Ready for some 3-on-3 about the upcoming American Athletic Conference basketball season? We've assembled three basketball expects and asked them three questions. They've got answers.
1. The American lost every member of last season's all-conference first team -- so who's your 2018-19 POY?
Jeff Borzello: The front-runner going into the season should be UConn guard Jalen Adams. He averaged 18.1 points and 4.7 assists last season, and also had the best shooting season of his career despite the increased usage and minutes. Most thought Adams would leave for the NBA draft -- or at least test the waters -- but he decided to come back for his senior season under Dan Hurley. If UCF can stay healthy, B.J. Taylor will be a candidate -- and Cincinnati's Jarron Cumberland is expected to take a major step forward. But Adams likely has the highest ceiling of any of the top names.
John Gasaway: I'll go with Jeremiah Martin of Memphis. I'm as confident as I can be about this pick given that Martin: (a) missed the final seven games of last season with a broken foot; and (b) underwent hernia surgery in the offseason. That being said, if the 6-foot-3 senior's healthy, he definitely has game. Martin averaged 18.9 points per contest last season while upping both his efficiency and his workload.
Myron Medcalf: Before injuries interrupted a subpar season in 2017-18, Markis McDuffie was the most important player on Wichita State's roster. With Landry Shamet turning pro and the fleet of seniors who led last season's team moving on, too, the Shockers are McDuffie's team again. He put up solid numbers in a starring role two years ago: 11.5 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 36 percent from beyond the arc and 82 percent from the charity stripe. He should top those tallies this season.
2. Can Dan Hurley return UConn to its former glory?
Borzello: Considering UConn's former glory was four national championships in 15 years, probably not. I mean, even one national championship in 15 years would be a huge accomplishment. But if we bring down the expectations a bit, back to being a consistent NCAA tournament team, then I do think Hurley can get there --- even though the program is in a very different position than it was a decade ago, in terms of reputation, conference affiliation, etc. This is what Hurley does, though. The season before he arrived at Wagner, the Seahawks won five games. Two seasons later, they went 25-6. The year before he arrived at Rhode Island, the Rams won seven games. Yet he took them to back-to-back NCAA tournaments before leaving for UConn. It won't happen overnight, but Hurley will have the Huskies dancing again soon.
Gasaway: I'm with Jeff -- four national titles in 15 years is going to be a tough act to follow. But if we define glory more modestly as simply doing what Cincinnati has done so well and so unassumingly -- going from the Big East to the American and continuing to play great basketball all the while -- then, yes, Hurley can get it done. At a minimum, the rest of the American can start getting ready for some very tough defense from the Huskies.
Medcalf: I visited UConn a few weeks ago and talked to players about this. Adams said players have enjoyed Hurley's hands-on approach. He's full of energy, which is what he'll need to sign top players and lead Connecticut back to prominence. But Kevin Ollie was a former player who won a national title, and he couldn't create a sustainable, consistent talent pipeline at his alma mater. I think Hurley has the tools to change that. But he's facing a major challenge in Storrs.
3. Which American team will be the most dangerous in the 2019 NCAA tournament?
Borzello: Whichever team makes it. Yeah, I said it. I think there's a legitimate chance the AAC gets only one team into the NCAA tournament. Look, UCF is my preseason favorite to win the conference, and I'm not sure it's a top-40 team nationally. If that's indeed the case, it's hard for me to say the league has multiple locks for the NCAA tournament. Will the AAC find a way to get multiple teams in the mix for a bid and end up with two or three on Selection Sunday? Maybe -- but I'm not sure who that's going to be right now. I do think Houston is a little undervalued in the preseason and will present UCF's stiffest competition for a league title, but the Cougars are probably not a sure-fire tournament team, either. Cincinnati will be a factor because of its consistency on the defensive end, and the Bearcats are a major question mark, too, due to the frontcourt departures. It's a step-back season for the American and as a result, there's a chance it only gets one tourney bid on Selection Sunday.
Gasaway: Houston. Kelvin Sampson lost Rob Gray and Devin Davis, but he brings back three starters from a team that came within a Jordan Poole game winner of beating Michigan in the round of 32. Corey Davis Jr. and Armoni Brooks will make 3s, Fabian White Jr. could be in line for a step forward as a sophomore, and maybe redshirt freshman Cedrick Alley Jr. can provide a lift after missing all of last season due to a hip-flexor injury.
Medcalf: I think Cincinnati might struggle this season after losing its nucleus from a year ago. The Bearcats could have challenges with limited size. Cumberland and Cane Broome are reliable scorers, but it's unclear if anyone will help them balance the offensive responsibilities. But I think the Bearcats will figure things out in time to win the league tournament and enter March with momentum. The defense will be solid, per the norm. Don't be surprised if Mick Cronin's squad is the league's most dangerous team entering the NCAA tournament.