This article is part of our Conference Preview series.
Yes, the American Athletic Conference is a major conference... for basketball. The tendency, like with anything newer, is to discount and underrate it until the masses feel they have earned a higher status.
Memphis has been an elite basketball program more often than not under coaches such as Dana Kirk and John Calipari. Under second-year leader Penny Hardaway, they are now in the spotlight again with a top-rated recruiting class that includes arguably the best incoming freshman in James Wiseman. Precious Achiuwa and D.J. Jeffries are expected to be instrumental immediately as well.
Perennial powerhouse Cincinnati is slightly down. Losing head coach Mick Cronin doesn't help, but John Brannen – who had previously brought Northern Kentucky to prominence in the Horizon League shortly after moving to Division I – now faces the task of keeping the Bearcats in the upper echelon. They do have the potential player of the year in Jarron Cumberland.
Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson, in spite of losing multiple key players, expects to have the Cougars fighting for a conference title. However, they will be without the services of Kansas transfer Quentin Grimes as he sits out this season.
The UConn Huskies have been in a flux and have fallen hard amid scandal and a lack of the talent they once had.