Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Loss of Emmanuel Mudiay, Danny Manning, others makes AAC less interesting in 2014-15

Sports reporters are supposed to be neutral and play it right down the middle when it comes the teams and sports that they cover. There's no cheering in the press box, they say, and with the occasional notable exception, that largely holds true in college basketball.

What we can root for, however, is the story. It makes things much more enjoyable and interesting to cover when there are intriguing storylines behind certain teams, games or -- in this case -- conferences. The American Athletic Conference, to be exact.

While no one was happy to see Louisville leave (and no one really cared about Rutgers' departure), we all knew it was coming. We also were hoping for some good stories to pop up in the AAC, even without Louisville. Danny Manning was joining the league as head coach at Tulsa. His two battles against Larry Brown, who coached Manning to a national title with Kansas in 1988 (or did Manning lead Brown to that title?) was juicy stuff. And joining Brown at SMU was Emmanuel Mudiay, the No. 1 recruit in the nation, per most recruiting services.

Mudiay would make SMU better than it already was -- and the Mustangs already were pretty good, with Nic Moore, Markus Kennedy and Keith Frazier returning and Xavier transfer Justin Martin joining the fray. SMU beat UConn twice last year and would rightfully be not only the preseason favorite to win the conference, but a legit candidate for the Final Four. This was going to be fun.

Then, it all unraveled. Manning joined Louisville as another ACC defection, bolting incoming Tulsa for Wake Forest. All whole bunch of good players transferred (TaShawn Thomas and Danuel House of Houston, to Oklahoma and Texas A&M, respectively; Temple's Anthony Lee to Ohio State; USF's John Egbunu to Florida). 

And the big blow was Mudiay, who apparently had a whole bunch of eligibility concerns stemming from his two years at Deion Sanders' Prime Prep (who ever would have guessed that could happen?), is instead going to play professionally in China.

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