One division afterwards the American Athletic Appointment featured three top-25-caliber teams, the alliance doesn’t accept a distinct basketball aggregation advised a lock for the NCAA clash branch into 2018-19. In fact, there’s a adventitious the American will be a one-bid alliance appear March.
Here’s the fun part, though. The appointment is actually advanced accessible and storylines abound. There’s no bright favorite, as Wichita State and Cincinnati saw cogent cadre losses, and Houston absent arguably the best amateur in the league. There were headline-making apprenticeship changes in the offseason, with Penny Hardaway demography over at Memphis and Dan Hurley abrogation Rhode Island for UConn. While the civic appliance will booty a hit with the accepted suspects bottomward from the accomplished few seasons, the alliance is counterbalanced and will affection one of the best appellation contest in the country.
1. UCF Knights: One season. That’s all Johnny Dawkins can ask for at this point: one division with all of his key pieces healthy. If that happens in 2018-19, the Knights accept the pieces to win the appointment and get to the NCAA tournament. It starts with the inside-outside duo of B.J. Taylor and Tacko Fall. Taylor is one of the best guards in the league, and Fall is a 7-foot-6 force at both ends of the floor. Aubrey Dawkins should additionally be healthy. In all, eight players — not including Dawkins — who saw double-digit account are back. If Dawkins has a abounding arsenal, UCF could go dancing.
2. Houston Cougars: Houston was a Jordan Poole agony 3-pointer from assault Michigan in the additional annular of the NCAA clash — the aforementioned Michigan that went on to the civic appellation game. The Cougars were apparently not activity to go that far, but they were still one of the toughest teams in the country to exhausted bottomward the amplitude aftermost season. Do-it-all brilliant Rob Gray is now gone, but Kelvin Sampson does get UMass alteration and ESPN 100 recruit Nate Hinton in the fold. Three starters are additionally back, forth with appointment Sixth Man of the Year Armoni Brooks. The Cougars will advance for a title.
3. Cincinnati Bearcats: Back entering the American bristles years ago, Cincinnati has won an boilerplate of 26.6 amateur per season. Alike afterwards their absolute frontcourt from aftermost season, how far can we absolutely bead the Bearcats? Mick Cronin consistently finds a way to compete, and it starts with a aegis that has ranked in the top 25 nationally in ability in anniversary of the accomplished eight seasons. Offensively, Cronin will angular on the backcourt of Jarron Cumberland and Cane Broome — but he will charge added players to footfall up, abnormally up front. Two names to watch: Tre Scott and Mamoudou Diarra.
Tom Izzo and the Spartans should accept a big division admitting aloft agenda changes. How will the blow of the Big Ten fare?
Dana Altman hopes 7-foot apprentice Bol Bol provides adds admeasurement and versatility to the Ducks. What’s advanced for the blow of the league?
4. UConn Huskies: While the ball amid Kevin Ollie and UConn seems far from over, the Huskies confused on from him on the court, replacing him with Dan Hurley. Hurley will attending to change the ability of a aggregation that absent the NCAA clash in three of the accomplished four seasons, and he does accept some talent. Jalen Adams is arguably the best amateur in the league, and Christian Vital was a double-figure scorer aftermost season. A acknowledgment to bloom for Alterique Gilbert would be a acceptable sight, but alum transfers Tarin Smith and Kassoum Yakwe and redshirt apprentice Sidney Wilson will be appulse newcomers.
5. Temple Owls: It’s activity to be array of a aberrant division on Broad Street for the Owls. It already has been appear that drillmaster Fran Dunphy will footfall bottomward afterwards the division and abettor drillmaster Aaron McKie will alter him. What will the activating be like in the locker room? If the alteration is smooth, there’s still affluence of aptitude on the agenda — which, to be fair, has been the case the accomplished few years as well. Double-figure scorers Shizz Alston Jr. and Quinton Rose advance the way, and inferior academy alteration Quentin Jackson is accepted to accomplish an appulse on the perimeter. Dunphy will charge to acquisition some frontcourt finishers.
6. Wichita State Shockers: Alike accepting the Shockers this low seems strange, but on paper, Wichita State is a bright bottom-third team. It’s a attestation to Gregg Marshall’s constant success that the Shockers are still central the top six of the league. Their top four scorers are gone from aftermost season, including Landry Shamet. The key to not falling off too far will be Markis McDuffie, who was one of the best players in the Missouri Valley two seasons ago but struggled with injuries aftermost season. A bulk of newcomers will accept to accomplish an impact, led by inferior academy bouncer Ricky Torres.
7. SMU Mustangs: The Mustangs seemed to be hitting their stride a brace of weeks into January aftermost division — afore accident Shake Milton and Jarrey Foster for the division because of injuries. They stumbled to a 6-12 appointment almanac and bootless to ability the postseason. Foster’s back, but Milton larboard aboriginal for the NBA, and Tim Jankovich will charge to acquisition some bendability this season. Jahmal McMurray absolutely stepped up backward in the season, consistently scoring 20-plus points. Former Arkansas alteration Jimmy Whitt is additionally aback on the perimeter. There’s some base abeyant here.
8. Memphis Tigers: There’s not a added arresting aggregation in the alliance than Memphis, which accursed Tubby Smith afterwards two seasons and replaced him with Penny Hardaway. Hardaway is already breeding affluence of fizz on the recruiting trail, landing some backward signees aftermost bounce and afresh accepting the Tigers in the mix for assorted best affairs in the 2019 class. For the accessible season, though, Hardaway could accept some growing pains. Jeremiah Martin allotment as one of the best guards in the league, and Kyvon Davenport is additionally back. If the accomplished newcomers acclimatize quickly, Memphis basketball could be aback one division beforehand than anticipated.
9. Tulsa Golden Hurricane: Coaches about the alliance anticipate the Golden Hurricane accept a adventitious to abruptness this season. They accomplished fourth in the American aftermost season, accident alone alert afterwards January, and accompany aback three starters from that group. Sterling Taplin and DaQuan Jeffries both acknowledgment on the perimeter, and Curran Scott can absolutely shoot. The key up advanced will be the development of Martins Igbanu, who showed flashes of ascendancy backward in the season. Back demography over at Tulsa, Frank Haith has accomplished with at atomic 12 appointment wins in three of his four seasons. Are we underestimating him again?
10. Tulane Green Wave: It’s not generally Tulane sees assorted players go to the NBA off of one team, so Mike Dunleavy Sr. had to accept at atomic a affinity of achievement back Melvin Frazier larboard aboriginal and was called in the additional annular of the NBA draft. Cameron Reynolds additionally active a non-guaranteed accord with the Sacramento Kings. The Green Wave acknowledgment three audience in Samir Sehic, Ray Ona Embo and Jordan Cornish. Dunleavy additionally brings in some arresting newcomers, led by Connor Crabtree.
11. East Carolina Pirates: We didn’t alike get a ages into aftermost division afore Jeff Lebo accommodated as arch coach, but the Pirates activate a new(ish) era with the acknowledgment of Joe Dooley, who was the arch drillmaster of East Carolina in the backward 1990s. Dooley accomplished the NCAA clash in two of his accomplished three seasons with Florida Gulf Coast, and he is acquisitive to accompany some of that success to the American. Shawn Williams and Isaac Fleming are the two mainstays, and Seth LeDay will be relied on early. East Carolina has accomplished in the basal four of the appointment in anniversary of its four seasons in the league, so Dooley will accept some time.
12. South Florida Bulls: The American Athletic Appointment has been about for bristles years. South Florida has accomplished in aftermost abode in four of those years, slotting in one atom aloft the apartment in 2016 with an 8-25 all-embracing almanac that season. In added words, the Bulls actuality projected aftermost in the alliance isn’t a surprise. With that said, Brian Gregory has adapted the agenda back demography over two springs ago, and a bulk of transfers brings some aptitude to the program. T.J. Lang, LaQuincy Rideau and David Collins will anatomy a ambit leash that will accredit USF to be competitive.
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