Column: Who will win the American Athletic Conference Championship

I know we are only in the month of September, but it is not too early to talk about some college hoops. Let’s focus on the new conference the Memphis Tigers will be playing in this upcoming season. The name of it is the American Athletic Conference. Last month, Memphis schedule was released and it is a tough schedule, not easy at all.

The Tigers will have to play the likes of Florida, Gonzaga, and Oklahoma State in their non-conference schedule. But let’s focus on their conference. They will have to play against Louisville, Cincinnati, UConn, Temple, Rutgers, etc. I can’t say which team the Tigers will defeat but they can’t lose to all of them. Going up against the Cardinals will be a royal rumble. In other words, it will be anyone’s game. With the return of Russ Smith, the Cardinals leading scorer from last season, it will be a plus for Louisville. Also, the Cardinals will be bringing back Chane Behanan and Montrezl Harrell. These two are potential all-conference candidates.

The Cincinnati Bearcats will have their leading scorer from last season in Sean Kilpatrick returning for his senior season. Cincinnati shouldn’t be a problem for Memphis, but you never know. The Huskies could be dangerous under head coach Kevin Ollie. This team was ban from postseason last year and is looking to get back to the NCAA Tournament. Behind the leadership of Shabazz Napier, who averaged 17.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 4.4 assists a game, UConn will be a lock to go dancing at the beginning of March. Temple could be the sleeper team in this conference and easily finish in the top-3 once the regular season is over.

Now here’s the Memphis Tigers under Josh Pastner for the fifth consecutive year. The Tigers currently have the No. 2 ranked recruiting class in the nation and there’s no reason why Memphis can’t compete with elite teams at the highest level. Some people say Pastner is not a good coach, well he will have to shut the critics up. The only way he will shut the critics up will be to win big games.

Can they do it? Absolutely.

Memphis has a great chance of winning this conference and making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. The expectations will be high for Memphis so with at least 22 wins and a berth into the tournament, Pastner will keep his job. It will not satisfy the fans at all and people will find a way to complain. With the return of Joe Jackson, Geron Johnson, Chris Crawford in addition to Michael Dixon (if he’s granted a waiver by the NCAA), Memphis will be hard to beat whether they are at home or on the road.

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