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Connecticut, SMU and Memphis, the Future of the AAC

Can the AAC become a somewhat formidable conference?

Over the past couple of years, the whole college basketball landscape has been changing on so many different levels.  Copious amounts of teams are switching conferences, and a new conference in particular is being formed.  The new AAC conference includes D-1A schools Cincinnati, Connecticut, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, Rutgers, South Florida, SMU, Temple and Central Florida.  When Louisville and Rutgers leave after this year, they will be replaced by bottomfeeders such as Eastern Carolina, Tulsa, Tulane and Navy (in 2015), who hasn't been successful since the days of David Robinson when they made the Elite Eight in 1986.  Louisville’s departure will leave Connecticut, Memphis, or SMU as head honcho of the conference.  If these teams aren't able to perform then the AAC will end up just like C-USA or A-10 in the college basketball landscape. 

 

Connecticut was premier team following the 2011 season, after going 32-9 and beating Butler in the National Championship.  The year after that was somewhat disappointing though.  Andre Drummond (Middletown, CT/St Thomas More) did not live up to expectations as a freshman and Connecticut fell to the Iowa State team led by Royce White (Minnetonka, MN/Hopkins) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.  Since then they have had a pretty rough time. Connecticut had to adjust to Kevin Ollie being head coach and they also weren't able to participate in any postseason tournaments because of the recruiting violations Jim Calhoun committed.  They went from being on top of the college basketball world to becoming an exceptional basketball team in a mediocre conference in just a few years. Even though Ollie is still adjusting to being head coach he has picked up some commitments that will give this team needed help.  The two names to keep in mind are Kentan Facey (Glen Head, NY/Long Island Lutheran High School) and Daniel Hamilton (Los Angeles, CA/St John Bosco).

Facey is a 6'9" 195 lb power forward that is ranked 98th in the 2013 ESPN top-100 list.  He will add athleticism, mobility, a dexterity for dunking and shotblocking, and tremendous rebounding ability to this team. 

Class of 2014 commit, Hamilton, adds another great commitment for 2014.  He is a 6'6" 175 lb shooting guard that is ranked 26th in the country according to ESPN.  Scouts depict him as an aggressive shooting guard that also is athletically gifted.  Hamilton is also regarded to be an extremely accomplished scorer and his passing abilities are overlooked.  

Ollie needs to keep receving commitments from players like this to keep up the credibility of Connecticut's basketball team.

The next team that has the ability to be a power in this middling conference is Memphis.  Josh Pastner has done a tremendous job recruiting since the departure of John Calipari, receiving 11 commitments from players ranked in the top-100.  Although he has had success on the recruiting trail, not all of his players have panned out.  Will Barton (Baltimore, MD/Brewster Academy) is the only NBA player that Josh Pastner has coached, and the others either transferred or haven't lived up to their hype.  

However, the exception to the rule is the McDonald's All-American senior Joe Jackson (Memphis, TN/White Station).  Last season he posted 14 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds with a field goal percentage of 52%. Hopefully he will help lead this young team that consists of many talented freshmen.  

If Pastner keeps recruiting as a top priority and develops his talent better, then Memphis will be a national and conference contender for years to come.

Lastly, the wildcard of this group is SMU.  They are led by the only coach in history to win both an NCAA and NBA Title, Larry Brown.  Although he is criticized for jumping around from team to team, he is regarded as one of the best coaches of all time, NCAA or NBA.

Luckily for him, he has also been bringing in top talent from everywhere.  He brought in transfers Crandall Head (Chicago, IL/Rich South), from Illinois, Nic Moore (Warsaw, IN/Warsaw Community) from Illinois State, and Markus Kennedy (Philadelphia, PA/Winchendon School) from Villanova.  Head and Kennedy were highly regarded coming out of high school, Head being a top-100 recruit and Kennedy being on the fringe of the top-100.  Even though Moore was not highly rated and came from a low-major school, all three have the ability to shape the future of this teaam.

Brown has also started bringing in stellar recruits.  Keith Frazier (Dallas, TX/Justin F. Kimball) and Emmanuel Mudiay (Dallas, TX/Prime Prep) are two that come to mind.  Frazier is a McDonald's All-American shooting guard that will help this team immensely with his ability to lead the fast break and score. Mudiay is a point guard who is also a McDonald's All American prospect.  He is regarded for his scoring ability and making his teammates better.

Larry Brown can make this team great if he keeps producing top recruits such as the ones listed above.

This is a lot to ask for from these teams, but again it is crucial for them to step it up.  If these teams become better then hopefully it will rub off on the other decent teams in this conference.  The AAC will probably never become as prestigious of a conference as the old Big East, Big Ten or ACC but they will sanguinely strive to be the best as this conference realignment shakes out.