The American Athletic Conference will once again be one of the most competitive conferences in college basketball this season.

AAC preview: Which team will come out on top in 2020?

Last season, the American Athletic Conference established itself as one of the most competitive conferences in college basketball. Eight of the 12 teams finished the season with a winning record, while four basketball programs (Cincinnati, Houston, Temple and UFC) played their way into the bright lights of March Madness last spring.

Ahead of the 2020 NCAA season, the AAC is poised to produce another exciting season with Cincinnati, Houston, Temple and UFC looking to ride their wave of success into the new year, as other schools (Memphis, Wichita State, South Florida, and UConn) awaits to establish themselves as one of the conference's most elite programs.

With arguably the nation's best player residing in Memphis and a few coaching changes that will surely improve a few teams, the AAC will be one of the most intriguing conferences to watch next season.

Five AAC Players to watch

James Wiseman, Memphis, Freshman:

Arguably the most exciting player to walk the campus of Memphis since Derrick Rose, James Wiseman is by far the most compelling college basketball player in the AAC this season. ESPN ranked the 7'0 center as the nation's top basketball recruit coming out of high school, and is the reason why the Memphis Tigers have high expectations heading into next season. Without playing a single game, Wiseman has all but wrapped up the AAC Freshman player of the Year award, and is an early favorite to take home the Naismith honors next spring. A projected No.1 overall pick for the 2020 NBA Draft, Wiseman recorded 25.8 points, 14.8 rebounds and 5.5 blocks as a High School McDonald's All-American last year in Memphis.

Jarron Cumberland, Cincinnati, Senior:

From the AAC's newest star to their oldest, Jarron Cumberland enters his final season with the Cincinnati Bearcats as the conference's most established player. As one of the best guards in the country, Cumberland took the reins as the Bearcats leading scorer, averaging 18.8 points per game—which ranked third in scoring for the AAC. While helping Cincinnati reach the NCAA tournament, Cumberland's play awarded him the AAC's Player of the year honors and first-team All-Conference in 2019. After testing the waters for the NBA, Cumberland may have the most outstanding year of any AAC player in 2020, as Cincinnati looks to punch another ticket to the Big Dance in March.

Quinton Rose, Temple, Senior:

Entering his senior year, Quinton Rose may be the most explosive player in the AAC heading into the new season. In 2019, the 6'8 guard from Rochester, NY, finished top-10 in the conference in scoring (16.3) and led the Temple Owls to a 23-10 (13-5) record. In each of his three years with the Owls, Rose has taken his game to another level, and one should expect him to do the same under Temple's new head coach, Aaron McKie. A projected first-round pick for the 2020 NBA Draft, Rose has the potential to end the season as the AAC's top scorer, while building a case to take home the AAC's Player of the year award in 2020.

Dejon Jarreau, Houston, Junior:

The Houston Cougars are entering the new season of college basketball with hopes of winning more than an AAC regular-season title in 2020. Although it will be a hard feat to accomplish due to the departures of Corey Davis Jr., Armoni Brooks, and Galen Robinson Jr, the Cougars should not be overlooked due to the emerges of the third-year guard, Dejon Jarreau. In 2019, Jarreau played an enormous role in helping the Cougars reach the Sweet-Sixteen as a spark off the bench, averaging 8.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.0 assists. After earning the AAC Sixth-Man of the Year honors, Jarreau has the potential to help Houston surpass their success as the team's top talent.

Precious Achiuwa, Memphis, Freshman:

If James Wiseman falls short of winning the AAC Freshman Player of the Year award, then his teammate Precious Achiuwa may have been a greater standout. Similar to Wiseman, Achiuwa is an ESPN top 25 recruit (No. 17) and is another reason why the Memphis Tigers have high expectations heading into the new season. He is a long and athletic forward who will make the Tigers frontcourt nearly impossible to defend playing next to Wiseman.

Bold Predictions

Memphis will fall short of the AAC title:

Heading into the 2019-2020 college basketball season, all eyes will be on the Memphis Tigers. With head coach Penny Hardaway revamping the basketball program, the Tigers came away with the best recruiting class in the country—headlined by projected No.1 overall pick, James Wiseman. Although the Tigers will emerge as the top team in the conference, one should expect Memphis to fall short of the AAC title to either Cincinnati or Houston. The Tigers are talented, and the hype surrounding them is real. But expect their young talented core to suffer the same fate as Duke (19) and Kentucky (15).

Cincinnati will win the AAC Title:

Last season, the Cincinnati Bearcats pulled an upset to defeat the Houston Cougars for the 2019 American Athletic Conference Men's Basketball title. Although they entered the Big Dance has favorites to reach the Sweet-Sixteen, Cincinnati's had a premature exit by losing to No.10 seed Iowa during the NCAA Tournament. With star guard, Jarron Cumberland, returning for his senior year, look for Cincinnati to break the hearts of Houston or Memphis en route to their third consecutive conference title.

Houston, Memphis, and Cincinnati will make an appearance in the NCAA Tournament:

Heading into the 2019-20 season, the American Athletic Conference has several teams who will be in contention for a tournament bid, but only three teams will have a chance to dance in March. Memphis, Cincinnati and Houston will all represent the AAC in the NCAA Tournament, with the Bearcats advancing the farthest into the elite eight.

Top-5 Must Watch Games

  1. Nov. 12 Oregon at Memphis
  2. Dec. 18 Tennessee at Cincinnati
  3. Jan. 15 Wichita State at Temple
  4. Feb. 1 Houston at Cincinnati
  5. Mar. 8 Memphis at Houston

Projected finish

  1. Memphis
  2. Cincinnati
  3. Houston
  4. Wichita State
  5. Temple
  6. South Florida
  7. UConn
  8. Tulsa
  9. UCF
  10. SMU
  11. Tulane
  12. ECU

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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