Top 5 Players In The AAC For 2013-14
Top 5 Players in the AAC
The college basketball season is inching closer with each passing day. We've already gotten a look at what conference realignment has brought to football, and now we'll get to see the effects on the hardwood.
The American Athletic Conference saw a ton of movement, and it will continue after this year. However, let's not get ahead of ourselves and start thinking about future moves. For now, we'll stick to the upcoming season and the programs in the conference this year.
The AAC will be one of the better basketball conferences in 2013-14, with teams such as the Cincinnati Bearcats, Connecticut Huskies, Louisville Cardinals and Memphis Tigers. The Cardinals are the reigning national champions and are favorites to repeat. Rick Pitino's team, however, will be challenged by the Bearcats, Huskies and Tigers for the conference's inaugural title.
The good teams are full of good players. The AAC boasts some of the premiere players in the country, and even the bench players are very good. However, which players are the best in the conference?
The following list ranks the the top five teams in the AAC in ascending order to the best player in the league heading into the season. This isn't saying the players that will actually finish with the best stats or overall year, but rather the five players who should have the biggest impacts this year for their teams, based on their past performances.
No. 5 Joe Jackson, G, Memphis Tigers
Joe Jackson surpassed the 1,000 career-point mark as a junior, and was named the C-USA Player of the Year. He averaged career highs in points (13.6), assists (4.8), rebounds (3.3) and steals (1.7) per game. He's the unquestioned senior leader on a Tigers team that is loaded.
He has great ball-handling skills and speed. He can beat you in a number of ways by getting to the rim, making a pass to an open teammate, or stepping back behind the three-point line. He's going to go down as a Tiger great, and is poised for his best season yet.
No. 4 Ryan Boatright, G, Connecticut Huskies
Jackson could easily move past Ryan Boatright on this list, and averaged more than the junior Huskies guard in assists (4.4) and rebounds (2.9). However, Boatright has been a better scorer (15.4 ppg in 2012-13), bringing him in at No. 4. He was a pivotal part of UConn's team last season ,and should be the team's second scoring option.
Boatright struggled from three-point range, hitting only 33.3 percent of his attempts, but his field goal percentage was 42.9 percent because of his ability to drive to the paint and finish. If he could improve his long-range game, Boatright could be a very dangerous weapon.
No. 3 Sean Kilpatrick, G, Cincinnati Bearcats
The Bearcats' Sean Kilpatrick can score with the best of them. At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, he has a great basketball frame and uses it well. He led the team with 17.0 ppg and added a nice 5.2 boards. Despite playing the same minutes as his sophomore year, he raised his ppg average 2.7 points. He has a lot of room to improve on his three-point shooting, however, which was a lowly 30.7 percent.
Kilpatrick will once again be Cincinnati's best player and relied heavily on. It wouldn't be a surprise if he led the conference in scoring.
No. 2 Shabazz Napier, G, Connecticut Huskies
The first scoring option in front of Boatright is senior Shabazz Napier, a do-it-all guard. Napier is coming off a junior year in which he averaged 17.4 ppg, 4.6 assists and 4.4 rebounds. He's a great slasher, using his quickness and ball-handling skills to blow by defenders. Napier is also a very good passer and create shots for teammates.
The fact that he can step back and hit the three (39.8 percent last year) makes opposing coaches scheme around him. What makes him so good, however, is his defense. He averaged 2.0 steals per contest and can play right up on his man. His last year will be a fun one to watch, and he'll make the Huskies a tough out on any night.
No. 1 Russ Smith, G, Louisville Cardinals
Russ Smith surprised everyone back in April when he announced he would return for his senior season and, more importantly, for a chance to repeat as national champions. The 6-foot-1, 165 pound guard from Brooklyn was by far the best player on the nation's best team, so it shouldn't surprise anyone he takes the top spot on this list. He posted 18.7 ppg, 3.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists and was 36th nationally in steals per game at 2.1.
Smith is a prolific scorer and takes over games on the daily for Louisville. He does have a couple things that if he can fix, he'll probably be a top 10 pick in next year's NBA Draft. He shot just 32.8 percent from three-point range and 41.2 percent overall. He's not a great shooter, but that's something he can fix. He also turned the ball over way too many times at 2.7 a game. Sometimes he plays too fast and gets ahead of himself, so Smith just needs to cool the jets at times and play within himself.
Regardless, Smith is easily the best player in the AAC and is primed for a big final year.