Memphis is and has been the class of the conference for the last four years, and next year doesn't look any different. Although the Tigers will lose Robert Dozier, Antonio Anderson, Chance McGrady, and probably Tyreke Evans, their recruiting class is ranked tops in the nation and they have plenty of stars returning that include Shawn Taggert, Wesley Witherspoon, and Doneal Mack.
How does UCF match up? Horribly, but so does everyone else. The Knights may not have a player returning that could even play in Memphis' rotation.
Although the Marshall Thundering Herd finished with a 7-9 record, the future of the basketball program looks bright. The Herd will lose just one player, in Sanford, FL native Daryl Merthie, and they return forwards Markel Humphrey and Tirrell Baines, as well as freshmen stars Damier Pitts and Shaquille Johnson. With sharpshooter Chris Lutz returning for his senior season, the Herd should be much improved.
How does UCF match up? Marshall has more returning talent in Pitts and Johnson, as well as their entire front court and unless Keith Clanton is the second-coming of Jermaine Taylor, the Herd should be better than UCF .
The UTEP Miners will lose Conference USA all-time leading scorer Stefon Jackson, as well as forward Tavaris Watts, but will return 6'11" freshman Arnett Moultrie, as well as star guard Randy Culpepper. Add in solid role players such as Kareem Cooper and Julyan Stone, and the Miners should be good again.
How does UCF match up? Culpepper is better than anyone on UCF's returning roster, and Moultrie is a more athletic player than either A.J. Tyler or Tony Davis, assuming he returns. Otherwise, the Knights match up fairly well.
UAB made it to the C-USA tournament semis last week, and they will likely be hurt the most by graduating seniors. The Blazers lose the keys of their team in star guards Paul Delaney and Robert Vaden, as well as forward Lawrence Kinnard. Throw in role players Channing Toney and coaches son Mike Davis, Jr., and the Blazers will have to rebuild. UAB will return Howard Crawford and speedy point guard Aaron Johnson, and they have a trio of three-star players coming next season.
How does UCF match up? Johnson is a better point guard than A.J. Rompza, but not by much. The Knights will have more shooting and their big men can certainly compete with the Blazers. This is the most favorable matchup thus far.
The Tulane Green Wave played Memphis tougher than anyone in the C-USA quarterfinals, but eventually succumbed to the powerhouse. Tulane said goodbye to seniors Robinson Louisme, Daniel Puckett, and Nick Scott, but return leading scorers Kevin Sims and Kris Richard. Add in solid point guard Eric Vianney and Asim McQueen, and the Green Wave should be an improved unit next fall.
How does UCF match up? Tulane clearly has better big men in Sims, McQueen, and Richard, but the Knights guards can compete. Pending the improvement of A.J. Tyler, Issac Sosa, Chris Baez, and "Kuba," the Knights could be as good as the Green Wave.
See the rest in Part II - Coming Soon