The American Athletic Conference will be deep in its inaugural season, with as many as five programs having a strong chance to reach the NCAA tournament. Louisville's only season in the league could produce another trip to the Final Four, but Cincinnati, Memphis and Connecticut all have teams capable of making deep runs in the postseason.
Houston and SMU both have talented young players while Temple has been to the NCAAs in six of Fran Dunphy's seven seasons as head coach of the Owls. UCF and South Florida are extremely athletic and return players who can take over a game. Rutgers' new coach, Eddie Jordan, will try to bring stability to the Scarlet Knights.
Here's how I rank them as things stand right now.
The defending national champions are poised to make their lone season in the American a special one. Despite losing dynamic point guard Peyton Siva and defensive stalwart Gorgui Dieng, the Cards are the team to beat. Rick Pitino's style of play puts constant pressure on the opponent, and although the Cardinals will be undersized up front, I expect them to be even more aggressive in their full-court pressure and matchup defense.