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Five AAC games I really want to see

It has been 266 days since an American Athletic Conference basketball team has played a game but the wait for the 2020-21 season is almost over.

Sure, it is going to be a Frankenstein season but we’re going to get college basketball and hopefully a NCAA Tournament in the spring. Wednesday many teams will begin the season and the journey toward the “Big Dance.”

With that in mind, here is a look at five AAC games – not involving USF – I am looking forward to seeing this season (some I might have to DVR due to scheduling conflicts):

USF Bulls Basketball South Florida
Wichita State Shockers mascot WuShock pumps up the crowd during a game at Charles Koch Arena. (Photo by: William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports)

Tulsa vs. Wichita State

When: Tuesday, December 15

Where: Reynolds Center, Tulsa, OK

It is the first conference game for Wichita State under interim head coach Isaac Brown. It will also be the first game for Tulsa without Martins Igbanu in ten years. Actually four years.

It just seems like Igbanu played for Tulsa for ten years.

Tulsa was picked to finish sixth in a preseason poll voted on by the league’s coaches. Somehow Tulsa seems to always finish the season a couple of spots higher than the AAC coaches predict.

The game gives us a glimpse of the new look Shockers. If you recall, less than a week after the Shockers' season ended last March, a walk-on and six scholarship players announced their decisions to transfer out of WSU. Head coach Gregg Marshall denied any wrongdoing but resigned earlier this month.

USF Bulls Basketball South Florida
Memphis Tigers head coach Penny Hardaway reacts against the USF Bulls during the first half at Yuengling Center. (Photo by: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

UCF vs. Memphis

When: Tuesday, January 5

Where: CFE Arena, Orlando, FL

Memphis could have three all-conference players in their starting lineup in sophomores Boogie Ellis, Lester Quinones and D.J. Jeffries. Add the preseason AAC Freshman of the Year, Moussa Cisse, and the nucleus of the Tigers’ team is solid although young. Alex Lomax, Malcom Dandridge and Damian Baugh also return. Plus Memphis adds Virginia Tech’s leading scorer from last season – Landers Nolley.

UCF will be integrating new pieces at point guard and has to fill the hole created by center Collin Smith's opting out of the season. Oregon transfer C.J. Walker, a sophomore power forward who was a five-star prospect in the 2019 class, received a waiver for immediate eligibility. Walker gives the Knights an athletic finisher. Oh, and there’s sophomore Darrin Green, Jr. All he did last season was make more three-pointers than anyone else in the conference 68-of-163 (41.7 percent).

USF Bulls Basketball South Florida
Houston Cougars head coach Kelvin Sampson listens during a press conference for the midwest regional of the 2019 NCAA Tournament at Sprint Center. (Photo: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

Houston vs. Cincinnati

When: Saturday, January 23

Where: Fertitta Center, Houston, TX

This is the first of two games featuring Houston that I’m really looking forward to see.

Both of these teams were 13-5 in the conference last season and always seem to be in the mix to win the AAC Championship.

The Bearcats lost Jarron Cumberland and double-double threat Tre Scott. Cincinnati needs both Keith Williams and Chris Vogt to play at a high level, find a point guard and get contributions from some of its newcomers to get an at-large bid to the NCAAT.

Houston lost Fabian White to a season ending knee injury but returns Caleb Mills, who was one of the five most efficient players in the conference last season, Quentin Grimes, Nate Hinton and Dejon Jarreau all return. Oh, and they have the best head coach in the conference, Kelvin Sampson, drawing up the Xs and Os.

USF Bulls Basketball South Florida
SMU point guard guard Kendric Davis controls the ball against the Cincinnati Bearcats in the second half at Fifth Third Arena. (Photo: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

Houston vs. SMU

When: Sunday, January 31

Where: Fertitta Center, Houston, TX

Howdy. Welcome to a Texas style showdown.

You just read about what Houston lost and returns so I'll focus on SMU.

Other than Isiaha Mike, SMU returns every significant contributor (20-24% of possessions used) from a team that won 19-games. Point guard Kendric Davis led the AAC in assists last season at 6.7 per game. That figure was also good for tenth in the Nation. SMU adds shooting guard Darius McNeil who sat out last season after transferring from California. McNeil averaged double-figures for the Bears.

I’m going to have extra popcorn available for this game because I smell overtime.

USF Bulls Basketball South Florida
Houston Cougars forward Brison Gresham (55) blocks a shot by Cincinnati guard Justin Jenifer in a game at Fifth Third Arena in Cincinnati. (Photo: Kareem Elgazzar/The Cincinnati Enquirer Sentinel via USA TODAY NETWORK)

Memphis vs. Houston

When: Sunday March 7

Where: FedExForum, Memphis, TN

I know, I know Houston again? What can I say? I really like the Cougars’ style of play.

I also like the Tigers’ style of play under Penny Hardaway. In his two seasons as Memphis’ head coach the Tigers have averaged 73.4 possessions per game.

The match-up between Houston senior center Brison Gresham and Memphis freshman Moussa Cisse should be fun to watch. Cisse is very talented and Gresham has a history of showing young centers their place.