The AAC will open its league slate with a pair of veteran coaches taking the reigns of their current programs for the first time.
Tubby Smith and Memphis will play Tim Jankovich and SMU in the debut of the AAC 2016-17 season on Dec. 27, it was announced, along with the rest of the league schedule, on Thursday.
Smith takes over the Tigers programs after stints at Texas Tech and Minnesota, which followed his national championship tenure at Kentucky. Jankovich was Larry Brown’s associate head coach after his own successful run at Illinois State.
Conference favorites Cincinnati and UConn begin their conference slates the next day, with the Bearcats at Temple and the Huskies hosting Houston. Mike Dunleavy will make his AAC debut when his Tulane team hosts UCF that day.
Cincy hosts UConn on Saturday, Feb. 4, with the return game in Storrs coming on the final day of the season, March 5.
The NCAA still hasn’t made decisions on the eligibility of a few incoming freshmen, including UCF 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall.
According to a report from the Orlando Sentinel, Fall and UCF are still awaiting a decision from the NCAA on the center’s academic eligibility, in-part because he’s an international student hailing from Senegal.
Regarded as a three-star prospect coming out of high school, Fall could immediately help the Knights because his unique size is impossible to practice for and he’s a good rim protector. Fall is still allowed to practice with the team as he awaits the NCAA’s ruling, but he can’t participate in games or travel with the team.
If Fall isn’t cleared to play shortly, he could miss a highly-anticipated matchup against UC Irvine on Nov. 18 in which he could go head-to-head against another 7-foot-6 center in Mamadou N’Diaye.
One of the country’s most intriguing teams this season will be UConn, who returns a lot of talent and adds some interesting fifth-year transfers. The Huskies won their exhibition debut over the weekend with an 88-72 win over Division II Tampa and it was behind a balanced effort.
Cornell transfer Shonn Miller looked good in his UConn debut with 18 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals and four other Huskies finished in double-figures. Freshman guard Jalen Adams offered a speedy change-of-pace option off the bench for UConn and scored 14 points, the same amount as guard Rodney Purvis. Senior Omar Calhoun contributed 11 and Daniel Hamilton chipped in 10.
Ollie went 10 deep in the game and he clearly has a lot of talented pieces at his disposal — I didn’t even get to center Amida Brimah or Seton Hall transfer guard Sterling Gibbs, among others — and figuring out a rotation will be an on-going early-season process.
Also interesting to track with UConn is who will step up and take the lead early in the season. Ollie had a pretty revealing quote after the game and Dom Amore of the Hartford Courant mentioned it in his report.
“You can have a lot of guys contribute,” Ollie said to reporters, “but you have to have a guy that can be that alpha dog, too. That team we had [two years ago], we had options, but Shabazz [Napier] was that guy when everything got in disarray and tough, he was that guy to bring them together. That’s what I’m searching for right now, and I think I’m going to find it. Daniel didn’t have the game he’s supposed to have, but it was just the first game.”
That quote says a fair amount about the Huskies at this point and there is still uncertainty with who might take over down the stretch for a talented team. Hamilton could be in line for a big year as a sophomore and Ollie is expecting a lot on him, as he mentions him specifically in this quote. Even if Hamilton doesn’t have a huge scoring night, this Husky team probably has enough balance to win on some off nights. If Hamilton plays at a higher level, UConn could be a dangerous — and deep — team this season.
USF and head coach Orlando Antigua continue to add wings in the Class of 2016 as three-star wing Malik Fitts pledged to the Bulls on Tuesday.
The 6-foot-5 native of California is coming off of his official visit to campus last weekend and he joins four-star wing Troy Baxter and three-star guard Andres Feliz in South Florida’s 2016 class.
Fitts ran with Earl Watson Elite in the Under Armour Association this spring and summer and was second on the team in both points (10.2 ppg) and rebounds (5.6 rpg). South Florida is adding a big-bodied wing who can finish above the rim and he’s tough to stop in transition. Along with Baxter, this is a solid group that is coming in for the Bulls.
Proud to announce that I will continue my education and basketball career at the University of South Florida 🏀 #GoBulls
SMU basketball will hear from the NCAA on Tuesday about possible sanctions, NBCSports.com has learned. The issue with men’s basketball stems from former SMU assistant coach Ulric Maligi and a basketball administrator helping guard Keith Frazier with course work. A sophomore last season, Frazier was ruled academically ineligible in January and sat out the rest of the 2014-15 season.
Frazier is academically eligible and back with the team and the Mustangs and head coach Larry Brown will know their fate on Tuesday.
SMU officials met with the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions in June and responded to a list of allegations. The concern is if Brown knew about Maligi and the secretary helping Frazier. When a decision is made, SMU can appeal or accept the findings. If the NCAA finds a lack of control on Brown, then the head coach could be given a game penalty.
The NCAA investigation looming over SMU has certainly hurt them in recruiting already as LaGerald Vick decommitted and ended up at Kansas for this season. It’s also led to only one commitment in the Class of 2016 for SMU so far.
UCF landed its first pledge in the Class of 2016 by getting three-star shooting guard Clayton Hughes. A bouncy 6-foot-5 shooting guard, Hughes hails from Tennessee and had some strong flashes of play this summer with Team Thad. Hughes also ran with Team M33M at times during the spring as well.
The Knights are getting a lefty guard who can hit some shots and also attack the basket in Hughes. Coming off of a strong 2015 recruiting haul that included four three-star prospects, this is a solid start in 2016 for head coach Donnie Jones.
Here’s some highlights of Hughes from this fall at a showcase event, courtesy of Next Up Recruits.