Thursday, December 31, 2015

As league play begins, we forecast this year's AAC season

In its third season, the AAC doesn't appear to be as good as we thought it was going to be just a few months ago. With SMU barred from the postseason, could this be a one-bid league? Probably not, but considering how the league has had the two biggest snubs for each of the last two NCAA tournaments (SMU in 2014, Temple in 2015), it's hard to envision any more than two bids -- at least at this point.

We chronicle all this in today's Register. Meanwhile, with conference play just underway (and UConn readying for its league opener on Saturday at Tulane), here's our picks for the league's award-winners this season:

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Daniel Hamilton, UConn. The most complete player in the league, and possibly its best NBA prospect. Hamilton leads the league in assists, is fifth in reboundng and 13th in scoring. Even with reigning POY Nic Moore back and playing well, we're gonna side with Hamilton on this one.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Dedric Lawson, Memphis. He's got strong competition from SMU's Shake Milton, but Lawson has thus far made the transfer of Austin Nichols far more bearable. He's fifth in the league in scoring and second in rebounding.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Shaq Harrison, Tulsa. Amida Brimah isn't expected back until about mid-February, so we're eliminating him from the competition. With that in mind, we'll throw Tulsa a bone and give it to the player who currently leads the league in steals.

COACH OF THE YEAR: Kelvin Sampson, Houston. No matter how many games SMU wins, there's no way they'll give this award to Larry Brown -- right? Houston was expected to be better this season, and Sampson -- a very good coach -- may have the Cougars even better than expected.


Daniel Hamilton, UConn
Rodney Purvis, UConn
Nic Moore, SMU
Jordan Tolbert, SMU
James Woodard, Tulsa
Troy Caupain, Cincinnati

Shaq Harrison, Tulsa
Quenton DeCosey, Temple
Dedric Lawson, Memphis
Shaq Goodwin, Memphis
Rob Gray, Houston

B.J. Tyson, East Carolina
Gary Clark, Cincinnati
Octavius Ellis, Cincinnati
Louis Dabney, Tulane

Dedric Lawson, Memphis
Shake Milton, SMU
Jahmal McMurray, South Florida
Jalen Adams, UConn
Tacko Fall, UCF

A few awards that won't be announced at the AAC tournament in Orlando in March:

BEST NAME: Tacko Fall, UCF. Is there any competition? That he's 7-foot-6, 300 pounds and playing pretty well (2.5 blocks per game) only adds to his intrigue.

BEST TRANSFER: Jordan Tolbert, SMU. Texas Tech transfer leads the league in rebounding at 10.2 per game, to go with 12.6 points. He's overshadowed Markus Kennedy to this point.

BEST GRAD TRANSFER: Ricky Tarrant, Jr., Memphis. UConn fans love Shonn Miller and Sterling Gibbs, but Tarrant, who started his career at Tulane, then played two seasons at Alabama, may have the bigger overall impact.

BEST JUCO TRANSFER: Rob Gray, Houston. After playing at Howard JC last year, Gray is leading the AAC in scoring at 18.5 points per game.

BEST SHAQ: Shaq Goodwin, Memphis. In a narrow victory, Goodwin, who seems to have been around forever, edges Harrison, who along with James Woodard forms one of the top guard combos in the league.

BEST ATHLETE: Bo Zeigler, South Florida.


BEST SHOOTING GUARD: James Woodard, Tulsa.

BEST SMALL FORWARD: Daniel Hamilton, UConn.


BEST CENTER: Amida Brimah, UConn.

HOTTEST COACH'S SEAT: Josh Pastner, Memphis. (Runner-up: Donnie Jones, UCF).

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