2022-2023 College Basketball Conference Preview: AAC Fantasy Outlook

2022-2023 College Basketball Conference Preview: AAC Fantasy Outlook

This article is part of our Conference Preview series.

The AAC had an extremely memorable end to the 2021-2022 season. Houston and Memphis each made their mark in the NCAA tournament and are primed to return to The Big Dance. 

Houston is gearing up for potentially its best season in years, with many of the top playmakers returning, including Marcus Sasser, who missed the majority of last season after suffering a toe injury. The guard was eligible for the 2022 NBA Draft, but ultimately decided to return for one more year with the Cougars. Sasser's return, along with key additions of Jarace Walker and Mylik Wilson, have the Cougars eyeing a championship run. 

Houston defeated Memphis 71-53 in the AAC championship game last season -- a blowout win that truly showed the program's separation from the rest of the conference. It will likely be another season of Houston dominating the conference, with Memphis and Cincinnati primed to be the biggest competitors to the reigning champs. 

This season marks the last year that Houston, UCF, and Cincinnati will compete in the AAC before making the switch to the Big 12. The conference realignment includes the addition of six teams to the AAC, making it a 15-team conference. All six of the schools moving to the AAC for the 2023-24 season are Conference USA teams that include: FAU, North Texas, UAB, Charlotte, Rice, and UTSA. With all the realignment coming to the AAC following the season, who will make their mark? Will Memphis take the next step? Will Houston

The AAC had an extremely memorable end to the 2021-2022 season. Houston and Memphis each made their mark in the NCAA tournament and are primed to return to The Big Dance. 

Houston is gearing up for potentially its best season in years, with many of the top playmakers returning, including Marcus Sasser, who missed the majority of last season after suffering a toe injury. The guard was eligible for the 2022 NBA Draft, but ultimately decided to return for one more year with the Cougars. Sasser's return, along with key additions of Jarace Walker and Mylik Wilson, have the Cougars eyeing a championship run. 

Houston defeated Memphis 71-53 in the AAC championship game last season -- a blowout win that truly showed the program's separation from the rest of the conference. It will likely be another season of Houston dominating the conference, with Memphis and Cincinnati primed to be the biggest competitors to the reigning champs. 

This season marks the last year that Houston, UCF, and Cincinnati will compete in the AAC before making the switch to the Big 12. The conference realignment includes the addition of six teams to the AAC, making it a 15-team conference. All six of the schools moving to the AAC for the 2023-24 season are Conference USA teams that include: FAU, North Texas, UAB, Charlotte, Rice, and UTSA. With all the realignment coming to the AAC following the season, who will make their mark? Will Memphis take the next step? Will Houston live up to their high expectations? Let's dive into the 2022-2023 conference preview.

Top Players

Overall: Marcus Sasser, G, Houston

In three seasons with Houston, Sasser has steadily increased his offensive output with the team, going from starting 17 games as a freshman, to being the Cougars' leading scorer as a sophomore and junior. The guard averaged 17.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.2 steals per game in 12 contests last season before having his season ended early by a toe injury. Sasser is back with the team for his senior season after originally testing the NBA Draft waters. This year, Sasser has a very real chance at being a season-long Player of the Year candidate, as well as a potential All-American finish as one of the nation's best guards. 

Also Considered: Jalen Cook, G, Tulane; Kendric Davis, G, Memphis; Jarace Walker, F, Houston

Scoring: Jalen Cook, G, Tulane

Cook transferred to Tulane following his freshman season at LSU. The guard immediately started last season, averaging a team-leading 18.0 points per game. Cook finished as the second-leading scorer in the AAC last season, ultimately throwing his name into the NBA Draft pool before deciding to return to Tulane. Cook has a legitimate chance to finish as an AAC first-team member in his second season with the Green Wave, a unit with the talent to finish as a top-five team in the conference. 

Also Considered: Marcus Sasser, G, Houston; Kendric Davis, G, Memphis; DeAndre Williams, F, Memphis

Rebounding: DeAndre Williams, F, Memphis

Williams finished the 2021-2022 campaign as a second team All-AAC honoree, averaging 11.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.3 blocks per game last season, starting in 25 of 26 appearances. The 6-foot-9 forward entered his name into the NBA Draft during the offseason, but decided to use his final year of eligibility and return to the Tigers. His 11.1 points and 5.8 rebounds per game ranked No. 2 on the team last season behind Jalen Duren. Memphis will heavily lean on Williams in the frontcourt this season after losing Jalen Duren and Emoni Bates

Also Considered: Malcolm Dandridge, C, Memphis; J'Wan Roberts, F, Houston; Jarace Walker, F, Houston; Kaodirichi Akobundu-Ehiog, F, Memphis

Assists: Jamal Shead, G, Houston

Shead led the way for the Cougars, alongside Kyler Edwards, after Marcus Sasser went down with a season-ending injury. Averaging 5.8 assists per game last season, Shead finds himself in a spot to potential repeat as the team's leader in assists. Shead had a breakout sophomore season at the hands of the Sasser injury, which allowed for the guard to see a significant bump in minutes. Shead averaged 30.9 minutes per game last season, finishing the season top-15 in assists per game. The Cougars are primed for a big season with Sasser and Tramon Mark returning to the squad. Shead has a unique opportunity to tally plenty of assists with all of the scoring options on the Houston roster.

Also Considered: Kendric Davis, G, Memphis; Alex Lomax, G, Memphis; Marcus Sasser, G, Houston; Tramon Mark, F, Houston; DeAndre Williams, F, Memphis, Elijah McCadden, G, Memphis

Center: Malcolm Dandridge, C, Memphis

Dandridge is entering his fourth season on Memphis after experiencing many highs and many lows over his collegiate career. The center has been unable to remain consistently healthy for much of his career, though he has a chance to stand out in the 2022-2023 season. Dandridge lines up alongside DeAndre Williams, who is likely the best forward in the AAC. If Dandridge is unable to stay on the court, Memphis' depth at forward/center may pass him up entirely, though his four-star talent could really be a difference maker in the Tigers' success this season. With Jalen Duren gone, Dandridge is stepping into a large role on the team, a role the Tigers relied heavily on with Duren's rebounding and defensive presence. 

Also Considered: Russel Tchewa, C, South Florida; Mo Njie, C, SMU; Kenny Pohto, C, Wichita State

Freshman: Jarace Walker, F, Houston

Entering as a true freshman, the former five-star recruit has a chance to make his name known early with the Cougars this season. Walker received offers from Alabama, Auburn, Ohio State, Florida and Michigan among others, but chose to commit to Kelvin Sampson and the Cougars. The 6-8 forward is the highest-ranked recruit in Houston basketball history and will likely start out of the gates this season, providing the Cougars with a stud in the frontcourt. 

Also Considered: Taylor Hendricks F, UCF; Josh Reed, G, Cincinnati; Terrance Arceneaux, F, Houston

Sleepers

Rob Phinisee, G, Cincinnati

Phinisee could have also gone in the "transfers" section, as he spent his first four years with the Hoosiers, including his first three as a starter. In his best year, he averaged 7.3 ppg on 37.4 percent shooting -- numbers that should increase in his move outside a traditional "power" conference. Under coach Wes Miller, the Bearcats played at a faster pace than Indiana in 2021-22. They also lose key contributors Mike Saunders (7.3 ppg) and John Newman (6.9 ppg). The door is open for Phinisee to be a primary option, especially if he can improve from three-point range after shooting barely over 26 percent his last two seasons.

Taylor Hendricks, C, UCF

Hendricks is a 6-9, former four-star recruit who will likely make an immediate impact for the Knights this season as a freshman. The Knights will rely on Hendricks and CJ Walker in the frontcourt this season after losing Cheikh Mbacke Diong at center, putting Hendricks in a great spot to start as a true freshman this season. Hendricks received offers from Memphis, LSU, Iowa State, Florida State and Florida among others, ultimately deciding to stay in state and play for UCF. As the Knights regroup this season, they may struggle to make noise in the conference, but expect Hendricks to be a bright spot on the squad this season.

Transfers

Kendric Davis, G, Memphis

Davis finds himself in a rather unique position on Memphis this season. The guard led the AAC in scoring last season, averaging 19.4 points per game for SMU. Following the year's conclusion, Davis announced his decision to transfer to Memphis, a team in a desperate need for a lead guard following the loss of Landers Nolley and Tyler Harris. The former AAC Player of the Year was the top overall transfer during the 2022 offseason. His shooting ability should allow for the Tigers to make another NCAA Tournament run under coach Penny Hardaway. 

Landers Nolley, F, Cincinnati

Nolley left Memphis following its loss to Gonzaga in the round of 32 in last season's NCAA Tournament. The forward will likely be an immediate starter for the Bearcats this season. Nolley averaged 9.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game last season for Memphis, starting the majority of games he appeared in. The 6-7 senior provides range for the Bearcats offense as well. Nolley has averaged over 1.0 threes made per game in all three of his seasons at Memphis, including a career high 2.3 threes made per game in 2020. Nolley looks to help lead the Bearcats to the NCAA tournament along with the likes of Rob Phinisee and Kalu Ezikpe, who both transferred to Cincinnati over the offseason as well. 

Brandon Suggs, F, UCF

Suggs was Eastern Carolina's third-leading scorer last season, averaging 10.1 points per game to go along with 4.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Transferring to conference rival UCF will open the door for Suggs to see a consistent starting role with the Knights and be a major piece for UCF in his senior season. The Knights will likely feature a new-look starting five, giving Suggs all the more reason to provide a major role on the team.

Also Considered: Rob Phinisee, G, Cincinnati; Tyler Harris, G, South Florida; Ithiel Horton, G, UCF, Keyshawn Bryant, F, South Florida

Top-10 Players

  1. Marcus Sasser – Houston
  2. Kendric Davis – Memphis
  3. Jalen Cook – Tulane
  4. Deandre Williams – Memphis
  5. Jarace Walker – Houston
  6. Brandon Suggs – East Carolina
  7. Tyler Harris – South Florida
  8. Craig Porter Jr. – Wichita State
  9. Taylor Hendricks – Central Florida
  10. Landers Nolley – Cincinnati

*Note: These rankings are at the discretion of the article author, and may not necessarily correspond with other 2022-23 rankings/projections tools displayed on the RotoWire site.

Projected Team Standings

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

Other College Basketball Resources:

Our Fantasy College Basketball Draft Kit is rolling out for 2022-23, so make sure you don't miss the following top features:

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Charlie Dern
Charlie Dern is a breaking news contributor for RotoWire, specializing in college sports. He formerly was a beat writer for the Lakeshore Chinooks and Sports News Editor for the Badger Herald, where he covered Wisconsin men's basketball, men's hockey, and football.
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