The American Athletic Conference was dominated by Cincinnati and Wichita State last season with Houston coming on as a very good number three team. The conference underwhelmed a bit in the NCAA Tournament with these three going 2-3 in the big dance and SMU blowing a chance for the AAC to get four teams into the dance when Shake Milton got hurt. This appears to be Cincinnati’s conference this season with Wichita State and Houston losing some key cogs for a year ago and many other teams attempting to climb up the conference ladder.
Though the Bearcats should have a really good team this season, they are without three of its four guys that averaged at least 10 points per game last season's team that went 31-5 overall and 16-2 in conference play. It means that it will be guard Jarron Cumberland’s squad after he had averages of 11.5 points, four rebounds, 2.9 assists, and a steal per game. What’s interesting is only Jacob Evans dishes more assists per game, as he led the team in so many categories with 13 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. Despite the lack of one guy having a huge sum of assists per game, Cincinnati was 13th in the country in assists per possession.
A lot of this has to do with coach Mick Cronin recruiting multi-faceted players that do a variety of things, of which defending is of the utmost importance. The team was number one in the nation in fewest points per possession allowed, fourth in percentage of opponents’ shots that were blocked, and sixth in rebound rate.
It may be difficult for this team to be as dominant on the glass with starting forwards Gary Clark and Kyle Washington both out of eligibility. Clark not only had 12.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game, but also was the team’s top 3-point shooter, converting 43.5 percent of his 3-point attempts.
Washington was also pretty good from beyond the arc, making 35.7 percent of his 3-point attempts while averaging 11.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game. It was actually Cumberland who had the lowest 3-point and free throw shooting percentage of the Bearcats' top six scorers, as he made 33.9 percent f his triples and 67.8 percent of his free throws.
Cane Broome, who was the team's sixth man a year ago, will likely be elevated to the starting lineup after he registered 7.9 point and 2.8 assists per game while making 39 percent of his 3-pointers. Justin Jenifer, who was a backcourt starter last year, also returns after he made 35.7 percent of his 3s with averages of 4.8 points and 2.5 assists per contest.
Cronin has done a good over the years of recruiting and developing player and will look to the young guys that did not see a lot of playing time a season ago to step up. Trevor Moore and Keith Williams combined for 6.5 points, 2.9 rebounds, and a steal per game as freshmen guard reserves. Bigs Tre Scott and Nysier Brooks might both start with Washington and Clark gone. The two had 5.7 points and 5.9 rebounds per game in limited doses.
Williams shooting 14.8 percent in 3s last season is a concern along with shooting 53.1 percent at the free throw line. The Bearcats took 6.3 more free throws per game than its opponents, so ranking 259th in the country in free throw conversion rate last season was a woe.
The team does not have a ton coming into the program aside from JUCO transfer Rashawn Fredericks. Jucorecruiting.com had the 6-foot-5 wing as the No. 38 JUCO transfer in the 2018 class as he totaled 17.7 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. It would not be surprising if Mamoudou Diarra, who is 6-foot-9 and appeared in just seven games as a redshirt freshman last season, also sees a good amount of time in the rotation as force on defense and the glass.
Cincinnati is still an AAC machine, but not as strong as a year ago in a conference in general that is down. This is likely a 24 or 25 win team and a top two team in the conference.
Wichita State began the season as the seventh ranked team in the country and disappointing despite posting a 25-8 overall record, including a 14-4 AAC mark. The Shockers were bounced as a 4 seed in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by 13th seeded Marshall, and most replace eight players from its 10 man rotation.
Guard Samajae Haynes-Jones and forward Markis McDuffie are the only returning players that appeared in more than eight games a season ago. Both missed a few games last season due to injury and it will be McDuffie that will be the team leader. The 6-foot-8 big man came off the bench last season after being a starter during the 2016-17 season. Two years ago her had 11.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game. His numbers were cut to 8.5 points and 3.1 boards per contest last year, and also shot 33.9 percent from 3-point range after hitting at a a 35.5 percent clip as a sophomore.
Haynes-Jones saw 11 minutes per game as a reserve guard, scoring 5.3 points per game with a 43.3 3-point shooting percentage. He and McDuffie will need JUCO transfers and freshman to find a way to support them.
Six-foot-11 JUCO transfer Jaime Echenique will likely serve as the team's starting center after he amassed 9.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and two blocks per game at the lower level last season. He was the No. 41 rated JUCO transfer in the 2018 class by jucorecruiting.com.
The strength of this team will be down low with 6-foot-9 Isaiah Poor Bear-Chandler being the team's top incoming freshman. He's a four-star prospect that was rated by many as one of the top three freshmen from the state of Nebraska for his tremendous rim protecting. Gregg Marshall will also likely unleash 7-foot-0 Asbjorn Midtgaard, who played in just eight games as a freshman last season. Even with not having its fastball on defense, the Shockers were second in the country in total rebounding rate.with having so many low post options.
As for the frontcourt, 6-foot-6 Chance Moore might be the team's starting shooting guard with Haynes-Jones running the point. The freshman was a four-star prospect by ESPN and is a bit of a Swiss-army knife type of player with a solid jump shot. It will be up to others like Dexter Dennis and Ricky Torres to prove themselves worthy of minutes and give a team that plays a high energy style some minutes and depth.
Wichita State has always been a strong defensive team under Marshall and will likely try to win games ugly this season after going with a bit more of an offensive barrage last season. The Shockers were 152nd in points per game allowed while ranking 266th in opponents' 3-point shooting percentage. The team had not been ranked so low in points per game allowed since the 2002-03 season.
Wichita State has not missed the NCAA Tournament since 2011 and has won at least 25 games each of the past nine seasons. Both these streaks will snap as Wichita State looks more like a 19 to 20 win team that will be towards the four or five spot in the conference and will be lucky just to make the NIT.
Houston had a breakout 27-8 season last year, going to the NCAA Tournament for the second time since the 1992 big dance. The Cougars went 14-4 in AAC play, Houston had one of the best defenses in the country, ranking 14th in rebounding rate, 10th in defensive efficiency
The loss of point guard Robert Gray Jr. from last season is tough. In one game without him last season, Houston took an 84-80 loss to Drexel as he averaged 19.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. He was actually a below-average 3-point shooter in comparison to a lot of his teammates at 35.9 percent as the team was 33rd in America in that category.
It will now by Corey Davis Jr.’s team after he put up averages of 13.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game while making 42.9 percent of his 6.9 3s per game. The 3s per game made was 39th among all DI players. Junior Armoni Brooks figures to be his biggest form of backcourt support after he had 9.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. He was used as a sixth man last season and was mainly an outside shooter, making 41.9 percent of his 5.7 triples per contest.
Landon Goesling enters the program as a graduate transfer after being one of the top players at the DII level last season, averaging 22.9 points and three assists per game while converting 38.4 percent of his 3s and 85.7 percent of his free throws.
The addition of Goesling helps bolster the guard stable, but replacing leading rebounder Devin Davis will be tough. As a senior he posted averages of 10.9 points and 6.3 boards per game. It will put pressure on sophomore Fabian White Jr., who led the team in blocks and averaged 5.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game to increase his production. Breaon Brady will also be looked to for big contributions in the post after he had 4.2 points and 4.1 rebounds per game as a starter.
The beauty of what Houston does though is getting everyone on the floor to crash the glass. Brady was second on the team in rebounding yet the Cougars were one of the country’s top squads in rebound rate. It helps when multi-faceted players like Galen Robinson Jr. can fill up the stat sheet. He averaged 4.7 points, 2.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and a team-best 1.3 steals per game as a junior starter.
The loss of big man Nura Zanna and guard Wes VanBeck stings as VanBeck brought 6.1 points and 2.8 rebounds per game to the table along with a 3-point shooting percentage of 37.6. Zanna had 3.9 rebounds and 2.8 points per contest off the bench. Bringing in former 6-foot-5 UMass starter Dejon Jarreau should aid in replacing what's lost be these departures. As a freshman during the 2016-17 season, he gave the Minutemen 9.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and a steal per game, though his 24.4 percent 3-point shooting could use a bit of work.
Brison Gresham, who was Jarreau's 6-foot-8 teammate at UMass also enters the program and will likely serve as a reserve big man. As a freshman for the A10 program, he amassed 3.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, and a block per game.
Though two of Houston's top three scorers, including the do-it-all Gray are gone, this team brings in a lot in comparison to the other top contenders in the AAC from a season ago. The Cougars have won at least 21 games each of the past three seasons and may be the team to beat in the conference given all the turnover at the top. It would not be surprising to see Houston win the AAC and get back to 25 wins overall.
Central Florida appeared to be a team on the rise entering the 2017-18 season, but had injuries derail its season. Aubrie Dawkins, the son of coach Johnny Dawkins, did not play a single game due to injury while 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall and leading scorer B.J. Taylor were both limited to just 16 games. With everyone aside from forward A.J. Davis back and healthy, this could be the year the Knights begin to ascend up the AAC totem poll.
The team was 8-8 with Taylor in the lineup and 10-6 with Fall playing, but hardly played together with Fall missing the second half of the season and Taylor the first half. Despite all this UCF was 19-13 overall and 9-9 in a pretty tough AAC.
The 6-foot-9 Davis provided the team with quite a bit as he registered 12.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game while shooting 33 percent from beyond the arc. The good news is, there is no shortage of depth as long as guys can stay healthy.
In the 16 games Fall played last season, he posted averages of 11.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game while making 76.7 percent of his field goals, which ranked second in the country among players that took as many shots as he did. The team also allowed just 56.8 points per game when Fall was in the lineup, a mark only bettered by Virginia.
Rokas Ulvydas will likely see added minutes after being used a bit more sparingly last season with Davis manning the post, as the former Texas Tech recruit added 2.3 points and 2.3 rebounds per game to UCF's ledger. Though undersized, 6-foot-4 Chad Brown also provides a helping hand down low and had 5.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game.
The team had good interior and defensive play last year, ranking third in the country in points per game allowed, but the team was just 345th in points per game on offense thanks to being 343rd in free throw shooting percentage and 283rd in 3-point shooting percentage. On top of that, the Knights were 324th in assists to turnover ratio, something that should change with Dawkins entering the fold.
As a sophomore at Michigan during the 2015-16 season, the 6-foot-6 combo guard made 44 percent of his 3s while averaging 6.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. He will be a big help to Taylor, who is the team's top returning 3-point shooting, making 38.8 percent of his triple tries. He led the team with 15.9 points and 3,2 assists per game. He should get the offense rolling as Terrell Allen was nothing more than a defensive stopper last season.
In 30 minutes per game, his averages were 5.5 points, three rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 2.8 assists per game. Ceasar DeJesus was more of a scorer for UCF, as he shot 37.8 percent from long range and 74.2 percent at the free throw line, both of which are second among returning players. He registered 8.6 points and 1.8 assists per game.
Ironically, Djordjije Mumin, who had 2.9 points per game, was one of the team's most accurate shooters. He logged 11.7 minutes per game, but started 21 games, and made 38.8 percent of his 3s and 75 percent of his free throws, both of which were best on the team. This could lead to Dayon Griffin, who was the team's sixth man, to being elevated to the starting lineup. The 6-foot-5 senior gave UCF 8.7 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. He also attempted the most 3s of anyone on the team, but made just 32.2 percent of them.
The return of Chance McSpadden, who was limited to just 18 games a year ago due to injury, should give the backcourt depth as he came off the bench with 5.3 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. With 6-foot-11 Collin Smith joining the frontcourt after playing for George Washington during the 2016-17 season with 5.3 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. He has the potential to be a lethal stretch player as he shot 38.5 percent from long range as a freshman.
UCF is one of the best defensive teams in the country and if this team stays healthy, has a chance to win over 23 games and make the NCAA Tournament. Fall is the biggest force (literally) in college basketball and Dawkins should give the Knights the offensive boost needed to climb into the conference's top three.
Perhaps the biggest surprise result in the conference last season was Tulsa posting an AAC mark of 12-6 en route to a 19-12 overall record. The Golden Hurricane were 331st in steals per opponents' possessions, but overcame that to go 11-8 in games decided by nine points or fewer thanks to free throw shooting. Tulsa attempted 7.8 more free throws per game than its opponents with everone that had at least 4.5 points per game converting at least 71.5 percent of their free throws.
Tulsa does not lose a lot of its rotation players from last season, but it’s most important one, Junior Etou, is gone after graduating in the spring. He led the team with 15 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, all while converting 35 percent of his 3s.
Six-foot-6 offensive weapon Corey Henderson is also gone after he canned 37.2 percent of the 6.3 3s per game while pouring in 10.5 points per game. This puts pressure on Sterling Taplin to have another stellar year running the point after he recorded 11.8 points, a team-high 4.4 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game. He was also the team-leader in steals and converted 36.2 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.
The team’s most proficient outside shooter a season ago was DaQuan Jeffries, who knocked down 39.3 percent of his 3-pointers while averaging 9.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game as 6-foot-5 wing.
Guard Curran Scott was also a help off the bench with 5.9 points per game while shooting a team-high 84.1 percent at the free throw line. The team may need more out of him with Jaleel Wheeler being out of eligibility. He started 12 games as a senior. shooting just 13.3 percent from 3-point game, averaging 4.5 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.
Nebraska transfer Jeriah Horne averaged 4.3 points and 1.9 rebounds per game during the 2016-17 season for the Big Ten school and should revamp the Golden Hurricane backcourt. The team also brings in Zeke Moore, who comes over from Saint Louis after averaging 5.3 points and 2.0 rebounds per game in the A10. An added bonus is that Moore shot 39.1 percent of 3s while Horne made 33.3 percent of his outside shots.
Martins Igbanu was the team's only player 6-foot-8 or taller that played more than 12 minutes per game last season, and delivered 9.4 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. The team does not have much coming in to help out the frontcourt, so it will be a guard-oriented team.
Tulsa is going to lose a lot of battles on the glass, but Tulsa might have the best guard rotation in the AAC. This bunch overachieved a bit last season and will likely finish with similar marks to the 2017-18 season. 20 wins and a number four finish in the conference seems about right.
Memphis had one of the quietest 21 win seasons ever, going 10-8 in AAC play and 21-13 overall. In the offseason, Penny Hardaway was brought in to replace Tubby Smith as coach and this roster looks completely different. The team is bringing in seven freshman, three of whom are four star prospects, and three three stars according to Rivals.
On top of that, most of last year's contributors are back, including guard Jeremiah Martin, who registered team-highs 18.9 points, 3.8 assists, and 2.3 steals per game along with 4.3 rebounds per game. His steals ranked 13th-best among all DI players and he also made 78.4 percent of his free throws.
Last year's top rebounder, 6-foot-8 forward Kyvon Davenport is also back after he had 13.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game. His 35.5 percent 3-point shooting is also a nice asset, and was second-most proficient for a bunch that ranked 330th in the country in that category. The team's top outside shooter was another big man in 6-foot-7 Raynere Thornton, who is back for his senior year after notching 5.4 points and 3.9 boards per game in primarily a reserve roll.
Guards Jamal Johnson and Jimario Rivers had a combined 13.8 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.2 steals, and a block per game with both shooting approximately 33.3 percent from long range. This means it will primarily be senior Kareem Brewton Jr. and four-star freshmen Tyler Harris and Antwann Jones helping Martin in the backcourt.
Brewton had 9.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and was second in steals per game, but made just 22.9 percent of his triples. Jones is 6-foot-6 and should serve as a wing that does a bit of everything while Harris will likely be a backup point guard. Hardaway might also at times have Harris as the main ball handler and move Martin to the two with the team's lack of outside shooting.
Six-foot-10 JUCO transfer Isaiah Maurice was rated by jucorecruiting.com as the No. 50 transfer in the 2018 class. He actually began his career during the 2016-17 season at Kansas State and had three points per game in one season at the Big XII school. The team also brings back 6-foot-9 Mike Parks Jr., who had 8.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game as a junior.
If this team’s pair of 6-foot-8 sophomores, David Nickleberry and Victor Enoh, can both merit more than the 10.9 and 8.9 minutes per game they garnered a year ago and can be solid at grabbing rebounds, it will give Memphis some of the best overall depth in the conference. Nickleberry is also developing his jump shot after hitting just 25 percent of his 3s last season.
Memphis has a very good chance to take a big step forward and perhaps upend Wichita State to claim one of the top three spots in the conference. Hardaway has brought loads of talent into the program and if the Tigers can find some outside shooting, this team has a chance at 24 plus wins.
SMU saw its season go straight down the tubes after guard Shake Milton got hurt, and finished with a record of 17-16 overall and 6-12 in AAC play. Milton had averages of 18 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. He also shot 84.7 percent at the free throw line and 43.4 percent from distance, which is magnified by the fact that the Mustangs were 279th at the DI level in free thrown shooting percentage.
The Mustangs went 2-9 in the 12 games without Milton scoring just 63.6 points per game in that stretch. The team was 12th in the country in points per game allowed, but its offense cratered when thing were close, as the team was 4-10 in games decided by 10 points or fewer
It is guard Jahmal McMurray that will have to lead the troops this season as he missed 11 games last season, but posted big numbers late in the season when Milton was out. He accumulated 18.8 points per game while hitting 41.7 percent of his 3s and 86.7 percent of his rebounds, but had just 2.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game, so he was pretty one dimensional.
Six-foot-5 Jarrey Foster was also limited to just 19 games last season and with the Mustangs had to survive without both he and Milton, it caused the starters to play loads of minutes. In the 18 full games Foster played, he shot just 32.3 percent from long range, but filled up the stat sheet with 13.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.3 blocks per game.
Junior Jimmy Whitt also returns to the fold after he and the departed Ben Emelogu were the only two players to start every game last season. Whitt registered 10.5 points, 5.2 rebounds. 3.5 assists, and a club-high 1.8 assists per game. Emelogu had similar numbers with 10.7 points. 5.9 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game. The big difference was Whitt making 32.3 percent of his 3s to Emelogu's 47, which was 24th in the country among qualified players.
The team returns forward Ethan Chargois after the 6-foot-9 big man had 9.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per game as a freshman and converted 33.3 percent of his 3s.
With two other rotation players gone in 6-foot-8 forward Akoy Agau and reserve guard Elijah Landrum gone after the low post presence had five points and 3.6 rebounds per game while Landrum had 2.1 points and 1.6 boards per contest, it makes the addition of graduate transfer Nat Dixon vital.
He was Chattanooga's most productive guard last season, averaging 13.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists and a steal per game while ranking 34th among all players in the country in minutes per game. He also made 39.5 percent of the 5.4 3s per game he attempted. Former Duquesne forward Isiaha Mike is also eligible after sitting out the 2017-18 season per NCAA transfer rules. He started every game as a freshman the season before with a 33.3 percent 3-point shooting percentage as a 6-foot-8 stretch player with averages of 11.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest.
SMU will try to win games again this season with good outside shooting, as the Mustangs had the 38th-best percentage from long range in the country last year, and defense. Coach Tim Jankovich has been using thin rotations since taking the job at SMU and will likely go about seven deep again this season. If Mike can be solid down low, SMU should have a winning record in conference and be in the neighborhood of 20 total wins.
Temple, for the second straight year, was one of the most interesting near-.500 teams in the country. The Owls had wins over Auburn, Clemson, and a full-powered SMU away from home with an addition win over Wichita State in Philadelphia. Despite that, the team went 17-16 overall with an 8-10 AAC record.
The team got massacred at the free throw line, ranking 290th in free throw shooting percentage and was 338th in free throws attempted per field goal attempted while ranking 341st in free throws made per contest. Forward Obi Enechionyia took the most free throws of anyone on last year's team, but is out of eligibility after making 79.1 percent of them while going for 10.8 points and team-highs 5.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. With Temple being 306th at the DI level in rebound rate, his departure also stings in that respect.
His graduation mean 6-foot-10 Ernest Aflakpui will have to play huge in the post after he had 4.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per game as a junior starter. J.P. Moorman will likely be a stretch four at 6-foot-7 after he had a freshman campaign the delivered 3.8 points and 3.3 rebounds per game with 33.3 percent of his 3s being made.
The guard rotation will get an additional boost from JUCO transfer Quentin Jackson, who was ranked as the No. 44 JUCO recruit in the 2018 class by jucorecruiting.com. He was a backcourt contributor at Charlotte in the DI level during the 2016-17 season prior to going to the lower level with 5.5 points, though he hit just 19.4 percent of his 3s.
He will be a help to Quinton Rose, who had a team-best 14.9 points and 1.5 steals to go with 4.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. Temple loses assists leader Josh Brown, who had 9.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game and was a 39.2 percent 3-point shooter.
That 3-point hit rate was second on the team to, Levan Shawn Alston, who is back for his senior year after generating 13.3 points,3.2 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per outing. He took a team-high 5.4 3s per game, making 39.7 percent of them and made 89.8 percent of his free throws, which was also tops on the roster and 25th in the country among qualified players.
Nate Pierre-Louis served as the team's sixth man a year ago as a freshman and gave Temple 7.5 points and three rebounds per game, though his 57.6 percent free throw make rate is very concerning. With De'Vondre Perry and Damion Moore the only contributing other big men back from last season, a duo that had a combined 6.5 points and 3.7 rebounds per game, this will be a Temple squad that relies on good guard play.
With close to nothing entering the program aside from Jackson, it is hard to see Temple having much of a rise in the conference. This has the making of a team that is in the middle part of the AAC standing and finishes with 16 or 17 wins overall.
Just a few years removed from winning a national championship as a seven seed, UConn fired coach Kevin Ollie in the offseason after the team was 7-11 in the AAC last season with a record o 14-18 overall. Former Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley has been brought in to try to right the ship and managed to keep just about everyone from last year's roster in house.
The biggest piece of the puzzle is guard Jalen Adams, who led the team with 18.1 points and 4.7 assists per game along with 4.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. He, like most of the team, had struggles with outside shooting, making 32.4 percent of his 3s as the Huskies were 297th in the country in that category.
The team being 264th in rebound rate was also difficult to overcome as 6-foot-2 Christian Vital led the team in rebounds per game with 5.4 while also leading the team in 3-point attempts. He made just 31.8 percent of those 6.7 3s per game, but he made up for it by making 84.6 percent of his free throws while registering 14.9 points and a team-high 1.6 steals per game.
Josh Carlton was the only player that was taller than 6-foot-8 that had over two points and three rebounds per game last season, giving the team 4.4 points and 3.7 rebounds per game as a freshman as a part-time starter. He split starts with fellow freshmen big men Tyler Polley and Isaiah Whaley, who combined with 6-foot-8 reserve Mamadou Diarra to form a trio that really did not much of anything.
Those three had a combined eight points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game with Polley actually being the team's top 3-point shooter, making 41.7 percent of the 1.1 3s per game he attempted. These three also split some starts with departed guard Antwoine Anderson, who made just 27.1 percent of his 3s with averages of 7.4 points, 2.8 rebounds, two assists, and 1.1 steals per game as a 6-foot-1 do-it-all player.
Terry Larrier is the other piece of UConn's big three in the backcourt has he gave the team 13.9 points and 4.8 rebounds per game as a 6-foot-8 matchup nightmare. He made 78.9 percent of his free throws and 37.8 percent of his triples as well. This backcourt gets a pair of big additions too with Alterique Gilbert back after being limited to just six games due to injury and Tarin Smith entering the program as a graduate transfer.
Smith was Duquesne's top scorer last season despite having just four starts with 12.4 points, three rebounds, 3.2 assists, and a steal per game. Gilbert in his small sample size last season had nine points, four rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.2 steals per game, and was one of the nation's leaders in steals the season prior with 2.3 per contest.
UConn has one of the most talented rosters in the American and should take a big step forward this season. Anything less than 20 wins and a top for finish in the conference should be deemed a disappointment with everyone back from last season and a backcourt that can matchup with just about any team in the nation.
Tulane got off to a fast 10-3 start last season, but a lot of that was a product of a weak non-conference schedule as the Green Wave finished with a record of 14-17 overall and a 5-13 AAC mark. With the team's top two scorers from a year ago gone and not much of anything entering the program, this could be a long year for Tulane.
Last year's squad was built around lengthy guards Melvin Frazier and Cameron Reynolds, who were the team's top two scorers and rebounders with a combined 31 points, 11.9 rebounds, 5.1 assists, three steals and 1.3 blocks per game. Both also combined to make just under 37 percent of their 3s. This mean sixth man Samir Sehic will likely become the focal point of the offense.
The 6-foot-9 forward came off the bench to post averages of 10.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game and converted 34.6 percent of his 3s and 71.2 percent of his free throws. Tulane was an interesting case study at the free throw line last season as just one of its main contributors made fewer than 69.5 percent of their free throws, but none of their top five scorers hit more than 72 percent of their freebies.
The team main starting post player last season was Blake Paul, who led the team in blocks with 1.3 per game to go with averages of 3.3 points and 3.1 rebounds.
The team does have a guard tandem that will likely run the point by committee this season in Ray Ona Embo and Jordan Cronish. Both averaged 3.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game each while Cornish had 9.9 points per game and Ona Embo 10.1 while also shooting a bit better from long range with a 36.5 percent conversion rate.
The team will look to sophomore Jordan Daniels to build off of the 6.4 points per game he had as a freshman after he led the team in 3-point shooting percentage at 39.6.
The team's rotation went eight deep last season and with really nothing to replace them, the Green Wave will be back around the same place they were in the conference last year, though the team getting 20 losses overall is more likely than 17.
East Carolina had an abysmal 10-20 mark last season that included coach Jeff Lebo getting fired after a 2-4 start and a 4-14 AAC mark. Former Florida Gulf Coast coach Joe Dooley has been brought in to try to right the ship and will look t build around guard Isaac Fleming.
The team's top scorer from last season, B.J. Tyson, graduated after having 14.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game, but spearheaded a team that was 337th in 3-point shooting percentage with his own 29.5 percent conversion rate. Fleming was actually worse from downtown, making 26.4 percent of his 3s, but led the team in assists per game with 4.8 to go with 12.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game.
This is a team without tons of size, and 6-foot-5 Kentrell Barkley's ability to crash the glass was super important last season. He led the Pirates with 7.3 rebounds per game while chipping in 12 points, 1.3 steals, and 2.2 assists per game. He also made just 28.8 percent of his triple as Shawn Williams was the only guy on last year's team that short over 30 percent from distance.
Williams was solid as a freshman, making 87.8 percent of his free throws, which was 50th among all DI players, and shot 36.7 percent from beyond the arc to go with averages of 12.4 points per game. With Barkley gone the team needs three-star freshman DeShaun Wade and Tyler Foster to play minutes immediately. Foster might play a role similar to Barkley with his 6-foot-5 size while Wade is a prototypical point guard.
With 6-foot-10 Jabari Craig also departing after having averages of 5.3 points, six rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game, Dimitri Spasojevic will be the team's main main down low. As a freshman he had 6.1 points and four rebounds per game in a starter's role. Joining him will be a bit of a man of mystery, Seth LeDay. He was touted as one of the country's top JUCO transfers following the 2015-16 season and committed to Virginia Tech from there. He did not play a single game for the Hokies and had to sit out the whole 2017-18 season while fighting with the NCAA over his eligibility.
LeDay figures to be the team's best rebounder and with last year's reserve forward Justin Whatley and wing K.J. Davis both back, the Pirates should be able to build something as a program. East Carolina is still going to be a bottom feeder in the conference, but the hiring of Dooley and most of the young guys from a year ago returning could be enough for this team to avoid 20 losses.
South Florida was dead last in the conference last season with a 3-15 AAC record and went 10-22 overall in its first year under coach Brian Gregory. With six of last year's eight scorers gone, the outlook for this program is not good to say the least.