It looks like the coaches in the American Athletic Conference have been doing their homework. The Cincinnati Bearcats were voted No. 1 in the American Athletic Conference preseason poll for the second-straight year. While winning preseason awards is about as meaningful as a bank account full of Stanley Nickels, it’s still a recognition that the program is in good standing entering the season.
What is surprising for those outside the Cincinnati area is that conference newcomer Wichita State wasn’t selected. The Shockers finished right in the same neighborhood as the Bearcats in last year’s national rankings. UC was No. 18 in the final AP poll and there was Wichita State, sitting at No. 19. In the coaches poll, UC finished at No. 16 and the Shockers hung around at No. 19. Led by Greg Marshall, the Shockers went 31-5 and have been to the NCAA Tournament in six-straight seasons while dominating the Missouri Valley Conference.
But they don’t have what the Bearcats have. They don’t have Mick Cronin, perhaps the most underappreciated head coach in college basketball. They don’t have Gary Clark, who is a problem. They don’t have the froncourt depth that comes with Kyle Washington, Tre Scott and Nysier Brooks. They don’t have the new scoring ability of Cane Broome and the old (yet still awesome) scoring of Jacob Evans. They also don’t have the second year of Jarron Cumberland.
The AAC coaches thought all of those reasons were (barely) enough to give UC the top spot. The Shockers received five first place votes and 115 points total, but that fell short of UC, which had 116 points and seven first place votes.
The preseason prognostications weren’t just for the teams. SMU’s Shake Milton was named AAC Preseason Player of the Year, while Clark, Washington and Evans were all selected for the All-AAC second team. That last fact is pretty ridiculous, as all three should be competing for first team accolades. I guess the coaches can’t get everything right.