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2022-2023 American Basketball Preview

This will be the last season for the AAC as we have come to know it. Leaving in 2023 is basketball power Houston, as well as Cincinnati and UCF. Incoming will be UAB, North Texas, FAU, Charlotte, UTSA, and Rice all from CUSA. The position this conference has occupied since its inception as not quite top 6 material, but in a tier to themselves firmly at 7 above everyone else, is likely to change moving forward. They will have a chance to go out as a top 6 conference this year though as they could be better than the Pac 12.

Here are our national ranks for the last ride, and you can see the tiers we have these teams on. In the AAC there is quite a disparate range between 1 and 11.

1-363 ranking

National Rank
4HoustonAAC
40MemphisAAC
49CincinnatiAAC
55TulaneAAC
91TempleAAC
92UCFAAC
93Wichita StateAAC
115SMUAAC
129USFAAC
168TulsaAAC
224East CarolinaAAC

Bracketology

In Lieu of an All Conference teams, I’ve listed the Top Returning Players by Peak Adjusted Efficiency for SOS. Most will likely come from this list anyway, but the awards are more team driven. I’m more interested in who is actually doing the most when they are on the court. The players can’t control the team that was put around them. If they are putting up tangible numbers at top efficiency per possession on bad teams, that is actually more impressive to me. It’s coming under more pressure and game planning for them, with less viable options around them to take the pressure off. This list encompasses the players that have been the best on a D1 court going into the season.

ADJ effRank
11Kendric DavisMemphis
37Kevin CrossTulane
41Deandre WilliamsMemphis
47Mark SasserHouston
56Tramon MarkHouston
97Jalen CookTulane
113Keyshawn BryantUSF
134Kalu EzikpeCincinnati
213Michael DurrUCF
217Samuel WilliamsonSMU
224Jamal SheedHouston
225Jeremiah DavenportCincinnati
226David DeJuliusCincinnati
257Tyler HarrisUSF
263Keonte KennedyMemphis
288Landers NolleyCincinnati

(Last year’s NET, Seed, and Tournament Finish on the top header line for reference. Deep bench players are not listed, only those in the projected rotation. I also included player ADJ eff rankings. ADJ eff Rankings and qualifying explanation here.)

1. Houston

Houston2 NET5 seedPERE8
Reggie Chaney6-8, 2253.2ppg, 2.2rpg16.5Gr
Jarace Walker6-7, 2205*Fr
Tramon Mark6-5, 19010.1ppg, 2.4apg23.2Jr
Mark Sasser6-1,19017.7ppg, 2.6apg23.7Sr
Jamal Sheed6-1, 19010.0ppg, 5.8apg17.5Jr
J’Wan Roberts6-7, 2303.2ppg, 4.9rpg17.7Jr
Mylik Wilson6-3, 1752.5ppg, 1.7apg(@Texas Tech)13.7Jr
Terrance Arceneaux6-6, 1804*Fr
Ja’Vier Francis6-8, 2251.2ppg, 0.9rpg17.3So
Peak Efficiency Adjusted by SOSReturning Players in the Top 300
47Mark Sasser
56Tramon Mark
224Jamal Sheed

This team doesn’t appear as imposing without Josh Carlton on paper, but what we know in practice is they seem to have essentially a plug-and-play system. They have demonstrated that ability to replace almost anyone over time, even in season, despite some bad injury luck over multiple seasons now. The way they attack the boards and have a baseline skill and style of play up and down the roster gives them a unique identity. Any shooting or other skill around that that develops is a bonus to build on and help take them to the next level.

This is the #2 team in average NET over the 4 years NET has existed, so it’s hard to bet against Kelvin Sampson doing what they do and with this identity. They return Sasser after being injured last season to eat usage, and still have their steady stream of grit and grind bigs. Their likely floor seems to be around the top 15, and if the shooting Sasser and Marks showed off in small samples before injury becomes real, their ceiling is #1. I believe that’s a little too much to expect right now when their career baseline true shooting is sub .500%. This is still a good team that knows what they do well.

Houston had a more impressive recruiting haul than normal as well. Walker averaged about 16ppg 7rpg at IMG and watching some of his video he certainly looks the part of a Houston big. If they are going to start landing top 10 studs and multiple players in the top 40 players from now on to play in this proven Sampson system, watch out.

2. Memphis

Memphis31 NET9 seed2R
Malcolm Dandridge6-9, 2324.4ppg, 2.6rpg15.8Sr
Deandre Williams6-9, 20511.1ppg, 5.8rpg21.7Gr
Damaria Franklin6-4, 21017.8ppg, 6.9rpg (@UIC)20.8Sr
Keonte Kennedy6-5 18014.1ppg, 6.1rpg(@UTEP)18.8Sr
Kendric Davis5-11, 19019.4ppg, 4.4apg(@SMU)23.8Sr
Elijah McCadden6-4, 21011.7ppg, 4.6rpg(@GSU)14.7Gr
Kaodirichi Akobundu-Ehiogu6-9, 2004.7ppg, 4.8rpg(@UTA)18.5So
Jayden Hardaway6-5, 1952.9ppg, 1.0rpg13.1Sr
Chandler Lawson6-8, 2051.6ppg, 2.2rpg14.2Sr
Johnaton Lawson6-6, 185redshirtFr
Peak Efficiency Adjusted by SOSReturning Players in the Top 300
11Kendric Davis
41Deandre Williams
263Keonte Kennedy

(Edit: Reports are Akot didn’t show and Alex Lomax came back for year 5. In Damaria Franklin out Akot which is equivalent or better for Memphis IMO. )

This team really only had Kendric Davis committed in late May. Getting Deandre Williams to pull his name from the draft was crucial and I believe, helped eventually land Akot and Kennedy. Williams was never going to get drafted by the NBA, and there isn’t much of a chance at 26 years old with his build that he even will have much interest invested in him. He should make more money at Memphis with their FedEx money as desperate as they were for players than he could anywhere else in pro basketball around the world. This man does have to be somewhat sick of sitting in a classroom at his age, so I couldn’t have blamed him if he left.

It did however seem to be a harder process to get players than in recent years when the NCAA tournament isn’t assured with potential probation hanging over them. They probably saved disaster by landing Kendric Davis somehow. That was a huge get and I think Davis has the potential to be the best non-post player in the entire nation. He’s proven he can pretty much carry a team to the top 50.

Penny Hardaway certainly isn’t known as a micromanager so Davis will have all the freedom he wants to do whatever he wants. In this case, I don’t think it’s even that terrible because they should want the ball in Davis’s hands with him carrying the team. He’s almost all they have, but with Williams back, that’s at least a partnership and has the makings of a top 35 type team even with little else around them which is the case. The late additions of Akot and Kennedy cement that in my opinion.

I don’t think Akot or Kennedy are either amazing but they can be solid role players around Davis and Williams, Akot has proven that on a good team. He just doesn’t do a lot of stuff other than being a big wing that can get a hand up and make a few three’s. McCadden doesn’t seem like a Memphis level guy, but he’s needed at this point just as a warm body, I do however like the Akobundu-Ehiogu addition. He’s young and blocks shots at one of the highest rates in the nation. It took a while but they now have an experienced team with decent depth. Davis gives them a chance at the NCAA’s if the NCAA’s allow that.

3. Cincinnati

Cincinnati96 NET
Kalu Ezikpe6-8, 23511.3ppg, 7.1rpg(@ODU)22.7
Landers Nolley6-7, 22013.1ppg, 4.1rpg(2021@Memphis)16.2
Jeremiah Davenport6-7, 20513.4ppg, 5.5rpg18.1Sr
Rob Phinisee6-1, 1877.1ppg, 2.9apg(2021@Indiana)9.3
David DeJulius6-0, 19514.5ppg, 2.6apg17.5Gr
Mika Adams-Woods6-3, 1858.6ppg, 3.1apg12.2Sr
John Newman6-5, 2076.9ppg, 4.2rpg12.3Gr
Viktor Lakhin6-11, 2284.2ppg, 3.5rpg19.5Jr
Ody Oguama6-9, 2254.2ppg, 4.2rpg16.4Sr
Sage Tolentino7-0, 2154*Fr
Peak Efficiency Adjusted by SOSReturning Players in the Top 300
134Kalu Ezikpe
225Jeremiah Davenport
226David DeJulius
288Landers Nolley

Last season wasn’t good, but it was Wes Miller’s first. I really like this roster both with quality and depth. The transfer adds were strong, and he returns a nice core with Davenport, DeJulius, and Adam’s-Woods. It took Miller a few years at the start to get some on the job training at UNCG, but by the end of his tenure there he had really figured the job out.

UNCG had several teams in the 50-80 range by the end. He did more at UNCG with a lot fewer resources than he has at Cincinnati. I think we’ll see them start to trend up, it just feels natural with the experience and reinforcements. After a year of adjustment to the American Conference and the level Miller needs to recruit at and just more familiarity with what it takes. All the first year stress of going to new places and settling in that can derail some starts are at least behind Miller now.

4. Tulane

Tulane94 NET
Kevin Cross6-8, 24013.9ppg, 6.8rpg23.6Jr
Sion James6-5, 1857.4ppg, 4.3rpg11.8So
Jaylen Forbes6-5, 18516.5ppg, 5.4rpg17.4Jr
Collin Holloway6-6, 2209.2ppg, 2.9rpg(@Georgetown)12Jr
Jalen Cook6-0, 20518.0ppg, 3.5apg20.7So
Jadan Coleman6-4, 1706.3ppg, 1.0rpg15.3So
R.J. McGee6-5, 2204.0ppg, 2.5rpg12.8Jr
Peak Efficiency Adjusted by SOSReturning Players in the Top 300
37Kevin Cross
97Jalen Cook

Ron Hunter took over a 4-27 (0-18) team just 3 seasons ago and has engineered an incredible rebuild. It’s been driven mostly by his work in the portal with players like Cook, Cross, and Forbes. He’s added another proven P6 player this offseason in Collin Holloway and was able to protect his home turf and not lose anyone of value in the portal this year as he did with Jelly Walker last season. That was a setback, as was the Teshaun Hightower murder arrest two seasons ago. Even with the setbacks, this has still been an impressive and quick turnaround coming from the depths they were.

As for the team, Tulane likes to play small, and they aren’t particularly good on defense (#221) and were one of the worst rebounding teams in the nation. Being able to play small and still effectively is really dependent on Kevin Cross. He’s probably the most important player on the team, even above Jalen Cook. They can’t afford to lose him for any time this season and survive with so much of their identity tied into his passing and being able to man the post mostly by himself.

5. Temple

Temple111 NET
Nick Jourdain6-86.6ppg, 5.3rpg14.8So
Jahlil White6-77.4ppg, 6.0rpg12.3So
Damian Dunn6-514.9ppg, 4.2rpg16.1So
Khalif Battle6-521.4ppg, 3.9rpg26Jr
Hysier Miller6-14.9ppg, 1.7apg9.4So
Zach Hicks6-78.3ppg, 4.1rpg16.3So
Shane Dezonie6-52.4ppg, 1.6rpg(@Vanderbilt)7.8So
Kur Jongkuch6-98.9ppg, 8.6rpg(@N. Colorado)17.1Sr

The best news for Temple this offseason is the return of Khalif Battle who only made it through 7 games last season. That was unfortunate as Battle was off to an incredible start, averaging 21.4ppg. If Battle had played more games last year and maintained that efficiency, he would have been one of the best players in the country returning. Perhaps he still is, but I don’t think there is enough evidence with only 7 games to say that definitively. While he did average 15ppg the prior season he was highly inefficient with a .486 true shooting, while the 7 games and 21ppg were fueled by an unsustainable .681% true shooting. Battle is a good player and he will help this team but I do not think he is actually the numbers he put up. It was more of a noisy small sample.

In Battle’s stead, Damian Dunn filled most of the usage Battle vacated, and Temple had a respectable season with a 111 NET. Dunn wasn’t that efficient, but he was able to generate enough offense to let Temple’s above-average defense keep them in games, and will have help to take the pressure off him now. I believe the continuity between Dunn and most of the important role players around him will give Temple a nice baseline while most other teams are working in lots of new players. They did add a couple of transfers from Vanderbilt and Northern Colorado as well. Jongkuch from Northern Colorado will have a chance to start having the best size of all of Temple’s options. Year 4 of the Aaron McKie tenure should see Temple getting back to levels they are more accustomed to throughout their history.

6. UCF

UCF99 NET
Michael Durr7-0, 2508.8ppg, 7.9rpg(2021@USF)17.8Sr
CJ Walker6-8, 2008.3ppg, 5.7rpg15.9Sr
Brandon Suggs6-6, 20510.1ppg, 4.1rpg(ECU)15Jr
Ithiel Horton6-3, 2009.8ppg, 2.7rpg(Pitt)11.1Sr
Darius Johnson6-1, 1906.4ppg, 3.0apg9.6So
C.J. Kelly6-5, 19010.1ppg, 4.1rpg(@UMass)13.9Sr
Jayhlon Young6-2, 17515.9ppg, 3.0apg(JUCO)So
Tyem Freeman6-5, 2135.0ppg, 2.1rpg18.2Jr
Lahat Thioune6-10, 2433.8ppg, 3.4rpg(Utah)16.9S
Peak Efficiency Adjusted by SOSReturning Players in the Top 300
213Michael Durr

UCF doesn’t have much star power but they do have a good coaching and a pretty solid team that makes sense. It’s just solid all around. The only player to make the top 300 returners in adjusted efficiency was Micheal Durr who barely played at Indiana last season. #1 when you have Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson there is a good reason for that. #2 who cares when we know Durr can play effectively in the AAC. He’s put up solid efficiency vs a strong SOS before. He also anchored a #67th defense at USF his sophomore season.

The fact Durr didnt’ play because he was behind All Big Ten players last year doesn’t change any of that for me. He should be a valuable player back in the AAC. He will be essential, and his presence around the rim will allow Walker to roam and use his incredible athletic ability to disrupt shots. Suggs is pretty solid at everything and Horton brings the shooting. The only question I really have is at Point Guard both with Johnson starting and with the depth. I would have liked to have seen that position upgraded especially given the importance. They can get by with Johnson, but the most upside likely lies with JUCO Jayhlon Young.

7. Wichita State

Wichita State87 NET
James Rojas6-8, 2205.4ppg, 2.4rpg(@Alabama)15.9Sr
Gus Okafor6-6, 23014.6ppg, 6.4rpg(@Longwood)19.1Sr
Colby Rogers6-5, 19014.2ppg, 2.2rpg(@Siena)15.1Sr
Criag Porter6-2, 1857.3ppg, 4.9rpg17.4Sr
Xavier Bell6-3, 17811.0ppg, 1.6apg(@Drexel)14.3Jr
Quincy Ballard6-11, 2400.9ppg, 1.2rpg(@Florida St)17.6So
Kenny Pohto6-11, 2325.4ppg, 2.7rpg18.6So
Jakwon Walton6-7, 20013.5ppg, 4.4rpg(JUCO)So
Jaron Pierre Jr.6-5, 1859.9ppg, 3.1rpg(@USM)8.1So

What a difference, a couple of years can make. Wichita State had one of the best coaches in the business, and then he snapped on a player, and it all came to an end. Even before that event brought it all crashing down, fans of Wichita State were concerned about the attrition within the program. Unfortunately, even with the coaching change, that hasn’t stopped. Gone are most of the important players from last year’s team.

Isaac Brown did a pretty admirable job picking up the pieces and restocking in the portal. Of the few returners, Craig Porter and Kenny Pohto should play bigger roles. Both seem capable of taking on more. There are a lot of new additions that have proven D1 experience. I should be enough to keep Wichita State in the top 100 and competitive. The day’s single-digit seeds in the NCAA and top 20 finishes are probably finished without Gregg Marshall, though.

8. SMU

SMU53 NET
Xavier Foster7-0, 2284.0ppg, 1.7rpg (@Iowa St)23.9So
Samuell Williamson6-7, 2109.6ppg 8.1rpg(@Louisville)15.9Sr
Ricardo Wright6-4, 18513.6ppg, 4.2rpg(@Marist)15.4Jr
Zach Nutall6-3, 1856.8ppg, 3.7rpg9.5Sr
Zhuric Phelps6-3, 1753.8ppg, 1.9rpg9.9So
Jefferson Koulibaly6-3, 1802.6ppg, 0.9rpg(@Washing St)7.1So
Efe Odigie6-9, 25511.5ppg, 6.7rpg(@Troy)18.7Sr
Keon Ambrose-Hylton6-8, 2101.0ppg, 0.8rpg(@Alabama)6.6Jr
Mo Njie6-10, 2456.6ppg, 5.3rpg(@EMU)13.7So
217Samuel Williamson

In a move I derided this spring SMU fired Tim Jankovich. Jank was coming off a season he SMU was the last team left out of the NCAA’s and the #1 seed in the NIT. He had Kendric Davis likely returning as well who I think is the best guard in the nation. Jankovich had went 125-64 (661%) of his games at SMU and had been to the NIT the last 2 seasons. I know SMU has spent a lot of money building their program since the Larry Brown era, but they have short memories for how bad it can get at SMU before that. To fire Jankovich for the privilege of paying Rob Lanier 2 million a year and making him one of the highest paid coaches in the nation is baffling. This is the same coach that went 6-24 in his 4th season at Siena. His two NCAA’s are autobids teams that weren’t even that good, and one had a losing record.

The team has really suffered in this transition, losing multiple important players to transfer. I do respect the fact Lanier actually tried to stem the tide with 7 transfers. There is no need to kick the can down the road when the portal exists. At least try to get some proven older players in the age of the super senior because you need them to win. That said I didn’t find the 7 transfers he added to be that impactful.

I have SMU ranked 115th so at least the recovery work this spring should keep SMU out of of 200+ ranking suckitude. I give him credit for for saving the season from that level, but this is what you fired Jankovich for? A team that with Davis was one spot out of an NCAA. SMU prints cash and has one of the most ambitious NIL groups, they would have certainly had a shot to keep him under Jank.

It’s a complete step back and to over pay a coach that barely .500 in his career and fell flat on his face at a low major when you are supposed to be rolling in year 4. That’s hard to get past but hopefully, he’s gotten a lot better since then. I don’t think a 165 NET NCAA Auto bid Georgia State year proves that. As for the team itself 115th may even be a little high. I do think Williamson can be good and I do expect Nutall to be a lot better than he was last season. I don’t think much else around them is good. Foster put up effective numbers in the brief time he played, but it was only 7 games and 55 minutes.

9. USF

USF245 NET
Russel Tchewa7-08.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg13.1Sr
Corey Walker Jr.6-85.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg19.8So
Keyshawn Bryant6-614.4ppg, 5.4rpg(@S. Carolina 2021)18.9Sr
Selton Miguel6-47.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg(@Kansas St)9.5Jr
Tyler Harris5-98.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg (@Memphis)15.1Sr
Jamir Chaplin6-58.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg14.9Sr
Sam Hines Jr.6-63.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg6.8Jr
DJ Patrick6-63.9 ppg, 1.3 rpg5.8Jr
Jake Boggs6-73.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg8.6Sr
113Keyshawn Bryant
257Tyler Harris

Jankovich gets fired, and Brian Gregory survives, even after going 8-23 (3-15) and his 3rd straight losing season. His chair has to be hot, right? I will give him the credit, he was able to attract the level of transfers I wouldn’t have expected him to be able to get this off season. We have them ranked #129 so that would represent a massive improvement from #245 NET last season. It’s might actually be enough to save his job.

This team is still light on shooters but they do have some athletes that at least look like AAC caliber. Keyshawn Bryant averaged 14.4ppg, 5.3rpg with an 18.9 PER at South Carolina two seasons ago. That’s a legit stud and while he didn’t play as much and wasn’t as good last year I don’t think you can discredit the ceiling he’s already shown. He should be one of the better players in the AAC. We know Tyler Harris can play in the AAC, he was a valuable player on Memphis just last season. Selton Miguel was a pretty decent role player for a P6 team as well at Kansas State. That’s a pretty good haul this season for a coach seemingly toast.

USF has a pretty solid top 6, the depth after that is questionable though. I expect Corey Walker to get more opportunities this season. He has the pedigree and was effective in role-player minutes. He was one of the few bright spots that should have been playing more.

10. Tulsa

Tulsa180 NET
Nikita Konstantynovskyi6-10, 2352.0ppg, 2.7rpg13.8Jr
Tim Dalger6-7, 2104.7ppg, 2.9rpg10.6Jr
Sam Griffin6-3, 18014.6ppg, 1.7rpg15.3Jr
Anthony Pritchard6-3, 1704.4ppg, 2.6rpg8.6So
Brandon Betson6-1, 18014.4ppg, 2.9apg(@Chicago St)11.7Sr
Keyshawn Embery-Simpson6-5, 2103.6ppg,1.3apg6.1Sr
Bryant Selebangue6-9, 21512.8ppg, 10.3rpg(JUCO)Fr

Out is Frank Haith just a couple of seasons after winning a share of the AAC regular season title, in is Eric Konkol. Konkol had a good run at La Tech, and although he never took them to the NCAA they have averaged a Top 85 finish, which is pretty good given their resources and conference status. He leaves an underfunded rural public school for a well-funded small private urban school. It will be interesting to see how the transition goes.

Konkol is a good coach, but he has never gone in the portal very hard, which would be my concern given the changing landscape of college basketball moving forward. Even this offseason when they needed an influx of talent, and he was forced to dip a toe in, he only came up with an inefficient player from the 340th NET Chicago State team. Just a guy that soaked up usage and didn’t do much with it, adding him isn’t exactly doing much.

Tulsa does at the least return Sam Griffin, who, while a little in over his head as a #1 option, was still important to bring back. He scores reasonably efficiently on his usage but does nothing else of value on the court, but I do think you have to credit Konkol for pulling him out of the portal and re-recruiting him. You would have liked to have seen more transfers like Rob Lanier was able to secure in his first offseason. The talent isn’t really isn’t much better than ECU but Konkol is at least a proven difference-making coach, I think that keeps Tulsa out of the basement.

11. East Carolina

ECU183 NET
Ludgy Debaut7-02.4ppg, 4.2rpg11.8Sr
Brandon Johnson6-84.7ppg, 5.1rpg16.4So
Benjamin Bayela6-610.5ppg, 6.1rpg (JUCO)So
Quentin Diboundje6-51.7ppg, 1.1rpg(@Tennesse)20.8So
Jaden Walker6-52.2ppg, 1.0rpg(@Iowa State)12.2So
RJ Felton6-35.1ppg, 1.6rpg7.3So
Javon Small6-22.0ppg, 1.1apg4.5So
Wynston Tabbs6-213.3ppg, 2.7rpg(@BC 2021)13.2Jr

For the 2nd season in a row the big boys have come for ECU’s best player, this time it was UConn taking Tristen Newton. Ultimately, that was probably unavoidable once the NIL back channels fired up. Losing Newton was a tough loss for a team that already wasn’t doing much (#183 NET). They lost most everyone else of value too and have a 1st year coach, Michael Schwartz, that will have to learn fast. It’s not a recipe for success, nor is the class he replaced them with. ECU managed to get a lot younger and less experienced. The one wildcard is Wynston Tabbs from Boston College. He’s yet to play a game for ECU and has missed the majority of his games since he has been in school. I don’t think I would put to many eggs in that basket at this point.

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