A new AAC basketball world (video)
Some news, notes and quotes from today's inaugural American Athletic Conference at the FedEx Forum in Memphis:
-- Check out the attached video of Louisville coach Rick Pitino talking about why he picked UConn to place second in the AAC coaches' preseason poll. He also says some nice things about coach Kevin Ollie.
-- Ollie, senior Shabazz Napier and juniors DeAndre Daniels and Ryan Boatright represented UConn at media day.
They arrived Tuesday inMemphisand sampled the famous Memphis BBQ. They left the local restaurant stuffed and happy.
Ollie joked that they would have to find something else to eat for a pre-game meal when they return to playMemphisthis season.
-- UConn took its No. 2 ranking in the coaches' preseason poll in stride. Defending national champion Louisville was the unanimous pick to win the conference.
"Like I always say, it's just a number," Napier said. "You can be the second team and end up being the last team in the conference at the end of the day. It's good to have the feeling of being the second ranked team in this conference."
"It's a good conference with great guards and good coaches."
-- Of course, AAC coaches raved about the new conference.
Louisville will likely be the preseason No. 1 team in most top 25 polls. Memphis, UConn and Cincinnati are strong programs. Others, like SMU and Houston, are on the rise.
"You can't have a better league,"Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "I think it's as good as any conference in college basketball. We will be preseason top five. Memphiswill be preseason top 10.Cincinnati and Connecticut will be top 15, top 25.Temple is in the top 25 area.
"I think it's going to be great."
-- It's no secret that UConn and Cincinnati would rather be in a higher profile league. But when the Big East broke up, the two schools had to settle for the AAC.
Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin plans on making the best of his program's situation.
"You've to embrace it," Cronin said. "Kevin and I are good friends. We're trying to run national elite programs. You've just got to make sure you continue to develop your brand."
-- Rutgers, another former Big East team, earned the dubious distinction of being picked to finish last in the AAC.
But Cronin said that's a sign that the conference is strong from top to bottom.
"If they've picked last, that tells you how good this league is," Cronin said of Rutgers. "I can tell you they wouldn't have been picked last in the Big East."
First-year coach Eddie Jordan had just four players on his roster when he took over the mess at Rutgers. He has rebuilt the team almost from scratch.
"We're happy where we are…," Jordansaid. "We were picked 10th so there's no where to go but up."
-- Memphis will serve as the conference tournament host next March. It should be worth the trip. FedEx Forum is located right downtown next to Beale Street, a tourist hot spot. Bars, restaurants and hotels all are nearby.
There's a downtown trolley system to get around. A taxi ride from the airport costs in the $25-$30 range.
"What an outstanding venue," AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said.
-- Aresco spent a good deal of his opening remarks pumping up the new conference. "We feel we are a power conference from day one."
-- AAC media day is a sure sign that the start of the college basketball season is not too far away.
"It just makes us more excited…," Daniels said of media day. "I feel like I want to suit up right now and start playing. The season is close and we can't wait."
-- ESPN's Seth Greenberg did a great job running a group discussion with the AAC coaches. He covered several topics, including social media.
SMU coach Larry Brown, the oldest coach in the conference at 73, is not a big fan of social media.
"I just learned how to tweet or text, or whatever you call it," Brown said.
Pitino called social media a distraction.
"It's a trap that leads to mediocrity," Pitino said.
-- Three AAC coaches once stomped the sidelines in the NBA. Ollie also played for all three on the professional level.
Jordan was the head coach of the Washington Wizards and Philadelphia76ers and served as an assistant for the Los Angeles Lakers, New Jerseyand Sacramento.
While with the Nets, he coached Ollie.
"I'm not surprised,"Jordansaid of Ollie's instant success as a college head coach. "And he still has a 32-inch waist. He looks great, man."
Brown's impressive NBA head coaching career includes stops at Charlotte, Detroit, Philadelphia, Indiana, Los Angeles Clippers, New Jersey and San Antonio.
Pitino had head coaching jobs with New York and Boston.
-- Brown declined to answer a question about Boatright's NBA prospects.
But he did say this about the UConn guard: "He's a great, great college player. Great college players have a tendency to be able to play on the next level."
This is a big year for Boatright who needs to show that he can run a team from the point guard spot in order to increase his draft stock.
-- UConn will hold its First Night on Friday at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs.
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