The American Athletic Conference men’s basketball coaches apparently aren’t impressed by the highest rated recruiting class in Tulane coach Ed Conroy’s tenure.
For the second consecutive year, they picked the Green Wave last in the 11-team league in a poll released Tuesday at Media Day in Orlando, Florida. And this time, it was a nearly unanimous sentiment.
Tulane received 11 points in the voting, meaning nine coaches tabbed it 11th and one put it 10th. Coaches could not vote for their own teams.
“First of all, we don’t rely on polls to determine where you finish and what you can compete for,” Tulane coach Ed Conroy said. “We can earn anything we want to do on the court. But secondly, I don’t put any expectations on the coaches’ poll. We have a lot of guys that people haven’t seen perform individually or as a unit.”
Five freshmen, including four three-star recruits according to Rivals.com, will make their debut on Nov. 5 when Tulane faces next-door neighbor Loyola in an exhibition game. LSU transfer Malik Morgan and Washington transfer Jernard Jarreau will join them.
The mass additions could help the Wave move up in the AAC standings after finishing 2014-15 by losing 11 of its last 13 games.
“I don’t think there’s anybody that wouldn’t acknowledge that we have some talented young guys, but they are inexperienced together and how they jell is going to determine where they go,” Conroy said. “If we come together the right way, we’ve proved last year we can compete, and these guys understand that.”
SMU was picked to win the AAC for the second straight year, receiving eight first-place votes. Connecticut, which won the national championship two years ago but missed the NCAA tournament last season, came in second with two first-place votes, and third-place Cincinnati received the remaining first-place vote.
The NCAA barred SMU from postseason tournament play in September for multiple violations, suspending coach Larry Brown for the first nine games.
The rest of the predicted finish, in order, was Tulsa, Memphis, Temple, Houston, East Carolina, Central Florida, South Florida and Tulane.
Although Conroy said he was not surprised by Tulane’s position, he was disappointed senior guard Louis Dabney did not make the coaches’ first or second team. SMU guard Nic Moore was named preseason Player of the Year, while players from schools picked first through fifth accounted for all 10 spots.
Dabney averaged 13.6 points and 3.3 rebounds as a junior.
“I was more surprised with that than the team poll,” Conroy said. “Lou received some preseason notoriety last year and I don’t think he disappointed anybody. He was outstanding, and everybody in the league acknowledges how much he means to our team.”
Tulane exceeded the coaches’ expectations last year, but not dramatically, finishing 6-12 in its first year of AAC play, tying for seventh place. The Wave won five league games on the road but only one at Devlin Fieldhouse.
Conroy said he expects the initial experience in the AAC will pay off in year No. 2.
“It should mean a great deal,” he said. “We have guys that have gone on the road and understand what you need to do to go on the road and be successful in this league. They also understand we need to do a better job defending our home court.”