The American loses a pair of 800-pound gorillas this season, with both the University of Louisville and—perhaps just as importantly—UConn's star guard Shabazz Napier departing the league. The race should be much more wide-open unless SMU lives up to the preseason hype it's receiving.
A true sleeper that may emerge is coach Fran Dunphy's Temple Owls. After six straight 20-win seasons, Temple slumped to only nine victories in 2013-14, struggling with a lack of depth and inconsistent shooting. It did, however, knock off eventual Atlantic 10 tournament champion St. Joseph's and fall just one point short against Texas.
Scoring guards Will Cummings and Quenton DeCosey return after combining for more than 32 points per game last season.
If DeCosey is still the occasionally indifferent defensive player he showed last season, Clemson transfer Devin Coleman could push him for minutes when he becomes eligible in December. Coleman had a string of double-figure scoring games early last season, including 10 points in only eight minutes against UMass.
They'll need frontcourt support, and it could come from a crop of new faces. Former Texas forward Jaylen Bond proved a dominant force on the glass in limited minutes as a freshman, ripping 4.6 rebounds per game in only 15.4 minutes back in 2011-12.
Freshman Obi Enechionyia averaged more than 14 points, 11 boards and three blocks as a high school senior. He should be capable of putting in solid minutes off the bench.
Junior Daniel Dingle isn't a new face, per se, but he did only play in 10 games last season before going down with a knee injury in December. He put up 25 points, nine assists and four blocks in his final two games, giving some indication of his potential.
Dunphy needs his team to execute better defensively, something that hasn't usually been a problem for his teams. The first step may be for Bond and Enechionyia to crash the glass more effectively than TU could manage last season.
There are openings near the top of the American, and Dunphy's more than capable of motivating a healthy team to overachieve.