- Will Temple's surprising season extend another year? Can UConn perform better in the regular season? Our projections tackle the tough questions in the AAC.
Sports Illustrated’s 2016–17 preview is guided by data from our College Basketball Projection System, a collaboration between economist Dan Hanner and SI’s Luke Winn and Jeremy Fuchs. We project teams on a player-by-player, lineup-based level and then simulate the season 10,000 times to generate our 1–351 national rankings and conference forecasts.
These are the model’s projections for the AAC, including individual awards, the teams’ order of finish and (advanced and raw) stats for the top seven players in each school’s rotation.
Player of the Year: Troy Caupain, Cincinnati
The 6' 3" guard continued his trend of both increased raw averages and increased overall efficiency last season, despite dips in his shooting percentages from the field (from 44.4% to 37.5%) and from three (40.8% to 32.4%). SI’s projections like that trend to continue once more, as Caupain remains the Bearcats’ driving force, especially after the graduations of Farad Cobb and Octavius Ellis.
Newcomer of the Year: Terry Larrier, UConn
The Huskies’ incoming freshmen are a quality group, but it’s a transfer from VCU who will have the biggest impact in Storrs this season. The rangy wing—Larrier stands 6' 8", 192 pounds—should provide a quality complement to lead guards Rodney Purvis and Jalen Adams and join them as a double-digit scorer while taking on a greater offensive role than he had during his lone year under Shaka Smart.
All-Conference Team & Sixth Man
PG: Troy Caupain, Cincinnati
SG: Rodney Purvis, Connecticut
SF: Damyean Dotson, Houston
PF: Dedric Lawson, Memphis
PF: Gary Clark, Cincinnati
6th man: SG: Rob Gray, Houston
Projected Order of Finish
(Projected conference record in parentheses. The tiebreaker for teams with identical records is their standing in SI’s 1–351 national rankings, which will be revealed in early November.)
|Conference Rank||Team||Proj. Conf. Record||’15-16 Conf. Record|
1. Connecticut (13–5)
While they are led by a trio of former top-50 recruits (Purvis, Adams and Larrier) and reinforced by the arrival of two more (Alterique Gilbert and Juwan Durham), one of the Huskies’ key pieces was hardly a high-profile prospect at all. Amida Brimah, considered a two- or three-star recruit coming out of high school, has developed into a high-efficiency, low-usage scorer on offense and a difference-making shot-blocker on the other end. His 14.3% block rate last year would have been tops in the AAC had he played enough minutes to qualify—and it was Brimah’s career low. UConn ranked 12th nationally in defensive efficiency last season despite Brimah missing 11 games with a broken finger; expect more stout D to power a conference title run.
2. Cincinnati (13–5)
After coming out on the wrong side of last March’s quadruple-overtime classic against the Huskies, the Bearcats will nip at their heels this season with a similar profile—strong D, solid O—and perhaps the league’s best duo: Caupain and forward Gary Clark, the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year.
3. SMU (12–6)
New head coach Tim Jankovich figures to have the Mustangs back in the NCAA tourney mix after last season’s postseason ban. Forwards Ben Moore and Semi Ojeleye—a newly eligible Duke transfer—are not the biggest frontcourt, but should make it a strength.
|Ben Emelogu II||Jr||SG||3.5||1.8||0.9||95.1||18%||33%|
4. Houston (11–7)
Junior guard Rob Gray Jr. is projected to lead the American in scoring while resuming his truly high-volume role—last season he took more than a third of the Cougars’ shots while on the floor—but SI’s system is down enough on Houston’s D (103.9 points per 100 possessions) to keep them out of the NCAA field yet again.
|Galen Robinson, Jr.||So||PG||11.8||3.6||4.5||109.9||20%||85%|
5. Temple (10–8)
While last season’s regular-season conference champs will take a step back minus graduated seniors Quenton DeCosey and Jaylen Bond, the available minutes—and shots—will allow 6' 8" freshman guard Quinton Rose plenty of opportunity to get his feet wet on the collegiate level.
|Levan Alston Jr.||So||PG||8.8||4.2||2.3||100.8||17%||75%|
6. Memphis (9–9)
Dedric Lawson was immediately cast as the Tigers’ focal point as a freshman, a role in which he was not particularly efficient (a 96.5 offensive rating on kenpom.com). SI’s projections like him to up that rating substantially to 105.5. A full season and similar improvement from classmate K.J. Lawson would be a boon for new coach Tubby Smith.
7. UCF (8–10)
The balance among the Knights’ top five scorers is nice, but the volume allotted to two of their least efficient starters—forward A.J. Davis and guard Chance McSpadden—holds them back. Look for a larger impact from 7' 6" Tacko Fall in his second season after a promising debut as a rebounder and shot-blocker.
8. East Carolina (7–11)
The good news for Pirates fans is that they should be a bit better than last season, when they managed two separate six-game losing streaks in conference play. Their most pedigreed player, former four-star recruit Deng Riak, may be brought along slowly after missing nearly his entire first year with a shoulder injury.
9. Tulsa (7–11)
Former top-100 juco recruit Pat Birt will take center stage but the arrival of Rutgers transfer Junior Etou won’t be enough to offset the losses of Shaquille Harrison and James Woodard from last season’s surprise NCAA tournament team.
|Corey Henderson Jr.||Jr||SG||9.4||2.8||1.3||99.1||20%||61%|
10. Tulane (5–13)
Surprise hire Mike Dunleavy Sr. will have to get the Green Wave out of the league cellar with a roster heavy on guards and turnover from the year before. Malik Morgan will be relied on to provide all the stability he can muster during a transition season.
11. South Florida (4–14)
The Bulls will get a midseason boost when Isaiah Manderson, a 6' 10" forward transferring in from Texas Tech, becomes eligible in December. But it seems unlikely that will be enough to generate any real upward mobility in the American.
|Tulio Da Silva||Fr||PF||6.9||5.3||0.6||99.6||19%||51%|