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Andy Katz, Correspondent | October 15, 2018

AAC basketball: Andy Katz's conference predictions and power rankings for the 2018-19 season

Jasen Vinlove | USA TODAY Sports Images aac basketball 7-7 center Tacko Fall is looking to have a big year for UCF.

PHILADELPHIA — The American produced a national champion in its first season in 2014.

The odds of another title in 2019 aren’t high.

But here is what I learned over the course of men’s basketball media day Monday in Philadelphia: There is tremendous depth with nine schools having a legit shot to be a player for an NCAA tournament berth.

Here are the revised power rankings for the AAC.

MORE: Full season predictions | Big Ten preview | Pac-12 preview

1. UCF: The Knights look the part. I mean, Tacko Fall is 7-7! He told me he grew an inch. He’s healthy and he’s as much a distraction defensively as he is an intimidating force offensively when he finishes. But the experience of B.J. Taylor at the point, Aubrey Dawkins (healthy too) on the wing and Chad Brown as the complement to Fall means Johnny Dawkins has a second weekend type of team. Yes, the sleeping giant of UCF has awoken. This team/school is for real.

Postseason prediction: NCAA tournament

2. Cincinnati: The Bearcats are a model of consistency. It would be nice if the rest of the country got on board. Mick Cronin has done a phenomenal job with this program. All he does is win, defend, win, and win. Sure, last season’s 22-point loss to Nevada was disappointing. But don’t fret. The Bearcats will be right back in the mix with Jarron Cumberland, Justin Jenifer and Cane Broome as the anchors. Cincinnati has taken turns with various teams in this league building rivalries. Here comes a new one with UCF.

Postseason prediction: NCAA tournament

3. Houston: The Cougars are going to be back in the NCAA tournament in consecutive seasons for the first time since the Phi Slama Jama era in the early to mid ’80s. I brought up the loss to Michigan on the Jordan Poole's 3-pointer Monday to coach Kelvin Sampson and he said he had no words for his team. Houston deserved to win that game. But the Cougars could have more opportunities with Corey Davis Jr., Galen Robinson Jr. and Armoni Brooks back. This Houston squad will still be able to shoot, even without Rob Gray.

Postseason prediction: NCAA tournament

Michigan hits buzzer beater to move past Houston

4. Memphis: Penny Hardaway said he’s got a squad that can compete for the top spot in the AAC. He may not be far off. Look, he’s a winner and he isn’t going to downplay the potential. The Tigers have a few studs in Jeremiah Martin and Kyvon Davenport. Memphis will be able to score. If this squad defends the way Hardaway demands then the Tigers will be a top four AAC team and an NCAA tournament participant. One thing is certain: There is a buzz around this squad. Hardaway has a presence about him, and it will rub off on the Tigers.

Postseason prediction: On the bubble

5. UConn: O.K., this is where it gets interesting. Teams at 5-8 could end up finishing higher or in a muddled middle. The Huskies are one of those squads. Dan Hurley doesn’t accept mediocrity — and he doesn’t have to with this group. He’s got plenty to work with in Jalen Adams, Christian Vital and a healthy Alterique Gilbert. If the Huskies buy in defensively the way Hurley coaches, then they could be one of the most surprising teams — not just in the American. Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall told me that UConn has a strong roster, and he’s right. The Huskies will be a player in Hurley’s first season.

Postseason prediction: On the bubble

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6. Temple: Fran Dunphy is coaching his last season at Temple before Aaron McKie takes over. This isn’t a farewell tour because Dunphy won’t be as welcome a sight when his team comes in and possibly beats other contenders. The respect he commands from his peers is warranted. He is the the consummate coach who has been loyal, ethical and a tremendous leader/representative of the profession and sport. And his players are going to send him off well. Shizz Alston Jr. and Quinton Rose give the Owls plenty of pop on the perimeter. Don’t be surprised if they're in the mix for a bid.

Postseason prediction: On the bubble

7. Tulsa: Golden Hurricanes coach Frank Haith wasn’t able to be in Philadelphia Monday as he was ill. But he told me via text that this is his best team since he’s been at Tulsa. Haith’s teams have bucked the prediction trend in each of his four seasons and have finished higher than projected. Tulsa was picked ninth Monday. I say they finish at least seventh to continue the trend. Remember the names DaQuan Jeffries and Sterling Taplin.

Postseason prediction: On the bubble

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8. SMU: The Mustangs have won or shared two of the last four AAC titles. Tim Jankovich has a 72.7 percent win percentage. This squad gets it done — when healthy. If the Mustangs can stay out of the training room then they too will be a team that could fluctuate anywhere from the top four to the middle five. Jarrey Foster will be the player to watch throughout the course of the season. The Mustangs usually defend well and if they can finish games, they will be a bubble team.

Postseason prediction: On the bubble

9. Wichita State: This was the hardest team to seed. The Shockers never finish this low. They just don’t. Marshall told me I wasn’t wrong to doubt the Shockers with so much gone from their previous winning teams. Markis McDuffie is healthy and he’s going to be a beast in the league. But Wichita State return almost no one else and will be recreating the Shocker identity. Marshall said this team will be much improved come February. I believe him. So, I know I’m probably going to be wrong on Wichita.

Postseason prediction: NIT tournament

Jon Elmore scores 27 points in Marshall's win

10. USF: Here’s where it gets tricky. Brian Gregory said he’s finally got all his players. But this team is young and inexperienced. They are a huge unknown. But Gregory has had great success in his career, making a big jump in his second season in previous stops at Dayton and Georgia Tech, winning at least 17 games in each of those destinations in year two. Gregory said he would take that in a second here in the second season at USF.

Postseason prediction: None

11. Tulane: Mike Dunleavy is high on this squad, as he should be in October, but the Green Wave did lose Melvin Frazier, the first Tulane NBA draft pick in 21 years. Jordan Cornish could be a stud for this squad. There are a lot of unknowns here. But Dunleavy has proven throughout his career that he can maximize talent. This team will be improved but may not move up in the standings.

Postseason prediction: None

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12. ECU: Joe Dooley comes back for his second stint at East Carolina after being the head coach in the late ‘90s. Shawn Williams had a run in the last nine games last season, making 43.8 percent of his 3s during that stretch. If he can be the anchor for this squad, the Pirates have a good starting point. ECU fans will just have to be patient. Dooley showed at Florida Gulf Coast that he can excite and win. It just may not be in year one.

Postseason prediction: None

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