AAC preview: UConn's perimeter puts it ahead of the competition

Will Temple's surprising season extend another year? Can UConn perform better in the regular season? Our projections tackle the tough questions in the AAC.
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Sports Illustrated’s 2016–17 preview is guided by data from our College Basketball Projection System, a collaboration between economist Dan Hanner and SI’s Luke Winn and Jeremy Fuchs. We project teams on a player-by-player, lineup-based level and then simulate the season 10,000 times to generate our 1–351 national rankings and conference forecasts.

These are the model’s projections for the AAC, including individual awards, the teams’ order of finish and (advanced and raw) stats for the top seven players in each school’s rotation.

Find more about how our projection system works here, and read all of our 2016–17 preview content here

Player of the Year: Troy Caupain, Cincinnati

The 6' 3" guard continued his trend of both increased raw averages and increased overall efficiency last season, despite dips in his shooting percentages from the field (from 44.4% to 37.5%) and from three (40.8% to 32.4%). SI’s projections like that trend to continue once more, as Caupain remains the Bearcats’ driving force, especially after the graduations of Farad Cobb and Octavius Ellis.

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Newcomer of the Year: Terry Larrier, UConn

The Huskies’ incoming freshmen are a quality group, but it’s a transfer from VCU who will have the biggest impact in Storrs this season. The rangy wing—Larrier stands 6' 8", 192 pounds—should provide a quality complement to lead guards Rodney Purvis and Jalen Adams and join them as a double-digit scorer while taking on a greater offensive role than he had during his lone year under Shaka Smart.

All-Conference Team & Sixth Man

PG: Troy Caupain, Cincinnati
SG: Rodney Purvis, Connecticut
SF: Damyean Dotson, Houston
PF: Dedric Lawson, Memphis
PF: Gary Clark, Cincinnati
6th man: SG: Rob Gray, Houston

Josh Hart, Grayson Allen lead SI's player of the year projections

Projected Order of Finish

(Projected conference record in parentheses. The tiebreaker for teams with identical records is their standing in SI’s 1–351 national rankings, which will be revealed in early November.)

Conference Rank

Team

Proj. Conf. Record

’15-16 Conf. Record

1

Connecticut

13–5

11–7

2

Cincinnati

13–5

12–6

3

SMU

12–6

13–5

4

Houston

11–7

12–6

5

Temple

10–8

14–4

6

Memphis

9–9

8–10

7

UCF

8–10

6–12

8

East Carolina

7–11

4–14

9

Tulsa

7–11

12–6

10

Tulane

5–13

3–15

11

South Florida

4–14

4–14

1. Connecticut (13–5)

While they are led by a trio of former top-50 recruits (Purvis, Adams and Larrier) and reinforced by the arrival of two more (Alterique Gilbert and Juwan Durham), one of the Huskies’ key pieces was hardly a high-profile prospect at all. Amida Brimah, considered a two- or three-star recruit coming out of high school, has developed into a high-efficiency, low-usage scorer on offense and a difference-making shot-blocker on the other end. His 14.3% block rate last year would have been tops in the AAC had he played enough minutes to qualify—and it was Brimah’s career low. UConn ranked 12th nationally in defensive efficiency last season despite Brimah missing 11 games with a broken finger; expect more stout D to power a conference title run.

Name

Class

Pos.

PPG

RPG

APG

ORtg

Volume

Mins

Rodney Purvis

Sr

SG

16.3

3.7

2.3

109.5

24%

86%

Jalen Adams

So

PG

11.9

3.9

3.5

106.7

22%

82%

Terry Larrier

So

SF

10.1

5.3

1.0

105.6

22%

60%

Amida Brimah

Sr

C

7.9

5.2

0.3

125.9

15%

59%

Alterique Gilbert

Fr

PG

6.7

0.8

2.3

104.6

21%

48%

Juwan Durham

Fr

PF

6.5

4.5

0.6

104.7

19%

45%

Kentan Facey

Sr

PF

5.3

5.6

0.5

116.0

17%

49%

2. Cincinnati (13–5)

After coming out on the wrong side of last March’s quadruple-overtime classic against the Huskies, the Bearcats will nip at their heels this season with a similar profile—strong D, solid O—and perhaps the league’s best duo: Caupain and forward Gary Clark, the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year.

Name

Class

Pos.

PPG

RPG

APG

ORtg

Volume

Mins

Troy Caupain

Sr

PG

13.9

4.6

4.9

112.9

22%

86%

Jacob Evans

So

SG/SF

11.5

5.4

2.1

113.9

19%

76%

Gary Clark

Jr

PF

11.2

9.0

2.1

123.4

19%

75%

Kyle Washington

Jr

PF

9.3

5.6

0.6

108.9

22%

53%

Jarron Cumberland

Fr

SG

8.0

1.9

1.1

105.7

20%

53%

Kevin Johnson

Sr

PG

7.2

2.2

1.8

105.7

18%

55%

Quadri Moore

Jr

PF

5.7

3.6

0.4

98.9

20%

41%

3. SMU (12–6)

New head coach Tim Jankovich figures to have the Mustangs back in the NCAA tourney mix after last season’s postseason ban. Forwards Ben Moore and Semi Ojeleye—a newly eligible Duke transfer—are not the biggest frontcourt, but should make it a strength.

Name

Class

Pos.

PPG

RPG

APG

ORtg

Volume

Mins

Shake Milton

So

PG

13.6

4.2

3.3

118.9

18%

88%

Ben Moore

Sr

PF

12.4

7.1

2.4

117.8

23%

72%

Sterling Brown

Sr

SF

11.2

5.0

2.7

121.6

20%

70%

Semi Ojeleye

Jr

PF

10.6

7.1

0.8

99.8

22%

71%

Jarrey Foster

So

SG

7.8

4.5

1.9

106.6

20%

62%

Harry Froling

Fr

PF/C

7.2

5.0

0.6

102.2

20%

52%

Ben Emelogu II

Jr

SG

3.5

1.8

0.9

95.1

18%

33%

4. Houston (11–7)

Junior guard Rob Gray Jr. is projected to lead the American in scoring while resuming his truly high-volume role—last season he took more than a third of the Cougars’ shots while on the floor—but SI’s system is down enough on Houston’s D (103.9 points per 100 possessions) to keep them out of the NCAA field yet again.

Name

Class

Pos.

PPG

RPG

APG

ORtg

Volume

Mins

Rob Gray

Jr

SG

18.6

3.1

1.9

116.1

27%

76%

Damyean Dotson

Sr

SF

14.9

6.4

1.6

127.1

20%

80%

Galen Robinson, Jr.

So

PG

11.8

3.6

4.5

109.9

20%

85%

Danrad Knowles

Sr

PF

10.6

6.4

0.7

114.3

20%

68%

Morris Dunnigan

Jr

SG

5.6

2.2

0.9

103.2

20%

39%

Devin Davis

Jr

SF

5.2

3.3

0.5

102.6

20%

36%

Kyle Meyer

Sr

C

3.4

3.5

0.5

101.6

15%

40%

5. Temple (10–8)

While last season’s regular-season conference champs will take a step back minus graduated seniors Quenton DeCosey and Jaylen Bond, the available minutes—and shots—will allow 6' 8" freshman guard Quinton Rose plenty of opportunity to get his feet wet on the collegiate level.

Name

Class

Pos.

PPG

RPG

APG

ORtg

Volume

Mins

Obi Enechionyia

Jr

PF

15.3

5.6

0.8

111.8

24%

74%

Quinton Rose

Fr

SG

10.2

2.3

2.0

99.4

21%

70%

Josh Brown

Sr

PG

9.1

4.6

3.9

110.6

18%

56%

Levan Alston Jr.

So

PG

8.8

4.2

2.3

100.8

17%

75%

Alani Moore

Fr

PG

6.5

1.6

2.2

98.0

20%

51%

Daniel Dingle

Sr

SF

5.9

3.4

1.7

98.8

19%

53%

Mark Williams

Sr

PF

5.9

3.2

1.0

103.9

23%

37%

6. Memphis (9–9)

Dedric Lawson was immediately cast as the Tigers’ focal point as a freshman, a role in which he was not particularly efficient (a 96.5 offensive rating on kenpom.com). SI’s projections like him to up that rating substantially to 105.5. A full season and similar improvement from classmate K.J. Lawson would be a boon for new coach Tubby Smith.

Name

Class

Pos.

PPG

RPG

APG

ORtg

Volume

Mins

Dedric Lawson

So

PF

16.1

8.5

2.1

105.5

28%

82%

K.J. Lawson

So

SF

9.9

4.5

1.3

105.8

22%

60%

Christian Kessee

Sr

PG

9.1

2.0

1.5

104.3

19%

58%

Markel Crawford

Jr

SG

8.9

4.2

2.3

111.3

16%

74%

Jimario Rivers

Jr

SF

8.1

5.4

0.9

103.1

20%

56%

Chad Rykhoek

Sr

C

6.8

5.0

0.6

98.7

18%

53%

Jeremiah Martin

So

PG

3.7

1.5

1.6

100.4

15%

41%

7. UCF (8–10)

The balance among the Knights’ top five scorers is nice, but the volume allotted to two of their least efficient starters—forward A.J. Davis and guard Chance McSpadden—holds them back. Look for a larger impact from 7' 6" Tacko Fall in his second season after a promising debut as a rebounder and shot-blocker.

Name

Class

Pos.

PPG

RPG

APG

ORtg

Volume

Mins

B.J. Taylor

So

PG

12.9

3.6

2.7

107.5

22%

73%

Matt Williams

Sr

SG

12.6

4.4

1.6

110.5

17%

88%

A.J. Davis

Jr

SF

12.4

6.5

2.4

98.9

24%

79%

Chance McSpadden

So

PG

11.3

3.7

2.9

103.7

22%

45%

Tacko Fall

So

C

10.8

7.8

0.6

111.6

20%

60%

Tanksley Efianayi

Sr

SF

7.5

3.6

1.1

100.7

18%

59%

Caesar DeJesus

Fr

SG

4.4

1.8

0.8

96.2

18%

35%

8. East Carolina (7–11)

The good news for Pirates fans is that they should be a bit better than last season, when they managed two separate six-game losing streaks in conference play. Their most pedigreed player, former four-star recruit Deng Riak, may be brought along slowly after missing nearly his entire first year with a shoulder injury.

Name

Class

Pos.

PPG

RPG

APG

ORtg

Volume

Mins

B.J. Tyson

Jr

PG/SG

16.3

4.6

2.8

104.6

25%

86%

Caleb White

Sr

SF

13.1

3.8

2.2

111.3

20%

77%

Kentrell Barkley

So

SF

10.2

5.7

2.5

111.1

21%

70%

Andre Washington

Sr

C

7.2

4.3

0.5

102.1

21%

48%

Shawn Williams

Fr

PG

6.0

2.1

2.2

99.5

18%

51%

Michel Nzege

Sr

PF

4.6

3.6

0.6

109.7

16%

40%

Deng Riak

So

C

4.2

2.9

0.4

102.8

17%

34%

9. Tulsa (7–11)

Former top-100 juco recruit Pat Birt will take center stage but the arrival of Rutgers transfer Junior Etou won’t be enough to offset the losses of Shaquille Harrison and James Woodard from last season’s surprise NCAA tournament team.

Name

Class

Pos.

PPG

RPG

APG

ORtg

Volume

Mins

Pat Birt

Sr

SG

14.8

4.0

1.1

107.0

23%

76%

Junior Etou

Jr

PF

10.4

6.4

0.8

100.2

20%

72%

Corey Henderson Jr.

Jr

SG

9.4

2.8

1.3

99.1

20%

61%

Sterling Taplin

So

PG

9.3

3.8

2.6

100.1

18%

75%

Geno Artison

So

SF

7.4

4.7

0.8

97.5

22%

49%

Jaleel Wheeler

Jr

SG

7.0

2.6

1.1

99.6

22%

45%

Martins Igbanu

Fr

PF

5.6

3.6

0.4

102.5

18%

43%

10. Tulane (5–13)

Surprise hire Mike Dunleavy Sr. will have to get the Green Wave out of the league cellar with a roster heavy on guards and turnover from the year before. Malik Morgan will be relied on to provide all the stability he can muster during a transition season.

Name

Class

Pos.

PPG

RPG

APG

ORtg

Volume

Mins

Malik Morgan

Sr

SG

13.6

5.1

2.4

101.2

24%

79%

Cameron Reynolds

Sr

SG

11.0

5.1

1.0

92.2

23%

72%

Melvin Frazier

So

SG

8.0

3.8

1.1

100.1

20%

58%

Kain Harris

So

SG

7.6

2.3

0.8

98.2

21%

49%

Colin Slater

Fr

PG

6.4

1.8

2.1

101.2

20%

49%

Blake Paul

So

PF

5.7

4.8

0.4

103.2

16%

52%

Von Julien

So

PG

5.3

2.0

2.6

99.2

17%

57%

11. South Florida (4–14)

The Bulls will get a midseason boost when Isaiah Manderson, a 6' 10" forward transferring in from Texas Tech, becomes eligible in December. But it seems unlikely that will be enough to generate any real upward mobility in the American.

Name

Pos.

Class

PPG

RPG

APG

ORtg

Volume

Mins

Jahmal McMurray

So

PG

16.3

3.4

3.1

98.2

25%

93%

Geno Thorpe

Jr

SG

11.8

4.5

1.8

101.9

22%

77%

Troy Holston

So

SG

10.5

3.5

1.4

98.7

22%

65%

Isaiah Manderson

Jr

C

8.4

5.5

0.6

93.1

22%

33%

Tulio Da Silva

Fr

PF

6.9

5.3

0.6

99.6

19%

51%

Ruben Guerrero

Jr

C

6.8

6.5

0.5

111.6

14%

65%

Bo Zeigler

Jr

PF

5.4

3.9

1.3

95.9

16%

58%