Just one year ago, the American Athletic Conference far exceed expectations as a whopping five teams all reached the coveted 20-win plateau before the 2019-20 NCAA basketball season came to a screeching halt because of the still, ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, with the 2020-21 college hoops season just over a month away from getting underway, its time to look at what lies ahead in the underrated conference. With at least three teams in the conference looking like legitimate threats to make potentially deep runs in this season’s March Madness National Championship Tournament, let’s find out who’s looking good and who’s not so you can keep betting against their College Basketball odds.
College Basketball Betting | 2020 American Athletic Conference
- Key Returners: Caleb Mills, Quentin Grimes, Dejon Jarreau, Fabian White Jr. Marcus Sasser
- Key Losses: Nate Hinton
- Key Newcomers: Tramon Mack, Jamal Shead, Kiyron Powell, Reggie Chaney (Arkansas)
The Cougars went a fantastic 23-8 overall and 13-5 in conference play and enter the upcoming 2020-21 season as a +3300 pick to win national championship. Head coach Kelvin Sampson lost a big-time performer in shooting guard Nate Hinton (10.6 ppg), but has a gifted freshman coming in as four-star recruit Tramon Mack, the third highest recruit in program history, will see plenty of playing time right away. Junior shooting guard Quentin Grimes will be asked to do more after putting up 12.1 points per game last season as will backcourt mate Caleb Mills after he averaged 13.2 points per contest. The Cougars will be a handful in 2020-21 with their rock-solid defense and up-tempo offense.
- Key Returners: Brandon Rachal, Darien Jackson, Elijah Joiner
- Key Losses: Martins Igbanu, Jeriah Horne, Lawson Korita
- Key Newcomers: Keshawn Williams, Peyton Urbancic
Tulsa surprised everyone by going 21-10 overall and 13-5 in conference play last season, but the Golden Hurricanes will have to overcome the transfer loss of double-digit scorers Jeriah Horne (11.1 ppg) and Martins Igbanu (1.6 ppg). Tulsa will need Darien Jackson and Elijah Joiner to step up after both players put up just over 7.0 points per game last season and three-star incoming frshman Keshawn Williams could see plenty of playing time right away. Still I’m expecting for the Golden Hurricanes to take a slight step backwards in 2020-21.
- Key Returners: Keith Williams, Chris Vogt, Mika Adams-Woods
- Key Losses: Jarron Cumberland, Tre Scott
- Key Newcomers: David DeJulius (Michigan), Tari Eason, Viktor Lakhin, Gabe Madsen, Mike Saunders
Cincinnati went an encouraging 20-10 overall and in 13-5 conference play, but the Bearcats will have to overcome the loss of their best player in Jarron Cumberland. If the Bearcats can get some increased production from returning role players like Keith Williams (9.5 ppg) and Mika Adams (5.0 ppg), they could approach the 20-win mark again this coming season – although I fully expect Cincinnati to come up a bit short of reaching the 20-win mark for the second straight season.
- Key Returners: Tyson Etienne, Dexter Dennis, Trey Wade
- Key Losses: Jaime Echenique, Erik Stevenson, Jamarius Burton, Grant Sherfield,
- Key Newcomers: Alterique Gilbert (Connecticut), Jaden Seymour
The Shockers went 23-8 overall and 11-7 in conference play, but the recent announcement that head coach Greg Marshall has resigned because of abuse allegations is a massive blow to a program that has been perennially excellent for years now. Wichita State returns two players that averaged just under double figures in Tyson Etienne and Dexter Dennis, but interim head coach Isaac Brown is facing a serious uphill battle after the program saw a mass exodus last spring, with eight players initially entering the transfer portal. If the Shockers manage to record a winning record in 20202-21, I’ll be shocked!
- Key Returners: Boogie Ellis, Lester Quinones, DJ Jeffries, Alex Lomax, Damion Baugh
- Key Losses: James Wiseman, Precious Achiuwa, Tyler Harris
- Key Newcomers: Moussa Cisse, Ahmad Rand, Landers Nolley (Virginia Tech)
Despite having star big man James Wiseman for just a handful of games last season and losing Precious Achiuwa to the NBA drat, Memphis managed to go an encouraging 21-10 overall and 10-8 in conference play. More importantly, head coach Penny Hardaway has recruited well. The Tigers will be depending on some immediate contributions from Virginia Tech transfer Landers Nolley and incoming 6-9 incoming freshman Moussa Cisse, but the Tigers will be mostly young and inexperienced this coming campaign.
- Key Returners: Tyson Jolly, Kendric Davis, Feron Hunt, Ethan Chargois
- Key Losses: Isiaha Mike
- Key Newcomers: Yor Anei (Oklahoma State), Darius McNeill (Cal)
SMU went 19-11 overall and 9-9 in conference play last season and returns all of the starters except Isiaha Mike from last season’s squad. The Mustangs will look to get more production from shooting guard Tyson Jolly after he put up an encouraging 14.5 points per game last season and SMU has a pair of transfer players they will also be expecting to become immediate contributors in Yor Anei (Oklahoma State), Darius McNeill (Cal). If SMU can come together early on, they’ll be competitive, but reaching last season’s 19 wins looks like a stretch to me.
- Key Returners: Darin Green, Brandon Mahan, Sean Mobley
- Key Losses: Dazon Ingram, Ceasar DeJesus, Collin Smith
- Key Newcomers: CJ Walker (Oregon), Darius Perry (Louisville), Jamille Reynolds, Isaiah Adams
Central Florida went 16-16 overall and 7-11 in conference play under head coach Johnny Dawkins last season. While the program lost three important contributors from last season’s squad, they do gain some experience that comes in the forms of Louisville transfer Darius Perry (5.2 ppg) and Oregon transfer CJ Walker (8.7 ppg). Still, the Knights look like they’re going to be a .500 team for the second consecutive season.
- Key Returners: David Collins, Justin Brown, Michael Durr, Alexis Yetna
- Key Losses: Laquincy Rideau
- Key Newcomers: Caleb Murphy, Prince Oduro (Mississippi State), Luke Anderson (Iowa State)
South Florida went 14-17 overall and 7-11 in conference play last season, but the Bulls will have to overcome the losses of four key contributors this coming season. The good news is that they inherit a pair of experienced transfer players in Prince Oduro (Mississippi State), and Luke Anderson (Iowa State) and have a talented four-star recruit that will be in action in Georgia high school star Caleb Murphy!
- Key Returners: Jake Forrester, De’Vondre Perry
- Key Losses: Quinton Rose, Alani Moore, Nate Pierre-Louis
- Key Newcomers: Nick Jourdain, Jahlil White, Quincy Ademokoya
Temple went 14-17 overall and 6-12 in conference play in year 1 of the Aaron McKie era last season. The once, perennially powerful national championship contending program will be led by star forward Jake Forrester, a player that averaged 19.6 points per game for Indiana two years ago before putting up 17.3 points per game last season. The Owls have a pair of three-star recruits coming that should see plenty of playing time right away in Jahlil White and Quincy Ademokoya and another player that is expected to contribute in 6-8 forward Nick Jourdain.
- Key Returners: Jayden Gardner, Tristen Newton, Brandon Suggs, JJ Miles, Tremont Robinson-White
- Key Losses: None
- Key Newcomers: Noah Farrakhan, Derrick Quansah
East Carolina went 11-20 overall and 5-13 in conference play last season and returns everyone from last season’s team while adding a three-star recruit in Noah Farrakhan and a seven-footer in Derrick Quansah. I’m expecting the Pirates to be considerably better than they were last season while approaching the 15-win mark at the very least.
- Key Returners: Jordan Walker, Ray Ona Embo
- Key Losses: TeShaun Hightower, Christion Thompson, KJ Lawson, Nic Thomas
- Key Newcomers: Sion James, Jadan Coleman, Kevin Cross (Nebraska), Jaylen Forbes (Alabama), Gabe Watson (Southern Miss), Oton Jankovic (Vanderbilt)
Tulane went 12-18 overall, but just 4-14 in conference play a year ago. More importantly, the Green Wave lost four of its top five scorers from last season and will have six new faces on their roster this coming season. Expect a bunch of early losses as this team will need time to find its completely new identity.
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