Harrison, Tulsa
Newcomer of the Year: Sterling Gibbs, Connecticut
Top Coach: Kevin Ollie, Connecticut (full top 50)
Coach on the Hot Seat: Josh Pastner, Memphis (full list)
Teams in the National Top 25: No. 18 UConn, No. 24 SMU
G Nic Moore, SMU
G James Woodard, Tulsa
G Sterling Gibbs, Connecticut
F Daniel Hamilton, Connecticut
F Markus Kennedy, SMU
Second Team All-AAC
G Ricky Tarrant, Memphis
G Louis Dabney, Tulane
G Shaquile Harrison, Tulsa
F Octavius Ellis, Cincinnati
C Amida Brimah, Connecticut
Third Team All-AAC
G Troy Caupain, Cincinnati
G Quenton DeCosey, Temple
F Shaq Goodwin, Memphis
F Chris Perry, South Florida
F Devonta Pollard, Houston
1. Memphis: Josh Pastner is counting on a seven-man class ranked No. 11 nationally to revitalize the program.
2. Connecticut: Five-star guard Jalen Adams and four-star power forward Steve Enoch are difference makers.
3. SMU: Four-star guard Shake Milton is the jewel of this top-40 class.
4. Temple: Guards Levan Alston and Trey Lowe should make immediate contributions.
5. Cincinnati: The Bearcats won a couple big recruiting battles to land standout guards Jacob Evans and Justin Jenifer.
6. South Florida: The Bulls have a deep five-man class led by junior college standouts Luis Montero and Shawn Smith.
7. UCF: The 7'6" Tacko Fall could be a difference maker for the Knights.
8. Houston: The Cougars have a balanced class of four quality three-star recruits.
9. Tulane: Plenty of reinforcements in this deep seven-man class for the Green Wave.
10. East Carolina: The Pirates covered their needs with a diverse four-man class.
11. Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane bolstered the backcourt with a couple of versatile guards.