IS THE AMERICAN A FOOTBALL OR BASKETBALL CONFERENCE? (PART 2)

Is the American A Football of Basketball Conference? (Part 2)

There’s been quite a few revelations since I first started writing this series (before a single game was played). There is no doubt, based on the performances of all seasons, that this is a basketball league, and a damn fine one. The football side of things weren’t awful, UCF sort of saved the conference by upsetting Baylor and genuinely playing a great season.

American Athletic basketball, on the other hand, was one of the best conferences in the country. At least on top it was, with Memphis, Louisville, Cincinnati, SMU and national champ UConn leading the pack. Next year things could change; gone are the Cardinals, and in are generally-football leaning Tulsa, Tulane and East Carolina.

And so resumes our series:

Memphis. It’s tragic this squad plays in a 60,000-person football stadium. In a state not known for producing top-notch football talent, the Tigers are arguably the fourth-best football program in the recruiting pecking order(UT, Vandy, Middle Tennessee). Of course, that doesn’t mean the future can’t be bright. Next year’s TV exposure could mean a big step up for this long time gridiron doormat.

Speaking of TV exposure; Cincinnati basketball coach Mick Cronin was quoted recently as saying Memphis was the best hoops team that no one saw last year. Memphis is very much a basketball city, and the Tigers are a pretty big deal. If Mario Chalmers didn’t make it rain in the 2008 championship game, you could even call this program “elite.” This league’s exposure will be good to them. Either way, there’s no question that the University of Memphis is a basketball school.
Verdict: Basketball

While certainly known for hoops, Memphis has huge football upside in the American.

While certainly known for hoops, Memphis has huge football upside in the American.

Navy. Well, the only sport invited to the American Athletic Conference is Navy football. Pretty much all we need to base this on.
Verdict: Football

SMU. This might just be the trickiest one yet. Asked me four months ago and I might have said football. And yes, I know their football has been really, really bad in recent years, but at least they have history. ESPN even did a “30 for 30” on the football program (albeit for serious recruiting violations). But to everyone’s surprise, they’ve managed to become a real threat in basketball. Larry Brown can coach, and most importantly, recruit. These guys are going to be loaded next season, and angry about their NCAA snub.
Verdict: Basketball

Image Credit:  The Commercial Appeal

 

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Could SMU Basketball Make Strides Under Larry Brown?

Coach Larry Brown is a living legend, and even in the twilight of his long career, hiring him was a huge coup for Southern Methodist University. The Mustangs basketball profile has never been very high, and once there was the promise of entering challenging basketball league (the Big East, at the time), they needed a man with name recognition to carry them into the transition.

larry-brown-at-smu

But as realignment unraveled, basketball powers left the league, and Larry Brown vocalized his concern for the newly-formed American, the question remains: is Larry Brown going to turn SMU basketball into a winner?

To be honest, you have to wonder what’s in it for him at this point. Even for a career NBA coach, the promise of coaching in the former Big East must have been a compelling idea. But for someone of his stature and age to enthusiastically continue coaching in a lower-profile (at least for the time being) conference is a lot to ask for. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, however.

He’s recruited well so far, and that’s a huge plus for a program that hasn’t made the big dance since 1993. Local Dallas recruit Keith Frazier was listed 49th in the ESPN 100 recruits, and chose SMU over a pair of in-state Big 12 programs. And you have to imagine the returners are going to improve upon another year in the Larry Brown system. So while it’s hard to imagine a team that was 15-17 last season getting a bid this upcoming year, it could certainly happen down the road.

Maybe Larry Brown will stick around long enough for this program to be successful. Maybe he’ll bail after another year or two and ride off into the sunset of retirement. The fact that he’s kept SMU basketball in the headlines at all means he was probably a good hire.

Anyone want to weigh in on this? Thoughts on Larry winning at SMU? Let me know below!

Image Credit: SMU