College Basketball Nation: American Athletic Conference

American team previews

October, 16, 2013
From Sept. 30 through Oct. 25, Insider will be rolling out its college basketball preview, including breakdowns on every Division I team, projected order of finish for every conference and essays from Insider’s hoops experts.

Here are previews for each team in The American.

Louisville Cardinals Insider
Connecticut Huskies Insider
Memphis Tigers Insider
Cincinnati Bearcats Insider
SMU Mustangs Insider
Houston Cougars Insider
UCF Knights Free
Temple Owls Insider
South Florida Bulls Insider
Rutgers Scarlet Knights Insider
1. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said Thursday on our ESPNU College Basketball podcast that underclassmen should be able to work out for NBA teams before making a decision on whether to remain in the draft. That was the rule before the change by the NCAA in 2009. Izzo saw forward Adreian Payne take his time before opting to return to East Lansing. Izzo is a proponent of one date instead of the two current ones -- the NCAA's arbitrary one, with nothing binding, a week after the Final Four and the NBA's real deadline on the last Sunday in April. "I've never seen so much confusion,'' Izzo said. Izzo was also agreed with the point that if NBA teams paid for the workouts, it would alleviate one of the concerns the NCAA has had about extra benefits for draft hopefuls.

2. Izzo also said Michigan State and Gonzaga are trying to finalize a game at Spokane (Wash.) Arena on Dec. 7 to honor the life of former Michigan State coach and current Spokane resident Jud Heathcote. Heathcote attends Gonzaga games when he is able. Izzo said the plan was to have a doubleheader involving the four schools Heathcote coached or has a strong affinity for: Michigan State, Gonzaga, Washington State and Montana. Montana coach Wayne Tinkle said he'd love to do it, but Washington State coach Ken Bone said he has a scheduling conflict.

3. The NCAA Board of Directors officially recognized and ratified the new Big East Conference and the name change of the old Big East to the American Athletic Conference. That means the NCAA tournament will officially have 32 automatic berths in 2014 and 36 at-large berths. It also means that everyone had better get used to the American conference because unless significant expansion occurs again, the American is here to stay.
1. Wisconsin-Green Bay spokesperson Christopher Sampson said Tuesday that the lesson the school learned from the Rutgers case when there are allegations of mistreatment against a coach is that the story goes national. But UWGB has already done something Rutgers didn't and should have immediately -- take the investigation out of the school's hands. When the results are in from the independent investigation, led by a local attorney, then it will be much harder to refute the results if everyone involved has cooperated in talking to the investigator and all evidence has been examined. Rutgers made the major mistake of only examining the charges within Rutgers last fall. The penalties -- if there are any -- should be decided by the president and athletic director. But to put the parents at ease of a fair investigation by using a third party, the issue has a chance to be treated appropriately. This will also help coach Brian Wardle if he is exonerated since it would come from a third party without any agenda to either save or hurt his job status.

2. The Lance Thomas case involving how the former Duke player received a loan to purchase jewelry while a senior in 2009-10 had no chance with the NCAA when the key people involved -- Thomas and a jeweler -- decided not to talk to the NCAA. This has always been the issue with the NCAA. The only people who are "forced" to talk to them are those who still are employed by an NCAA institution and players who still have eligibility remaining. In this case, having a third party of an experienced attorney or professional investigator may not have mattered, either, since Thomas and the jeweler wouldn't have been under any legal obligation to talk. Still, it would have helped perception for the NCAA if the attempt was made by an independent body. If the NCAA is going to regain its credibility, then using a third party, out of NCAA headquarters, to conduct investigations might make more sense. There is a larger extra benefit issue here at stake that may need to be addressed of whether or not it's OK for players to be treated differently in securing loans or product because of who they are as long as everything is done legally. This is an ongoing fluid topic about whether or not an athlete can be treated differently for what they do for the university.

3. The new American Athletic Conference is close to securing the Mohegan Sun Casino arena, home to the WNBA's Connecticut Sun, for the women's basketball tournament in 2014. But the American Athletic Conference isn't interested apparently in making it a home for the men's tournament. Instead, sites like the XL Center in Hartford, FedEx Forum in Memphis and facilities in Cincinnati, Tampa and the Palestra in Philadelphia are being considered. Bids are being accepted and a decision is forthcoming in the coming weeks. UConn athletic director Warde Manuel said the 9,000 seats would probably be too small for the men's event in the hope that it could grow beyond that at a place like the XL Center. But the new conference needs a destination site and the Mohegan Sun could offer that for fans, akin to those who go to Las Vegas sites at the MGM for the Pac-12 and the Orleans Arena for the WCC. The American Athletic Conference needs to make the right call here in the hope that this tournament can grow. It will have the advantage of Louisville fans flooding the site for 2014, but then won't have the Cardinal faithful in 2015 and beyond. So making a long-term choice that will be a destination for fans is critical.
1. New American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco relished the moment Monday night as one of his teams -- for this season and, yes, for next -- won a national title. He was guaranteed of another heading into the women's final Tuesday night, which featured American-bound current Big East teams Louisville and Connecticut. It is true that Louisville is heading to the ACC in the fall of 2014. But that won't keep the league from celebrating the titles this fall. The old Big East guard is trying to brand the new league as the American rather than as the AAC. Aresco doesn't want the acronym used if possible.

2. Memphis coach Josh Pastner said he gave Tarik Black a Tuesday deadline to decide if he wanted to stay with the Tigers. He did not, even though he was graduating. "I want guys to be here with enthusiasm to be here,'' said Pastner. Black will transfer and try to play immediately next season. The Tigers also lost Adonis Thomas, who is declaring for the NBA draft. But the American-bound Tigers have one of the top recruiting classes in the country. "(Black) is a good guy and I wish him the very best. He graduated," Pastner said. "But we'll be fine. We're still really talented. We've got the main corps and we've got the No. 2 recruiting class.''

3. I had new Minnesota coach Richard Pitino on "Katz Korner" on Tuesday and I was struck by his confidence. Pitino is just like his father in that regard. Pitino had no hesitation in taking the Minnesota job once offered. Now, one would assume that no one coaching at Florida International would turn that down. But Pitino definitely has the confidence that he will win. Pitino's hire was overshadowed by the events of last week; now he's got to get into the grind of the new job. He was on the Georgia Dome floor Monday night after the NCAA title game, spent the post-game hours with his dad -- Rick, head coach of the champion Louisville Cardinals -- and said they didn't get to bed until 5 a.m. before Richard was up at 7 a.m. Richard Pitino now must spend his time wisely, re-recruiting the local players and trying to make inroads with a stellar underclassman crew in the state of Minnesota.

Video: Old Big East now American Athletic

April, 3, 2013

ESPN college football reporter Brett McMurphy on the American Athletic Conference being selected as the new name for the former Big East Conference. For McMurphy's full story, click here.