1. Memphis- The gap between Memphis and the rest of this conference has once again widened. Despite losing their top offensive weapon in Elliot Williams, they bring in one of the nation's top recruiting classes. Headlined by wing Will Barton and point guard Joe Jackson, this Memphis backcourt is young and electric. Barton is expected to replace the vast majority of Elliot Williams' output, and Jackson is going to compete for the honor of top freshman point guard in the nation. His natural agility should allow him to be effective in transition and drive past most defenders in the half court. Freshman Jelan Kendrick should also receive considerable time off the bench. Complimenting this dynamic, young backcourt is junior Wesley Witherspoon, who, at 6'8, is versatile enough to play both inside and out. The Memphis frontcourt is once again anchored by senior forward Will Coleman. Coleman is a solid rebounder and post defender that is capable of finishing inside. Forward Angel Garcia may also see some minutes opposite Coleman on the interior. Off the bench, improving forward DJ Stephens could be a big surprise for this solid, young team. The Memphis of 2010-2011 is only going to get better as the season unfolds.
2. Southern Miss- This Southern Miss team should be competitive with Memphis and in the long run should make the tournament. Their greatest asset is their strong front line, beginning with their top player Gary Flowers. Flowers is an athletic forward who provides rebounding and shot blocking. He is complimented by experienced bigs Josimar Ayarza and Maurice Bolden, who should form the strongest frontline in the conference. At the guard slots, RL Horton and Angelo Johnson should control the tempo and score the basketball. Johnson will be the main distributor however. Additionally, Southern Miss brings in JUCO transfer LaShay Page, who should fill it up from all over the floor. Look for this team to consistently remain close to the top of the conference standings.
3. Houston- While the Cougars may have lost a great deal of scoring output from a season ago with the graduation of seniors Kelvin Lewis and Aubrey Coleman, this team may actually be better than they once were. Coleman's departure may be an addition by subtraction. While he was the nation's leading scorer, Coleman did have some poor shot selection at times. If several of Houston's newcomers can fill the scoring void left by these recent graduates, this team could be on a path to success through a more team-oriented strategy. Even last season, this squad thrived when Coleman limited his volume. They were 15-4 when he shot less than 21 shots. However, when he shot more frequently than that, the Cougars had a record of 4-12.