The biggest attraction in the American Athletic Association has returned and is hoping for a big senior season.
Tacko Fall, the 7-foot-6, 310-pound center for Central Florida, returns after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery in January.
"I am feeling great," Fall said Monday during the AAC's media day at the Philadelphia Airport Marriott.
Even with college basketball (and the NBA) going to a more perimeter-oriented game, players such as Fall can still be a major factor, especially on the defensive end. He has 195 career blocked shots.
For Fall and UCF, there will be big expectations. The Knights were selected in the coaches poll as the preseason choice to win the AAC.
"We just have a lot of experience and we are trying to be the best we can be and win every game and take it day by day," said Fall, who is from Dakar, Senegal.
UCF returns four starters, including redshirt senior guard B.J. Taylor, the AAC preseason player of the year, who averaged 15.9 points but missed 16 games after suffering a foot injury in last year's season opener.
A veteran with local ties is guard Terrell Allen, a redshirt junior who played his first season with UCF last year after transferring from Drexel, where he competed as a freshman. Last season, Allen averaged 5.3 points, but he led the Knights in assists (88) and steals (43). Allen averaged 9.8 points and 3.5 assists in his lone season at Drexel.
Last season, Cincinnati, Wichita State, and Houston earned NCAA bids from the AAC. Temple was the lone NIT representative.
This season, there appears to be even more parity. Four teams earned first-place votes in the preseason poll of the 12 coaches. Besides UCF, the others getting first-place votes were Cincinnati, Houston, and Memphis.
"There is so much parity and that is what you want, competition from top to bottom, and that is what we have in the American," said UCF coach Johnny Dawkins, the former Sixers guard. "It is a great league."
There are three new coaches in the AAC. Former NBA star Penny Hardaway has taken over at Memphis for Tubby Smith. Danny Hurley, who guided Rhode Island to consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, has replaced former 76er Kevin Ollie at UConn. And Joe Dooley has returned for his second stint at East Carolina, replacing Jeff Lebo.
Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin was asked if the new coaches bring a new dynamic to the AAC.
"Kevin and Tubby both own national championships," said Cronin, referring to Smith's at Kentucky and Ollie's at UConn. "Dan is a good friend of mine, and Coach Hardaway brings a lot of notoriety because of his playing career and it is great he has excited their fan base. But that is probably more of a question for you guys [the media]."
All five players on the AAC's preseason first team were guards, including 6-foot-8 Temple junior Quinton Rose, who can also play small forward. Also on the first team were UConn's Jalen Adams, Cincinnati's Jarron Cumberland, Memphis' Jeremiah Martin, and Central Florida's Taylor.