Updated:MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) (AP)
ong> - The new American Athletic Conference just may make its name based on the strength of its teams' backcourts.
There's Russ Smith and Chris Jones at Louisville. Memphis has Michael Dixon joining Geron Johnson, Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford. Connecticut has Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright.
And that's just a few of the them.
"Every team has got some amazing guards, got some guards that are studs that area returning, very explosive guards," UConn coach Kevin Ollie said Wednesday at the league's men's basketball media day. "That's definitely going to allow us to be identified across the country as a high-octane conference with our guards able to play with a freedom and explosiveness that everybody likes to see."
Coach Rick Pitino already had a senior guard returning from the Cardinals' national championship team, but the Louisville coach is adding Jones, the national junior college player of the year. The 5-foot-10 guard from Memphis is so dynamic that Pitino raved over how this might be one of the better backcourts he's coached in his 35 years with Kevin Ware returning from his gruesome injury too.
But Smith and Jones are so good that Pitino said he tries not to put them on opposite sides in practice.
"If I want to have either one of those guys standing, it's best to put them on the same team together," Pitino said. "It's so competitive that it's not healthy for us."
Smith said the Louisville guards know how good they are and the type of competition they'll be facing this season because he's watched some of the AAC's other guards on tape. He wants to be ready to defend them and has some extra motivation.
"They do a lot of things well that I try to emulate and put in my game," Smith said. "If I don't respect them and if I don't love their game ... then it's not going to make me a great competitor. You have to know your opponent to play against them."
TICK TOCK: Connecticut still is waiting for an answer from the NCAA on the status of forward Kentan Facey, a 6-foot-9 forward. The NCAA is considering whether Facey must fall under its delayed enrollment rule, which could mean Facey must sit out a couple years plus a redshirt season.
The forward graduated from a school in Jamaica before moving to New York where he graduated from Long Island Lutheran. A lesser penalty could allow Facey to play immediately with three years of eligibility.
UConn coach Kevin Ollie said they have submitted everything to the NCAA on the case.
"Now it's just a waiting game," Ollie said. "Hopefully, they can fast track it, and we'll hear it soon because we have a season coming upon us and hopefully they take that into consideration."
NOT FIRST THIS TIME: Memphis coach Josh Pastner is experiencing something completely different for him, and so are fans of the Tigers. With Louisville being voted by American coaches as the league's preseason favorite to win the title, that ended a serious streak for Memphis.
"This is going on my fifth year as head coach, and this is my first time we weren't picked to win the league as a head coach," Pastner said.
Memphis dominated Conference USA after Louisville left for the Big East in 2005. Now the teams are together again, even if for only a year before Louisville bolts for the ACC.
"But hey, you have the defending champs, so that's understandable," Pastner said.
NEVER TOO OLD: SMU coach Larry Brown may be a member of the Naismith Hall of Fame with decades of coaching experience. That doesn't mean he's ever too old to learn something new. He said coaches always have to grow because they owe that to their players, a philosophy he learned as a young man himself from Bear Bryant.
The football coach explained at a clinic that he wouldn't install something until Bryant could teach it better than the guy who invented the particular offense.
"That always hit home with me," Brown said.
So when Brown goes to clinics and talks to coaches on how to do better that's the message he sends. Don't just draw up the drills and plays like other coaches but learn how to teach them first.
"So that when you do go out on the court with your kids you're ready to really implement that where it is helpful," Brown said.