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First Team All-Conference

Kendric Davis- SMU (Player of the Year)

Standing at under 6 feet, Kendric Davis doesn’t stand out with his size. His game is what stands out. Davis absolutely lit up the stat sheet last year, averaging 19 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 7.6 assists per game on good shooting numbers. With another year under his belt and some upgrades around him, I only expect those averages to go up as Davis returns for another season.

Tyson Etienne- Wichita State

Tyson Etienne won co-player of the year in the AAC last year, and is in the hunt to win it again. He led the Shockers to first place in the conference last regular season (COVID might have helped that too) and will have the Shockers at the top of the conference race once again.

Marcus Sasser- Houston

Despite how much talent Houston loses, they always seem to be just as good as they were before, due to players stepping up to fill big roles. They lose AAC Co-player of the year Quinten Grimes, but Marcus Sasser looks to be the next man up in Houston. Sasser was second on the team in scoring last year as a sophomore.

Emoni Bates- Memphis

Emoni Bates has been in the limelight for years, as he was supposedly the next coming of Kevin Durant. Bates might never be as good as Durant, but he will still be very good at Memphis. Once the #1 ranked recruit in 2022, Bates is a top-five recruit in the 2021 class. He brings shooting and length to the Tigers. The only question surrounding Bates is how good of a team player he can be.

Jalen Duren- Memphis

As if one top-five recruit wasn’t enough, Penny Hardaway also added Jalen Duren to the Tigers. Unlike Bates, Duren is a very physical player, who capitalizes on strength and athleticism. Over his year at Memphis, assuming he’s a one-and-done, he will need to refine his offensive in order to become NBA-ready. Nevertheless, Duren will still be one of the best players in the AAC, and in the country

 

Second Team All-Conference

Kyler Edwards- Houston
Jaylen Forbes- Tulane
Jeremiah Davenport- Cincinnati
Deandre Williams- Memphis
Morris Udeze- Wichita State

Third Team All-Conference

Khalif Battle- Temple
Brandon Mahan- UCF
Landers Nolley- Memphis
Jeriah Horne- Tulsa
Marcus Weathers- SMU

Freshman First Team

Jalen Ricks- Wichita State
Emoni Bates- Memphis
Stefan Todorovic- SMU
Alexis Reyes- East Carolina
Jalen Duren- Memphis

 

Conference Standings

11. Temple

Projected Starting Lineup- Khalif Battle, Damian Dunn, Jeremiah Williams, Jake Forrester,  Nick Jourdain

6th Man- Quincy Ademokoya

Frankly, there isn’t too much hope this year for Temple, as they aren’t particularly strong in starters or depth. Look for Khalif Battle to lead the Owls this season, as he averaged 15 points per game last season, and was scoring more than that down the stretch, with 21, 22, 32, and 18 points his last four games. Despite not shooting the ball very well, Damian Dunn had a strong redshirt freshman season and looks to improve on that this year. Jake Forrester and Jeremiah Williams, who both averaged 9.3 points per game last year also return. Temple also has a pair of 3-star freshmen coming in, in Hysier Miller and Zach Hicks. Lastly, they bring in Wake Forest transfer Emmanuel Okpomo, who wasn’t particularly impressive his freshman season but has lots of time to improve under a new team at Temple.

Ceiling: 7th in AAC

Floor: 11th in AAC

10. Tulane

Projected Starting Lineup- Jalen Cook, Jaylen Forbes, Scott Spencer, Kevin Cross, Nobal Days

6th Man- DeVon Baker

Even though I have Tulane ranked 10th in the AAC, there is some hope on the table for the Green Wave. Jaylen Forbes had a breakout year following his transfer from Alabama, and will only continue to improve this season. They also acquired LSU transfer Jalen Cook, who is in a similar position as Forbes was last year. If he has a breakout year, they could form one of the best backcourts in the AAC. The Green Wave also got commitments from two other guards in the portal. Scott Spencer averaged 7.0 points at La Salle, while DeVon Baker averaged 13.0 points at UNC Asheville. Forward Kevin Cross also returns, who shot two three-pointers per game last season but only connected on 21.7% of them. If he gets that percentage up, opponents will have to watch out for him.

Ceiling: 5th in AAC, NIT

Floor: 11th in AAC

9. Tulsa

Projected Starting Lineup- Sam Griffin, Keyshawn Embery-Simpson, LaDavius Draine, Jeriah Horne, Rey Idowu

6th Man- Darien Jackson

Tulsa lost their two best players this offseason, as Brandon Rachal is off to play professionally and Elijah Joiner is at Iona under Rick Pitino. However, Jeriah Horne returned this offseason after one year at Colorado. Horne, a 6’7″ forward, averaged 10.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game on a Buffaloes team that won a game in March Madness. The Golden Hurricane also picked up another two additions from the transfer portal. Sam Griffin averaged 13.3 points at UT-Arlington and LaDavius Draine averaged 8.5 points at Southern Miss. The transfer portal has become increasingly popular, but Tulsa also picked up two junior college players that will be in the rotation this year. Tim Dalger from Independence CC and Nikita Konstantynovyski (try saying that three times fast) from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M join Tulsa. Even with all of those new additions, they also return key contributors Rey Idowu, Darien Jackson, Keyshawn Embery-Simpson, and Curtis Haywood. All in all, I expect Tulsa to be similar to last year, where they went slightly under .500.

Ceiling: 5th in AAC, NIT

Floor: 10th in AAC

8. East Carolina

Projected Starting Lineup- Tremont Robinson-White, Tristen Newton, Wynston Tabbs, Vance Jackson, Ludgy Debault

6th Man- JJ Miles

East Carolina lost their best player, Jayden Gardner, to the transfer portal this offseason. However, they added two solid pieces from the portal. Wynston Tabbs averaged 13.3 points at Boston College and will be the primary scorer for the Pirates this season. Vance Jackson averaged 3.8 points on an Elite Eight Arkansas team. He also averaged double digits at New Mexico in previous years. East Carolina also returns a fair amount of talent. Tremont Robinson-White, Tristen Newton, JJ Miles, and Brandon Suggs all averaged between 8.1 and 9.8 points per game last season. Those four players will continue to play key roles this season. The Pirates also welcome a deep freshman class. Alexis Reyes, Russell Felton, Tay Mosher, Marlon Lestin, Jaquan Scott, and Javon Small, who were all highly regarded recruits, join the team. If those players stick around for their upperclassman years, ECU has a bright future.

Ceiling: 5th in AAC, NIT

Floor: 10th in AAC

7. South Florida

Projected Starting Lineup- Javon Greene, Caleb Murphy, Jalyn McCreary, Bayron Matos, Russel Tchewa

6th Man- Corey Walker

The transfer portal is a great innovation, and South Florida took full advantage of it this offseason. They got brutally hammered by the portal, losing David Collins, Alexis Yetna, Michael Durr, Xavier Castaneda, and Justin Brown, among others. Collins, Yetna, Durr, and Castaneda were the top four scorers for the Bulls. However, they bring back Caleb Murphy, who as a freshman showed some great flashes of what he’s capable of. In year two, this will be his team to lead. South Florida didn’t quite get back all of the talent they lost from the portal, but they still got some very solid additions. Javon Greene averaged 11.5 points and 5.0 rebounds at George Mason. Jalyn McCreary averaged 5.1 points at South Carolina. Bayron Matos averaged 6.0 points and 4.1 rebounds at New Mexico as a freshman. Matos was one of the few players in the portal to post offers he received, and he received offers from multiple high major programs, such as Oklahoma State and Seton Hall. Corey Walker, a former 4-star recruit who wasn’t able to play last season at Tennessee is also headed to South Florida. He has a very bright future ahead of him. The Bulls also received commitments from Jake Boggs (UNC Wilmington), Sam Hines (Denver), and Serrel Smith (ETSU). DJ Patrick, a highly regarded junior college player is also an addition to USF. South Florida doesn’t have the star power that other teams do in the starting lineup, but they have a very deep bench. The Brian Gregory led Bulls have a high ceiling, but also a low floor.

Ceiling: 4th in AAC, Bubble

Floor: 11th in AAC

6. Cincinnati

Projected Starting Lineup- David DeJulius, Mika Adams-Woods, Jeremiah Davenport, Ody Oguama, Abdul Ado

Sixth Man- Mason Madsen

Cincinnati had an eventful offseason, firing head coach John Brannen. At one point the program was at a very low point, but they made a great coaching hire in UNC Greensboro coach Wes Miller, who has been one of the best mid-major coaches for years. Miller has been able to find success in the transfer portal, with a handful of UNCG players following him. John Newman III, Hayden Koval, AJ McGinnis, and Jarrett Hensley made the move from the Spartans to the Bearcats this offseason. Miller was also able to find two solid big men, in Ody Oguama from Wake Forest and Abdul Ado from Mississippi State. Along with portal additions, Mike Saunders and Mason Madsen both entered the portal but withdrew. Both were freshmen last year, and both showed great potential for the future. The Bearcats also return David DeJulius, Jeremiah Davenport, and Mika Adams-Woods, who I predict will land in the starting lineup this year. Cincinnati’s time in the AAC is winding down, as they recently accepted a Big 12 invite, but with the roster they have, they have chances to do damage in what time they do have left in the conference.

Ceiling: 2nd in AAC, In the tournament

Floor: 7th in AAC

5. Central Florida

Projected Starting Lineup- Darius Perry, Brandon Mahan, Darin Green, CJ Walker, Cheikh Mbacke Diong

6th Man- Isaiah Adams

Along with Cincinnati, Central Florida will also be heading to the Big 12 soon. The Knights showed flashes of being a good team last year, getting early-season wins over Auburn and Florida State, but couldn’t put it together in conference play. Guards Darius Perry, Brandon Mahan, and Darin Green, who all averaged double digits last year, return for another season. Mahan entered the portal and heard from Kansas, Texas Tech, Memphis, Arkansas, Marquette, Arizona State, and others. Former top recruit CJ Walker will also have another year of development and could be in for a breakout season. Another player with breakout potential is Isaiah Adams, who averaged 9.9 points in his freshman season last year. Along with CJ Walker in the frontcourt will be UNLV transfer Cheikh Mbacke Diong. Diong averaged 8.9 points and 7.4 rebounds for the Rebels. He was also one of the best defensive players in the Mountain West. Central Florida also brings in an impressive freshman class, consisting of Darius Johnson, PJ Edwards, and Ed’Xavior Rhodes. If UCF gets all the pieces to click this year, they could be a scary team to play in the AAC.

Ceiling: 2nd in AAC, In the tournament

Floor: 8th in AAC

4. SMU

Projected Starting Lineup- Kendric Davis, Emmanuel Bandoumel, Zach Nutall, Marcus Weathers, Isiah Jasey

6th Man- Michael Weathers

SMU brings back Kendric Davis, who will arguably be the best player in the conference this year. They also made some upgrades to their lineup to complement Davis. Southland Player of the Year, Zach Nutall, committed to the Mustangs this offseason. He averaged 19.3 points last season while at Sam Houston State. SMU also got commitments from the Weathers brothers. Marcus Weathers, from Duquesne, averaged 15.3 points and 7.5 rebounds last season. His brother, Michael, averaged 16.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and led his Texas Southern team to March Madness. Baylor transfer Tristan Clark is another intriguing add. At one point last season, he retired from basketball due to health issues. Although he has a history of injuries, if he’s even half the player he once was when he was healthy, he will contribute for the Mustangs. SMU also returns Emmanuel Bandoumel, a shooting guard who averaged 10.2 points per game. The Mustangs bring in a good freshman class consisting of Stefan Todorovic, Zhuric Phelps, Jalen Smith, and Tyler Lundblade. They have a chance to win this year if all the pieces fall in place under Davis.

Ceiling: 2nd in AAC, In the tournament

Floor: 6th in AAC

3. Wichita State

Projected Starting Lineup- Tyson Etienne, Dexter Dennis, Ricky Council IV, Joe Pleasant, Morris Udeze

6th Man- Qua Grant

Wichita State won the AAC regular season last year and snuck into March Madness. Although I don’t think they’ll repeat as regular-season champs, I expect to see the Shockers back in March. Star guard Tyson Etienne is back to lead the team once again. Dexter Dennis, Ricky Council IV, and Morris Udeze all played huge roles last season and will continue to do so this year. Wichita State got a pleasant surprise from the transfer portal, in March hero Joe Pleasant. Pleasant hit crucial free throws on Abilene Christian to knock Texas out of March and averaged 10.5 points and 5.5 rebounds on the season. D2 transfers aren’t talked about much, but Qua Grant is definitely one to talk about. Grant played on West Texas A&M, who made it all the way to the D2 championship game before losing to Northwest Missouri State. Grant’s career is filled with accolades, including multiple first-team all-American awards. He will now take the next step up, competing in D1, and will most definitely make an instant impact. The Shockers bring in three solid freshmen, Jalen Ricks, Kenny Pohto, and Isaac Abidde. All three are big gets under new coach Isaac Brown and will be the next era of Wichita State basketball. With the players Wichita State has this year, I expect them to be back in the AAC mix, and March Madness.

Ceiling: 1st in AAC, Sweet 16

Floor: 5th in AAC, Bubble

2. Houston

Projected Starting Lineup- Marcus Sasser, Tramon Mark, Kyler Edwards, Fabian White, Josh Carlton

6th Man- Taze Moore

Houston lost some of their key players to the NBA this offseason, but that never seems to bother Kelvin Sampson. The Cougars always seem to have someone step in and become the next star. Marcus Sasser, Tramon Mark, and Kyler Edwards form a deadly starting guard lineup. Sasser averaged 13.3 points last season and will look to take a step up this year. Mark averaged 7.8 points as a freshman and could be another breakout candidate. Kyler Edwards averaged 10.1 points for Texas Tech and made the in-state transfer this offseason. Another transfer joining the team is All-Big West First Teamer Taze Moore, from Cal State Bakersfield. Moore averaged 12.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.7 assists for the Roadrunners. UConn big man Josh Carlton also joins the fold as a transfer. Fabian White, who is now injury-free, forms the frontcourt along with Carlton. Ramon Walker, Robbie Armbrester, and Ja’Vier Francis join the Cougars as their 2022 freshman class. Houston was the third AAC team to accept the Big 12 invite. In one of their last years in the conference, they will make a push to win it.

Ceiling: 1st in AAC, Sweet 16

Floor: 2nd in AAC, Round of 32

1. Memphis

Projected Starting Lineup- Emoni Bates, Lester Quinones, Landers Nolley, Deandre Williams, Jalen Duren

6th Man- Earl Timberlake

Memphis simply has an overload with talent this year. The biggest question surrounding the Tigers this year revolves around head coach Penny Hardaway. Hardaway has yet to lead Memphis to March Madness in his three years at the helm of the team. Although, if Memphis doesn’t make March Madness with this roster, he needs to be fired immediately. Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren, who were both ranked as the #1 player in 2022 at one point, joined the Tigers this summer. Miami transfer Earl Timberlake also joins the team. His freshman season was plagued with injuries, but in the games, he did play he put up averages of 9.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.4 assists. Lester Quinones and Landers Nolley, key pieces from last year’s team, also return. Last season, Deandre Williams was not eligible for the Tigers until about halfway through the season. Once he got on the court, it was obvious to anyone that Memphis got instantly better. Besides Bates and Duren, Memphis brings in Josh Minott, Johnathan Lawson, John Camden, and Sam Ayomide, all solid gets. Oregon transfer Chandler Lawson and Alex Lomax will both play lots of minutes off the bench. With all of the talent of the team, it’s safe to say that this is the year for Memphis. If they develop good team chemistry, there might not be a team in the country that can stop the Tigers.

Ceiling: 1st in AAC, Final Four

Floor: 3rd in AAC, Round of 32

Wrap-Up

Like many conferences across the country, the AAC is affected by realignment. Houston, UCF, and Cincinnati are all leaving for the Big 12 over the next few years. Whether this is the last year of this AAC as we know it or not, it will be a good one. There are many teams who can compete for tournament wins, or even win a few games in the tournament.

 

Picture: SMU Athletics