This article is part of our Conference Preview series.
It wasn't that long ago that the American Athletic was the conference of the national champion. Connecticut won the title just two years ago, but it seems like the AAC has now taken a backseat to the Big East (home of the current champ). In many ways, the AAC is the old Conference USA – plus UConn. There are other fine teams here: Memphis, SMU, and Cincinnati are worth noting, but there are enough Tier 2 teams that generally drag one of the newest conferences down. Lifting the bottom of the conference would help the group gain an identity.
Dedric Lawson (F)
At the end of the year, it would be a surprise if anyone other than Lawson were the AAC Player of the Year. The 6-foot-9 sophomore is coming off a great season for the Tigers. He averaged 15.8 points, a conference-leading 9.3 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks. With Shaq Goodwin no longer clogging the paint, those numbers could increase. Memphis would have to win more for Lawson to make noise on the national scene. Coach Tubby Smith takes the reins of the Tigers after a successful stint at Texas Tech. Smith has helped many players to the NBA, including Tayshaun Prince, Jamaal Magloire, and Rajon Rondo. Lawson should be the next to make the leap.
Gary Clark (F)
In his sophomore season, Clark made a pleasant leap in production. He showed that he could rebound as a freshman and continued to hit the boards in his second