Houston selected as top men’s hoops team in AAC; ECU picked to finish last

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IRVING, Texas – Houston has been tabbed as the preseason favorite to win the 2021-22 American Athletic Conference men’s basketball title in voting done by the league’s head coaches, the conference announced Wednesday.

Houston was selected as the conference favorite for the third consecutive year, receiving eight first-place votes and a total of 98 points. Memphis earned the other three first-place votes and 92 total points to be picked second. SMU is third with 77 points, one ahead of defending regular-season champion Wichita State (76). UCF was tabbed fifth with 66 points, followed by Cincinnati (52), Tulsa (43), Temple (37), South Florida (25), Tulane (25) and East Carolina (14).

2021 American Athletic Conference Player of the Year Tyson Etienne of Wichita State has been selected as the Preseason Player of the Year, while Memphis’ Jalen Duren has been picked as the Preseason Rookie of the Year.

Houston won the 2021 American Athletic Conference Championship crown and advanced to its first Final Four since 1984. The Cougars return Marcus Sasser, who was an all-conference second team member in 2020-21, and Fabian White Jr., who started 31 games and averaged 9.3 points per game in 2019-20.

Memphis captured the 2021 NIT Championship and welcome the nation’s best incoming class, including 5-star prospects Duren and Emoni Bates, who was picked as a preseason all-conference second team member. The Tigers return Landers Nolley II, a first-team all-conference selection last season who led Memphis with 13.1 points per game.

SMU advanced to the NIT last season and return The American’s scoring and assist leader, Kendric Davis. Davis averaged 19.0 points and 7.6 assists per contest in 2020-21. The Mustangs also return Emmanuel Bandoumel, who averaged 10.2 points per game.

Defending regular season champion Wichita State went 16-6 last season, including 11-2 in conference play. The Shockers return three starters, including Etienne, who averaged 16.3 points per game and shot 39.2 percent from 3-point range.

UCF returns the most minutes and points in The American, including all five starters. The Knights return 97 percent of their scoring, 10th-most in the country, and 96 percent of their minutes, the ninth-most in nation. Darius Perry led the Knights with 14.7 points per game in 2020-21.

A new era begins at Cincinnati, as Wes Miller is the Bearcats’ new head coach. Jeremiah Davenport averaged 11.7 points per game, while David DeJulius was fifth in the league with 4.2 assists per game.

Tulsa returns two starters in Curtis Haywood II and Keyshawn Embery-Simpson, along with 2021 Sixth Man of the Year, Darien Jackson. The Golden Hurricane have finished higher than their preseason place in seven of eight seasons in The American.

Temple sees its top four scorers from 2020-21 return, including a backcourt of Khalif Battle and Damian Dunn, who averaged 15.0 and 13.5 points per game, respectively.

South Florida has 10 newcomers in head coach Brian Gregory’s fifth season in Tampa. Caleb Murphy averaged 8.3 points per game on his way to earning all-freshman team honors.

Tulane returns three starters, including preseason all-conference second-team honoree Jaylen Forbes, who was fourth in The American in scoring at 16.4 points per game as a freshman.

East Carolina has four starters returning who averaged eight or more points per game, including JJ Miles (9.8 ppg) and Brandon Suggs (9.6).

The American Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Championship will be held at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas, March 10-13, 2022.

2021-22 American Athletic Conference Preseason Poll and Honors

1Houston (8)98
2Memphis (3)92
4Wichita State76
T-9South Florida25
11East Carolina14

First-place votes in parenthesis.

Preseason Player of the Year
Tyson Etienne, Wichita State

Preseason Rookie of the Year
Jalen Duren, Memphis

Preseason All-Conference First Team
Marcus Sasser, Jr., G, Houston
Jalen Duren, Fr., C, Memphis
Landers Nolley II, R-Jr., G, Memphis
Kendric Davis, Sr., G, SMU*
Tyson Etienne, So., G, Wichita State*

Preseason All-Conference Second Team
Brandon Mahan, Gr., G, UCF
Emoni Bates, Fr., F, Memphis
Deandre Williams, Sr., F, Memphis
Jeremiah Davenport, Jr., G, Cincinnati
Jaylen Forbes, So., G, Tulane

* denotes unanimous selection

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