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Thursday / August 13.
  • Houston, Memphis tabbed to win the American; Cumberland, Wiseman honored

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    Houston and Memphis have been selected as the preseason favorites to win the 2019-20 American Athletic Conference men’s basketball title in voting by the league’s head coaches, the conference announced Tuesday.

    In a first for The American, two teams tied with the most points in the preseason poll, as both the Cougars and Tigers finished with 113 points. Houston received seven first-place votes, while Memphis garnered four first-place votes.

    The 2019 American tournament champion Cincinnati Bearcats were selected third with 94 points and the remaining first-place vote, while Wichita State was fourth with 88 points. USF was picked fifth with 79 points, followed by UConn (75 points), Temple (72), SMU (47), UCF (40), Tulsa (36), ECU (20) and Tulane (15).

    Cincinnati senior Jarron Cumberland was named the league’s Preseason Player of the Year and Memphis freshman James Wiseman was unanimously picked as The American’s Preseason Rookie of the Year. Cumberland was named the 2018-19 American Athletic Conference Player of the Year and The American’s Championship Most Outstanding Player.

    Houston won the 2018-19 American regular-season championship, reached the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, won a program-record 33 games and returns preseason first-team member and 2018-19 Sixth Man of the Year DeJon Jarreau. The Cougars also welcome five newcomers for 2018-19 American Coach of the Year Kelvin Sampson’s sixth season and will be looking to make the NCAA Championship for a third consecutive year.

    Memphis does not return any starters from the 2018-19 squad that reached the NIT and won 22 games, but the Tigers welcome the No. 1 recruiting class in the country according to the long-running Recruiting Services Combined index. Second-year head coach Penny Hardaway’s recruiting class features five top-100 prospects including Wiseman, who was rated No. 1.

    Cincinnati welcomes a new head coach in John Brannen and will look to advance to the NCAA Championship for the 10th straight season. The Bearcats return three starters from 2018-19’s tournament championship team, including Cumberland, who averaged 18.8 points per game last year.

    Wichita State returns three starters and nine letterwinners from a 2018-19 squad that advanced to the NIT semifinals. The Shockers will look to advance to the NCAA tournament for the eighth time in nine seasons under head coach Gregg Marshall, who enters his 13th season. Amongst the returners is 2018-19 American All-Freshman Team member Dexter Dennis, who averaged 8.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game last year.

    USF returns all five starters from the team that captured the 2019 CBI Championship and will look to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2012 under third-year head coach Brian Gregory. Laquincy Rideau was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year and Alexis Yetna was The American’s 2018-19 Rookie of the Year. Those players join guard David Collins to give the Bulls a league-leading three preseason all-conference selections.

    UConn returns four starters for head coach Dan Hurley’s second season. Forward Josh Carlton returns after sharing the league’s Most Improved Player award, while guards Christian Vital and Alterique Gilbert both earned preseason all-conference nods. Five newcomers look to push the Huskies back into the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2016.

    Temple advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time in three seasons and returns 10 letterwinners for new head coach and Owl legend Aaron McKie. Three starters are back, including guard Nate Pierre-Louis, who shared Most Improved Player honors, and second-team guard Quinton Rose.

    SMU is ranked eighth in the poll and welcomes eight newcomers for head coach Tim Jankovich’s fourth season. Forwards Ethan Chargois (12.4 ppg) and Isiaha Mike (11.7 ppg) are the leading returners for the Mustangs.

    UCF reached the NCAA tournament second round for the first time in program history in 2019 and welcomes 10 newcomers in head coach Johnny Dawkins’ fourth season. Forward Collin Smith is the Knights’ leading returner in scoring at 8.0 ppg.

    Tulsa is picked 10th, but welcomes seven newcomers for head coach Frank Haith’s sixth season. The Golden Hurricane returns two of its top three scorers from 2018-19 in forwards Martins Igbanu (12.5 ppg) and Jeriah Horne (10.1 ppg).

    ECU returns only one starter from last season, but it is American All-Freshman  forward and the Pirates’ leading scorer, Jayden Gardner (16.3 ppg). Head coach Joe Dooley is in the second season of his second stint at ECU and welcomes 13 newcomers.

    Tulane hired veteran Ron Hunter as its head coach in the offseason. Hunter brings 445 victories and four NCAA tournament appearances in 25 seasons as a head coach. The Green Wave welcomes 11 newcomers into the fold for 2019-20, including guard/forward K.J. Lawson, who was the 2017 American Rookie of the Year at Memphis before transferring to Kansas.

    The 2019-20 season begins Nov. 5, while conference play begins with two league games on New Year’s Eve. Seven of the 11 teams in The American this year played in the 2014 postseason, while the 2014-15 season will be the second straight year in which the conference has the previous season’s NCAA champion in its ranks.

    The 2020 American Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Championship will take place March 12-15 at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.

    2019-20 American Athletic Conference Preseason Poll and Honors

    T-1 Houston (7) 113
    T-1 Memphis (4) 113
    3 Cincinnati (1) 94
    4 Wichita State 88
    5 USF 79
    6 UConn 75
    7 Temple 72
    8 SMU 47
    9 UCF 40
    10 Tulsa 36
    11 ECU 20
    12 Tulane 15
    Preseason Player of the Year

    Jarron Cumberland, Sr., G, Cincinnati

    Preseason Rookie of the Year

    James Wiseman, Fr., C, Memphis *

    Preseason First Team

    Jarron Cumberland, Sr., G, Cincinnati *

    Quinton Rose, Sr., G, Temple

    DeJon Jarreau, R-Jr., G, Houston

    James Wiseman, Fr., C, Memphis

    Laquincy Rideau, R-Sr., G, USF

    Preseason Second Team

    Alexis Yetna, R-So., F, USF

    Jayden Gardner, So., F, ECU

    Nate Pierre-Louis, Jr, G, Temple

    Alterique Gilbert, R-Jr., G, UConn

    David Collins, Jr., G, USF

    Christian Vital, Jr., G, UConn

    * unanimous selection

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.