BullsInsider - American Athletic Conference Offseason Breakdown
football Edit

American Athletic Conference Offseason Breakdown

The NBA Draft is behind us and we are still 69 days away from the opening kickoff to the South Florida football season, but at BullsInsider.com we believe that it is never too early to begin looking ahead to the next men’s basketball season.

College coaches have a much clearer picture of their roster, however, there are some programs still trying to fill a few spots via the transfer portal or JuCo transfers.

The American Athletic Conference has been a multi-bid league since its inception and this season looks like it will be again. The question is, will the AAC have more than two teams in the 2023 NCAA Tournament? If it does, it will happen despite a decent amount of turnover.

More than half of the league’s Top-20 scorers from last season will not return in this season.

With that in mind, we present our breakdown of the AAC for the 2022-23 season. The teams are listed in the order they finished in the 2021-22 AAC season.


Houston Cougars head coach Kelvin Sampson speaks during a press conference for the midwest regional of the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
Houston Cougars head coach Kelvin Sampson speaks during a press conference for the midwest regional of the 2019 NCAA Tournament. (Denny Medley)

Houston

Losses: Taze Moore, Josh Carlton, Fabian White, Kyler Edwards, Robbie Armbrester (Stephen F. Austin).

Returning: Marcus Sasser, Jamal Shead, Ramon Walker, Tramon Mark, Ja’Vier Francis, Emanuel Sharp, J’Wan Roberts, Kiyron Powell, Reggie Chaney

Newcomers: Mylik Wilson (Texas Tech), Jarace Walker, Terrance Arcenaux

2023 NBA Draft Watch: Jarace Walker (will go through draft process), Marcus Sasser (will go through draft process)

Sasser was the Cougars' leading scorer with 17.7 points per game in 2021-22 before undergoing season ending foot surgery in late December. Sasser’s return gives the Cougars a legit shot a being a Final Four team in Houston next year. We are impressed with Walker. He is a physically impressive forward, solid athlete with a good feel for the game. Walker could be a mid/late first round draft pick next year.


SMU

Losses: Tristan Clark, Isiah Jasey, Marcus Weathers, Michael Weathers Jahmar Young Jr., Kendric Davis (Memphis), Emmanuel Bandoumel (Nebraska) and Tyler Lundblade (TCU).

Returning: Zach Nutall, Darius McBride, Frank Agunanne, Zhuric Phelps, Jalen Smith and Stefan Todorovic.

Newcomers: Samuell Williamson (Louisville), Ricardo Wright (Marist), Xavier Foster (Iowa State), Keon Ambrose-Hylton (Alabama), Efe Odigie (Troy), Mo Njie (Eastern Michigan) and Jefferson Koulibaly (Washington State).

2023 NBA Draft Watch: None

New SMU head coach Rob Lanier addressed the Mustangs size needs via the portal. Losing Davis, the AAC Player of the Year, left a gaping hole for Lanier to fill at point guard. Is Koulibaly the answer? Fans in Dallas sure hope so.


Memphis Tigers head coach Penny Hardaway answers questions from the media before the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament.
Memphis Tigers head coach Penny Hardaway answers questions from the media before the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament. (Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports)

Memphis

Losses: Tyler Harris (South Florida), Emoni Bates (Eastern Michigan), Earl Timberlake (Bryant), Landers Nolley (Cincinnati), Sam Onu (FGCU) Lester Quinones (NBA Draft), Jalen Duren (NBA), Josh Minott

Returning: Jayden Hardaway, DeAndre Williams, Chandler Lawson, Jonathan Lawson, Malcolm Dandridge

Newcomers: Kendric Davis (SMU), Elijah McCadden (Georgia Southern), Kaodirichi Akobundu-Ehiogu (UT Arlington), Emmanuel Akot (Boise State) and Keonte Kennedy (Texas-El Paso)

2023 NBA Draft Watch: None

Davis just might be Penny Hardaway’s most impactful one-and-done pick up because he’ll have the ball in his hands on virtually every possession. The 2022 American Athletic Conference POY was arguably the top available transfer when he committed to the Tigers. Akot is a former five-star prospect that fills a significant need for the Tigers – perimeter scoring. He made 36.7 percent (84-of-229) of his threes the past two seasons at Boise St. Akobundu-Ehiogu is a versatile big. The Tigers roster looks like a tournament team.

Temple

Losses: Jake Forrester, Arashma Parks, Sage Tolbert, Jeremiah Williams, Tai Strickland, and Quincy Ademokoya.

Returning: Khalif Battle, Damian Dunn, Zach Hicks, Jahlil White, Hysier Miller, Nick Jourdain and sophomore center Emmanuel Okpomo.

Newcomers: Kur Jongkuch (Northern Colorado), Jamille Reynolds (UCF), Taj Thweatt (Coastal Carolina).

2023 NBA Draft Watch: None

Battle's return to Temple for his junior season is huge for the Owls. He led the team in scoring in the 2020-21 season and appeared set to lead the team in scoring last season until a broken bone in his left foot ended his season at seven games. Dunn was second team all-conference last season.

Tulane

Losses: DeVon Baker (160 points scored last season)

Returning: Jalen Cook, Kevin Cross, Jaylen Forbes, Jadan Coleman, Sion James, Tylan Pope, Scott Spencer, RJ McGee, Nobal Days, Quentin Scott, Oton Jankovic

Newcomers: Tre Williams (Oregon State), Collin Holloway (Georgetown), Percy Daniels

2023 NBA Draft Watch: None

Entering his fourth season in at Tulane, Ron Hunter returns five starters from a team that finished 10-8 in the AAC and advanced to the conference tournament semifinals after being projected to finish ninth in the league’s preseason poll. Cook, Forbes and Cross earned first team, second team and third team all-conference honors respectively. Cross was also named the Most Improved Player of the Year.

Watch out for the Green Wave.



UCF Knights guard Darius Johnson (0) shoots during the second half against the Memphis Tigers at FedExForum.
UCF Knights guard Darius Johnson (0) shoots during the second half against the Memphis Tigers at FedExForum. (Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports)

UCF

Losses: Darin Green, Jr. (FSU), Jamille Reynolds (Temple), Isaiah Adams (Buffalo), Tony Johnson, Andreas Fuller, Ed’Avior Rhoades, Darius Perry, Brandon Mahan, Cheikh Mbacke Diong

Returning: Darius Johnson, CJ Walker, Tyem Freeman, PJ Edwards,

Newcomers: Michael Durr (Indiana), Ithiel Horton (Pittsburgh), Brandon Suggs (ECU), Lahat Thioune (Utah), Taylor Hendricks, Tyler Hendricks

2023 NBA Draft Watch: None

Inconsistent is a good description for the 2021-22 UCF team. They had wins over three teams that made the NCAA tournament and they had inexplicable losses. Following the season, six players went portaling. Johnny Dawkins did add experience and size to his roster via the portal. Horton is a very good get. Taylor Hendricks is a top-100 high school prospect and Dawkins will have one of the best point guards in the league in Johnson. But it could be 12-games before we know how good the Knights are this season.

Wichita State

Losses: Morris Udeze (New Mexico), Dexter Dennis (Texas A&M), Ricky Council IV (Arkansas), Steele Gaston-Chapman, Marqualen Grant, Joseph Pleasant (Abilene Christian), Clarance Jackson (Jacksonville State), Matthew McFarlane, Chaunce Jenkins (Old Dominion)

Returning: Craig Porter Jr., Kenny Pohto, Jalen Ricks and Isaac Abidde

Newcomers: Gus Okafor (Southeastern Louisiana), Jaron Pierre Jr. (Southern Miss), Colby Rogers (Siena) and Jaykwon Walton (Shelton State CC), Quincy Ballard (FSU), Xavier Bell (Drexel), James Rojas (Alabama) and Jacob Wilson

2023 NBA Draft Watch: None

One year after winning its first AAC regular season title, Wichita State had more players enter the transfer portal (10) than any other AAC program. Starting point guard, Porter Jr., withdrew from the portal to return to the Shockers and we expect his new role to include more scoring. Isaac Brown still has scholarships remaining for the 2022-23 season. Building team chemistry with so many newcomers will be a key to any success this season.


Cincinnati

Losses: Mike Saunders (Utah), Mason Madsen (Boston College), Rob Banks and AJ McGinnis (Lipscomb)

Returning: David DeJulius, CJ Anthony, John Newman III, Mika Adams-Woods, Jeremiah Davenport, Viktor Lakhin, Jarrett Hensley, Ody Oguama

Newcomers: Landers Nolley II, Kalu Ezikpe (Old Dominion), Rob Phinisee (Indiana), Sage Tolentino, Daniel Skillings and Josh Reed

2023 NBA Draft Watch: None

DeJulius, who was also named to the AAC's Third-Team and led the Bearcats with 14.5 ppg (ninth in AAC), returning for his final season of eligibility is huge for Wes Miller. The Bearcats had such an epic late season collapse, losing five consecutive games to close out the regular season, that it is difficult to remember but Cincinnati was 17-9 on Feb. 17.

East Carolina

Losses: Tristen Newton (UCONN), Brandon Suggs (UCF), Alexis Reyes (Quinnipiac), Alanzo Frink, Brenden Kelly, Tay Mosher (Bryant), Marlon Lestin (Murray State), Tremont Robinson-White, JJ Miles and Vance Jackson

Returning: Ludgy Debault, David Kasanganay, Wynston Tabbs, Brandon Johnson, Javon Small and R.J. Felton

Newcomers: Jaden Walker (Iowa State), Benjamin Bayela (South Plains College), Quentin Diboundje (Tennessee), Elijah Jones, Jaxon Ellingsworth, Colin McKenzie, Valentino Pinedo, Ezra Ausur, Kalib Lacount, Saxby Sunderland

2023 NBA Draft Watch: None

ECU hired Tennessee assistant coach Michael Schwartz in mid-March to replace Joe Dooley. Schwartz turned over the Pirates roster with a pair of high major transfers, one junior college player and four high school signees. Diboundje has high level athleticism. Walker is a strong guard who scores almost exclusively inside the arc. Losing Newton and Suggs to the transfer portal and Jackson to graduation are major holes to fill.

Tulsa

Losses: Jeriah Horne, Rey Idowu, Darien Jackson, LaDavius Draine

Returning: Sam Griffin, Keyshawn Embery-Simpson, Sterling Gaston-Chapman, Nikita Konstantynovskyi, Tim Dalger, Anthony Pritchard, Ari Seals

Newcomers: Brandon Betson (Chicago State), Bryant Selebangue (Florida SouthWestern State College), Charles Chukwu, Brian “BB” Knight, Jesaiah McWright

2023 NBA Draft Watch: None

Tulsa hired Eric Konkol in late March and he got right to work on the roster. His biggest recruiting coup was convincing the Golden Hurricane’s second leading scorer, Griffin, to withdraw from the transfer portal. Betson was second-team all-Western Athletic Conference last season and led Chicago State in scoring with 14.2 points per game.


The South Florida Bulls added Memphis Tigers guard Tyler Harris (14) via the transfer portal.
The South Florida Bulls added Memphis Tigers guard Tyler Harris (14) via the transfer portal. (Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports)

South Florida

Losses: Javon Greene, Caleb Murphy (DePaul), Jalyn McCreary, Bayron Matos (football)

Returning: Jamir Chaplin, Serrel Smith Jr., Russel Tchewa, Sam Hines Jr., DJ Patrick, Corey Walker Jr., Jake Boggs, Trey Moss and Mark Calleja

Newcomers: Tyler Harris (Memphis), Selton Miguel (Kansas State), Keyshawn Bryant (South Carolina), Ryan Conwell, Dok Muordor

2023 NBA Draft Watch: None

USF returns four starters, 59 percent of its scoring and 70 percent of its rebounding and 61 percent of its minutes played from last season. Brian Gregory improved his backcourt, at both ends of the floor, with Harris and Miguel. Bryant adds more experience, athleticism, offensive rebounding and gives the Bulls another player who turns defense into offense. USF should be even better defensively than last season’s top 50 team in scoring defense (64.9 ppg) but the Bulls must score the basketball MUCH better than last season’s 57.5 ppg in order to have the kind of season that excites its fan base.

Harris left Memphis ranked fifth all-time in three-pointers made. Miguel is very good off the bounce and can guard multiple positions. Bryant might be the most athletic Bull and can guard two through four.