(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

Ron Hunter at Tulane and the State of the American Athletics Conference

By Jack Williams

Coach Ron Hunter was hired at Tulane on March 24, 2019. What a good hire for this team. Watch out for the American Conference in the near future. This conference is getting stronger every year.

However, one sports podcast host believes that the American Conference is, basically, a mid-major conference.

But we all know that, as far as basketball is concerned, the American Athletics Conference is in no way a mid-major conference.

Just look at the caliber of coaches that they have in this conference now. You have Coach Kelvin Sampson and Gregg Marshall, who are two (2) of the top 20 most accomplished coaches in the country. In his over 29 years as head coach, Coach Sampson has led a team to the sweet sixteen and beyond four (4) times, which includes the current Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2019. Gregg Marshal has 14 NCAA Tournament appearance, which includes a Sweet Sixteen finish in 2015 and a Final Four appearance in 2013. Then you have Mick Cronin, who led Cincinnati to the NCAA tournament for nine (9) straight years in a row.

Then you have Coach Johnny Dawkins of UCF, who we’ve mentioned earlier. Coach Dawkins has this UCF team competing. They gave us a display of what this team was going to look like in game two (2) against Duke. Coach Johnny Dawkins is the only active coach to have won the NIT Championship twice (2). He also has two (2) NCAA appearances under his belt, which includes one sweet sixteen appearance with Stanford in 2014.

Houston has three (3) Final Four appearances in it school history, which includes two (2) National Championships in 1983 and 1984. Of course they haven’t gotten past the 2nd round no time after that point unit now. Coach Kelvin Sampson got these guess playing ball again.

And we all know that Bob Huggins made Cincinnati into a power house in the 90’s and early 2000s, leading them to several elite eight appearances, sweet sixteen appearances and a final four appearance. Therefore, Cincinnati has never been a mid-major team.

Then you got Connecticut a power house within itself. Connecticut has four (4) national Championships and several Final Four appearances.

Memphis’s national championship may have been vacated but they have one and several sweet sixteen appearances.

The 2019 NCAA Tournament

AS far has the tournament is concerned, this conference just had four (4) teams to make it to the NCAA tournament. They are Houston, Cincinnati, UCF, and Temple. What mid-major do you know that sends four (4) teams to the tournament? There is a possibility that we may see more next season. And I tell you what. The American Conference did much better than the Big East and the Pac-12 this season. And these are power conferences as well.

And now you got Coach Ron Hunter at Tulane. Watch out! Coach Hunter is a winner! He was Georgia State’s all-time winningest coach. Georgia State dominated the Sunbelt under his leadership. Georgia State had only one losing season in his eight seasons with the team. Six (6) out of eight (8) seasons were 20+ wins, the most that Georgia State has had in his history.

Some coaches are defensive minded coaches and some are offensive minded coaches. But if you look at a lot of Ron Hunter’s Georgia State teams in the past you find that they were well balanced. They played both ends of the court well.

Ron Hunter is going to have to turn this Tulane team around just like he did Georgia State. He wouldn’t have taken the job if he didn’t think that he could do it. Tulane hasn’t had a winning season in 11 years. That’s a lot of losing.

With all the coaches combined in the American you have over 50 NCAA Tournament appearances. The only Mid-Major Conference that comes anywhere close to that is the West Coast Conference, who has Mark Few of Gonzaga, Dave Rose of BYU, Lorenzo Romar of Pepperdine, Herb Sendek, of Santa Clara, and Randy Bennett and St. Mary's.

Unlike the American Conference however, the West Coast Conference is at best a two (2) bid conference, The American Conference can easily be a four (4) or five (5) bid conference every year.

Let’s even look at the new comers.

Penny Hardaway and Memphis has the #1 recruit in the nation coming in next season. You’re not going to find many #1 recruits going to schools in mid-major conferences.

Brian Gregory of South Florida has this team competing. All South Florida needs to do next season is to make sure that they have a decent pre-conference schedule. And that’s the job of the director of the American Conference and the athletic directors of each of these teams is to make sure that these teams are positioned in pre-conference play and in conference play to have decent resumes by the end of the season.

You also have Dan Hurley at Connecticut, Joe Dooley at East Carolina, Frank Haith at Tulsa, and Tim Jankovich at SMU. These are some high quality coaches in this conference. Can’t wait to see how the American Conference does next season!

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