Way Too Early American Athletic Conference Power Ranking

Cooper Neill

The AAC was far better than anyone thought it would be before the season. The league got four bids, and was perilously close to making it five. UConn won their fourth national championship in 15 years. SMU was the NIT runner up at the garden. But that was this year, what about next year. Keep in mind that these are pre signing day rankings, depending on how things shake out these probably will change again.

1) SMU

  • Departing: Nick Russell, Shawn Williams
  • Noteable Returners: Nic Moore, Markus Kennedy, Everyone else who played
  • Incoming: Emmanuel Mudiay #2 HS

The Mustangs just won 27 games in the second year of the Larry Brown experience, the most at SMU since 1987-88. They lose two starters in Russell and Williams but bring everyone else back. Nic Moore was fantastic in his debutante season in University Park, Markus Kennedy was the most effective big in the conference not named Montrez Harrell. They have Keith Frazier a five star freshman who saw limited time behind Moore and Nick Russell a year ago who should thrive in a bigger roll. They got some big minutes from Ben Moore and Cannen Cunningham. Basically ever contributor of note is coming back. Then there is Emmanuel Mudiay, who is the most touted recruit in the history of SMU basketball by several miles. They are the presumptive front runners.

2) UConn

  • Departing: Shabazz Napier, Niels Giffey, Lassan Kromah, Tyler Olander
  • Returning: Ryan Boatright, Deandre Daniels, Amida Brimah
  • Incoming: Daniel Hamilton #18 HS, Sam Cassell Jr. #16 JUCO, Rakim Lubin NR, Rodney Purvis N.C. State transfer

Shabazz is gone, the boatshow remains to pair with a resurgent Deandre Daniels so the look of this team will be similar to this years. They might be a little bit bigger in the backcourt, as all three of the guys coming in are bigger physically than Shabazz. Hamilton is the next in a long line of super sized, super skilled two guards that stretches back until the beginning of time, or at least Ray Allen. The next in the breed is a 6'8" kid from Cali. Cassell Jr. plays on a loaded JUCO team at Chipola College that includes the nations top JUCO in the exquisitely named Cinmeon Bowers, and UC recruit Torian Graham and has 4 guys among the top 20 JUCO's. Next year UConn will look like a UConn team again, which is to say that they have the length to blot out the sun if needs be.

3) Cincinnati

  • Departing: Sean Kilpatrick, Justin Jackson, Titus Rubles, Dave Nyarsuk
  • Returning: Troy Caupain, Kevin Johnson, Jermaine Sanders, Shaquille Thomas
  • Incoming: Quadri Moore #102 HS, Gary Clark # 114 HS, Coreontae DeBerry #13 JUCO

Its amazing what Mick Cronin did last year with no size to speak of and exactly one scorer. Sean Kilpatrick turned in an All American season, Justin Jackson became a two way force and now those two and Titus depart. They take with them the lions share of the Bearcats points, rebounds and defensive presence. Still next years team will have far more to work with on the offensive end than this years group did. As long as Mick Cronin is the coach the Bearcats will perform at close to an elite level on defense. The offense should improve by simple virtue of having more competent offensive players in the fold, even if they are young. Will that be enough to get the bearcats to make a run in march? Maybe. Right now I have the Bearcats a notch below SMU and UConn in the AAC pecking order.If Mick and Co. can make a splash with the last two available scholarships with a scoring wing or an impact fifth year transfer they can join the conversation with the Mustangs and Huskies. Right now it would take massive leaps forward from at least four players to be in that group. That might be asking a bit.

4) Memphis

When I first started ordering this post in my minds eye I had the Tigers at 3 and UC at 4. Then I looked at who is moving on for the Tigers, and I flipped them. Memphis is starting over completely at guard. The talent is not the issue, its finding a functional rotation for a bunch of guys who essentially red shirted this year. Then there is the Josh Pastner effect, where you take how many wins the talent says you should have. Then you subtract 5.

5) Houston

  • Departing: JJ Richardson, Lawrence Paye, Brandon Morris, Tione Womack, Jimmie Jones
  • Returning: TaShawn Thomas, Jherrod Stiggers, Danuel House
  • Incoming: JaQuel Richmond #189 HS, JC Washington NR

Of all the teams of the bottom of the league fighting for differentiation the Cougars came the closest to finding competence. They have a good core group with Thomas, Stiggers and House that should keep them in a lot of games with the top four. But depth is going to be an issue, especially against the bigger teams in the conference. Bottom line is that the Cougars have to get more talent in the program. Luckily for them they have Kelvin Sampson on the job. I am sure nothing shady will happen, nothing at all.

6) Tulsa

Of all the conference newbs the only team even remotely prepared to make even a modicum of noise is the Golden Hurricane. They return 9 of last years top 11 scorers off a team that made the dance for the first time in over a decade. 7 of that core group were sophomores this past year and will be a year older and wiser with tournament experience. If Danny Manning were still in Tulsa I would probably have the Hurricane challenging for a place in the upper half of the league. But he is in Winston-Salem and he is probably taking their best recruit, a certain Wilbekin with him. Tulsa will be better than expected next year, its just that they would have been even better with Manning.

7) South Florida

The first year of the Orlando Antigua era at USF should be interesting. The Bulls were non competitive in the final year of the Stan Heath era. A lot of that had to do with the season ending injury that felled Anthony Collins after just 8 games. A healthy Collins and the Bulls are much closer to Houston and Stan Heath might have kept his job. I do like both of their young bigs, but they both suffered from a lack of conditioning and touches. Simply having Collins back makes the Bulls a much improved team. If Perry and Egbunu are healthy that is a devastating pairing inside.

8) Central Florida

  • Departing: Isaiah Sykes, Tristan Spurlock, Calvin Newell
  • Returning: Justin McBride, Staphon Blair, Kasey Wilson, Matt Williams
  • Incoming: Adonys Henriquez #111 HS, BJ Taylor #266 HS, Terrell Miller #332 HS

I hypothetically like a frontline pairing of McBride and Blair, provided that McBride can cut about 50 pounds and get in the 260 range. Even 270 would be passable, but he can't make much of an impact in this league playing at 310 as he did this year. Kasey Wilson looks like a lumberjack, and that's always a plus, and he is actually good at basketball. Matt Williams was a low volume high efficiency guy this past year, but he has to do more this year. The question is who takes on Isaiah Sykes herculean playmaking role? It might just have to be Henriquez, a former Miami commit and a major get for Donnie Jones. I like the young guys on this team, they just need to get some seasoning.

9) Tulane

The Green Wave played a lot of freshmen a ton of minutes in their last year in C-USA, and it worked, to some extent. They found a keeper in Jonathan Stark, a guy who had no recruiting profile to speak of who wound up being their leading scorer and assist man. Stark will become a very good player for the Green Wave, there just isn't enough help around him at this point.

10) Temple

Temple seems like a slowly sinking ship to me. They have a team full of gunners who never see a shot they didn't like, not do they have any issue letting fly from any place on the floor. The general feeling I get from watching them is that of a team where the pieces don't quite fit together. They play fast enough that everyone can get theirs, and scoring isn't really the problem. Its that they can't defend at all. Fran Dunphy's seat is not that warm as they are only one year removed from a six year streak of NCAA births and they took a dramatic step up in competition this year. Regardless they need to find answers on defense. Its impossible to compete in this, or any league allowing ranking 332nd in defensive efficiency.

11) East Carolina

Meet the AAC's layup for the 2014-15 season. I don't think that any of the teams that have transitioned from another conference into the remnants of the Big East has been less prepared to compete than the Pirates are heading into next year

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