A mid-summer's look at AAC men's basketball
Turns out, the prospects are quite good. Barring any disasters, the league should get three and possibly as many as five teams into this year's NCAA tournament. Which means, of course, that it'll likely get just three, since the AAC has had the selection committee's two biggest snubs (SMU in '14, Temple last year) the past two seasons.
|Mick Cronin returns to Cincinnati's sidelines this season|
There are some tough losses -- Ryan Boatright, Austin Nichols, Will Cummings, Yanick Moreira, Corey Allen, Jr.. But there are also numerous high-level transfers (both graduates and otherwise) who will make immediate impacts: UConn's Sterling Gibbs and Shonn Miller; SMU's Jordan Tolbert and Semi Ojeleye; Memphis's Ricky Tarrant, Jr. And there are some talented, impact freshmen, too: Memphis' McDonald's All-American brothers Dedric and K.J. Lawson, UConn's Jalen Adams, SMU's Malik "Shake" Milton.
It says here that UConn, SMU and Cincy will be the top three -- pick your order, but we'll give the Huskies the edge on overall depth and talent -- with Tulsa and Memphis battling for tourney bids. One of those two will probably get in. Maybe both.
Temple lost a lot of talent but has a lot coming back, and it has Fran Dunphy. Owls may be borderline, but we know how that usually turns out. And Houston's been getting a little national love lately, but I just don't see it ... yet.
|Daniel Hamilton may be UConn's (and AAC's) best player|
Best player: Nic Moore; Top returning scorer: Moore; Biggest loss: Yanick Moreira; Best addition: Jordan Tolbert (Texas Tech transfer); Best freshman: Malik “Shake” Milton; Biggest positive: Defense! Defense!; Biggest negative: NCAA investigation looms over program (and Larry Brown seems to have lost a little of his fastball).
Best player: Gary Clark; Top returning scorer: Octavius Ellis; Biggest loss: Jermaine Sanders; Best addition: Head coach Mick Cronin (after missing most of last season due to health); Best freshman: Jacob Evans; Biggest positive: One of the stingiest defensive teams in the land; Biggest negative: No real go-to scorer.
Best player: James Woodard; Top returning scorer: Woodard; Biggest loss: None; Best addition: Pat Birt (JUCO transfer); Best freshman: Sterling Taplin; Biggest positive: Everyone’s back from a 15-3, second-place team; Biggest negative: Golden Hurricane will sneak up on no one this season.
Best player: Shaq Goodwin; Top returning scorer: Goodwin; Biggest loss: Austin Nichols; Best addition: Dedric Lawson; Best freshman: Lawson; Biggest positive: Lawson brothers, transfer Ricky Tarrant ease loss of Nichols; Biggest negative: Nichols is gone, and Josh Pastner still coaches this team.
Best player: Quenton DeCosey; Top returning scorer: DeCosey; Biggest loss: Will Cummings; Best addition: Shawn Alston; Best freshman: Alston; Biggest positive: DeCosey, AAC top rebounder Jaylen Bond are back; Biggest negative: Two of top three scorers (Cummings, Jesse Morgan) graduated.
Best player: Devonta Pollard; Top returning scorer: Pollard; Biggest loss: Jherrod Stiggers; Best addition: Ronnie Johnson (Purdue transfer); Best freshman: Galen Robinson, Jr.; Biggest positive: Johnson, Damyean Dotson good transfer additions; Biggest negative: One of worst shooting teams in country last season.
8. CENTRAL FLORIDA
Best player: Louis Dabney; Top returning scorer: Dabney; Biggest loss: Jay Hook; Best addition: Malik Morgan (LSU transfer); Best freshman: Melvin Frazier; Biggest positive: Deepest recruiting class in 15 years; Biggest negative: Three players who started all 31 games last year now gone.
10. SOUTH FLORIDA
Best player: Chris Perry; Top returning scorer: Nehemias Morillo; Biggest loss: Corey Allen, Jr.; Best addition: Roddy Peters (Maryland transfer); Best freshman: Luis Santos; Biggest positive: Perry’s back after missing last 13 games with heart ailment; Biggest negative: Troy Holston, Jr. suffered ACL tear in June.
11. EAST CAROLINA
Best player: B.J. Tyson; Top returning scorer: Tyson; Biggest loss: Terry Whisnant; Best addition: Clarence Williams (JUCO transfer); Best freshman: Deng Riak; Biggest positive: Tyson; Biggest negative: Pirates were badly outrebounded last season.
|SMU's Nic Moore is the reigning AAC player of the year|