Houston has been selected as the preseason favorite to win the 2020-21 American Athletic Conference men’s basketball title in voting by the league’s head coaches, the conference announced Wednesday (Oct. 28)
Houston garnered nine first-place votes and earned a total of 99 points to become conference favorites for the second year in a row. Memphis, which tallied two first-place votes, is picked to finish second with 90 points. SMU was third with 80 points, followed by Cincinnati (77), USF (61), Tulsa (50), Wichita State (44), UCF (37), East Carolina (34), Temple (18) and Tulane (15).
The Cougars’ redshirt sophomore guard Caleb Mills was selected as the Preseason Player of the Year, while Memphis freshman center Moussa Cisse was picked as the Preseason Rookie of the Year.
Houston is looking for its third-consecutive regular season championship after finishing 23-8 overall and 13-5 in conference play in 2019-20. Mills returns as the Cougars’ leading scorer at 13.2 points per game despite coming off the bench. Houston also returns second-leading scorer Quentin Grimes (12.1 ppg) and 2019-20 All-Freshman Team selection Marcus Sasser.
Memphis went 21-10 last season and returns double-digit scorers in D.J. Jeffries (10.8 ppg) and 2019-20 All-Freshman Team member Lester Quinones (10.7 ppg), while adding another strong recruiting class, including Cisse, who was a consensus five-star recruit.
SMU returns its top two scorers from a squad that went 19-11 last season. Kendric Davis led The American in assists last season with 6.6 assists per game while scoring 14.2 points per game, while Tyson Jolly led the Mustangs with 14.5 points per contest.
Cincinnati shared The American regular season championship in 2019-20 and returns its second leading scorers. Keith Williams (12.6 ppg) scored in double figures in 12 of the last 13 games in 2019-20 and Chris Vogt (11.0 ppg) shot 64.8 percent from the field last season.
USF returns five of its top six scorers from a squad that went 14-17, including David Collins, who averaged 13.7 points per game. Also back is 2018-19 Freshman of the Year Alexis Yetna, who missed last season due to an injury suffered in preseason.
Tulsa shared the regular season conference title after being picked 10th in the preseason poll. 2019-20 Coach of the Year Frank Haith and the Golden Hurricane return all-conference third-team member Brandon Rachal, who was second on the team with 12.1 points per game.
Wichita State returns three players with 17 or more starts from a team that went 23-8 last season. Tyson Etienne (9.4 ppg) and Dexter Dennis (9.2 ppg) combined for 18.6 points per contest out of the backcourt for the Shockers.
UCF went 16-14 in 2019-20 and will be led by Darin Green Jr., who shot 41.7 percent from behind the arch and averaged 10.1 points per game as a freshman.
East Carolina returns all five starters from a year ago, including all-conference second-team selection Jayden Gardner, who led The American in scoring with 19.7 points per game and recorded 10 games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Temple and second-year head coach Aaron McKie will look to seniors De’Vondre Perry and J.P. Moorman II and leading returning scorer Jake Forrester as the Owls lost four of its top five scorers from a year ago.
Tulane was much improved in head coach Ron Hunter’s first year in charge of the Green Wave, going 12-18 overall and 4-14 in conference play after a 4-27 (0-18 American) season in 2018-19. Jordan Walker is the returning leading scorer at 8.0 points per game.
The American’s men’s basketball championships will be contested at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas, March 11-14.
The full conference schedules, along with television selections and game times, will be announced at a later date.
2020-21 American Athletic Conference Preseason Poll and Honors
1 Houston (9) 99
2 Memphis (2) 90
3 SMU 80
4 Cincinnati 77
5 USF 61
6 Tulsa 50
7 Wichita State 44
8 UCF 37
9 East Carolina 34
10 Temple 18
11 Tulane 15
First-place votes in parenthesis
Preseason Player of the Year: Caleb Mills, Houston
Preseason Rookie of the Year: Moussa Cisse, Memphis
Keith Williams, G, Cincinnati
Jayden Gardner, F, East Carolina*
Caleb Mills, G, Houston*
Kendric Davis, G, SMU
Brandon Rachal, F, Tulsa
Chris Vogt, C, Cincinnati
D.J. Jeffries, F, Memphis
Landers Nolley II, G, Memphis
Alexis Yetna, F, USF
Tyson Jolly, G, SMU
* – denotes unanimous first-team selection