American Athletic Conference in Review
Could the American Athletic Conference be considered as one of the powerhouses in college basketball? Do they deserve some respect after last season?
During March Madness, this conference was overlooked in its first season all together due to the bottom half of the conference. The best part of the conference were the top five teams: Louisville (31-6, 15-3 AAC), Cincinnati (27-7, 15-3 AAC), Connecticut (32-8, 12-6 AAC), Southern Methodist (27-10, 12-6 AAC) and Memphis (24-10, 12-6 AAC).
Four of the top five teams in this conference made this past season’s NCAA tournament. The Cardinals won their first and only AAC tournament championship and advanced to the Sweet 16, eventually losing to the Kentucky Wildcats. The Huskies, led by Shabazz Napier, would defeat the freshmen oriented Wildcats team in pursuit to their fourth national championship as a No. 7 seed.
Eighth seeded Memphis was ran off the court by Atlantic Coast Conference Champion Virginia Cavaliers (78-60) in the second round and the Bearcats were bounced out of the first round by 12th seed Harvard (61-57).
Many, like myself, felt that the Mustangs were robbed of a chance to play in the biggest tournament of the year. In Coach Larry Brown’s second season as head coach at SMU, they defeated the Huskies twice, routed a defenseless Tigers’ team (87-72), and ended the Bearcats’ 15-game winning streak (76-55). They fell short to last season’s defending national champion Cardinals in both meetings.
As for the rest of the conference, what was there to talk about? Houston was probably the only team that should have received some type of praise with their scoring duo returning next season, but now the Cougars will be without forwards Tyshawn Thomas (15.4 ppg) and Daniel House (13.6 ppg).
Both players were granted a release from the University of Houston after their head coach James Dickey was relieved of his duties from the basketball team. Kelvin Sampson has taken over duties as head coach for the team, but the team’s two leading scorers weren’t comfortable with the idea of playing for a new head coach.
Without Thomas and House in the lineup, this Houston team may finish second to last in the conference next season.
Coach Eddie Jordan’s Rutgers team finished the season with a 12-21 overall record. Five of their 12 wins were conference wins. Their most embarrassing moment came in the conference tournament when they suffered a 92-31 Mike Tyson knockout to the Cardinals.
Rutgers made a pit stop in the AAC as next season they will be heading to the Big Ten Conference. One of their guards Jerome Seagears will transfer to another institution as he has one year of eligibility remaining. For the season he started 12 games while averaging 7.1 points and 3.2 assists a game.
If coach Jordan thought this season was terrible, just wait until his team will have to play Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Iowa twice in one season.
The South Florida Bulls are another team who didn’t perform well in the conference. They finished the season with a 12-20 overall record to go along with their 3-15 conference record. Coach Stan Heath was relieved of his duties as head coach once the season ended.
Manhattan head basketball coach Steve Masiello was the ideal guy to replace Heath, but he lied on his resume about having a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky so, the program had to look elsewhere. The program didn’t have to look far as they hired former Kentucky assistant Orlando Antigua.
What type of team will Antigua have next season? Well, he will have two big men in Chris Perry and John Egbunu returning for their sophomore campaigns. Perry averaged 8.9 points and 5.3 rebounds a game while Egbunu averaged 7.4 points and 6.2 rebounds a game.
The Bulls will also have leadership in their backcourt with guard Anthony Collins returning for his senior season. Last season, he played only eight games as injuries kept him on the bench.
The Central Florida Knights will be without their best player Isaiah Sykes as his collegiate career is officially over. Sykes finished the season averaging 17.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.5 assists a game. Losing Sykes is only part of the bad news for the Knights. Forward Tristan Spurlock (11 ppg) and guard Calvin Newell (10.1 ppg) are gone as well.
I can’t see this team doing a lot of damage next season. Look for this team to finish in the bottom half of the conference again.
The Temple Owls could possibly finish sixth in the conference next season with 50 percent of their scoring attack returning. The Owls backcourt featuring guards Will Cummings and Quenton DeCosey will have to take complete control of the scoring with Dalton Pepper (17.5 ppg) out of the picture. Forward Anthony Lee (13.6 ppg) will definitely be missed on offense as he’s taking his talents to Ohio State.
Next season, East Carolina, Tulsa, and Tulane will be the newcomers to the conference as the Rutgers and Louisville are walking to the exit to their new homes.