The American Athletic Conference is currently experiencing one of its best seasons since the creation of conference. Between Houston’s Corey Davis Jr, Cincinnati’s Jarron Cumberland, and loads of other players throughout the AAC, the race for American Conference Player of the Year is shaping up to come down to the final games of the season. Here are my top five candidates for the award, ranked:
5. Jayden Gardner — ECU (F, FR)
While Gardner is by far the youngest player on this list, his numbers are arguably the best. Gardner’s 17.5 points per game sit at fifth in the AAC and 8.6 rebounds per game are second. If any of the other players on this list were averaging those numbers, they would most likely be a consensus player of the year. The issue with Gardner is that despite his phenomenal numbers, East Carolina is still ranked 11th in the league and only have two wins in league play, one of those coming against Tulane, a team that is currently 0-11 against American Conference teams. While Gardner isn’t likely to win the award this season, he could definitely end up being a top candidate for years to come.
4. Jeremiah Martin — Memphis (G, SR)
It didn’t really appear Martin had much of a shot to win the AAC Player of the Year for a large portion of the season. That all changed against USF, where the Memphis native scored 41 points in the second half alone. While Martin’s comeback charge for the Tigers may have come up just short, his individual performance against USF was something that college basketball hasn’t seen in years. Martin’s numbers for the season have also been some of best in the conference, averaging 17.1 points per game, 4.3 assists per game, and 2.3 steals per game. Although his record-setting performance against USF was definitely one to remember, unless Martin can stay hot down the stretch, he’ll most likely be on the outside looking in when it comes to Player of the Year.
3. Shizz Alston — Temple (G, SR)
Shizz Alston is easily one of the most dynamic players in the American. Alston currently sits at third in the conference in both points per game (18.5) and assists per game (5.0), and is statistically having a pretty similar season to Wichita State’s Landry Shamet last year. The senior from Philadelphia also averages 1.6 steals per game which is sixth in the American Conference. In all honestly, there isn’t a whole lot to say about Alston. In my opinion, he’s the league’s best point guard and a constant threat to take over at any point in the game, but Player of the Year will most likely end up being between these next two players.
2. Corey Davis Jr. — Houston (G, SR)
For the majority of the 2018-19 season, Davis was the top candidate for AAC Player of the Year. Davis leads a ninth ranked and American Conference leading Houston team whose only loss this season came on the road against Temple. While his averages aren’t really what you would expect out of a possible player of the year, his leadership and impact on a team as dominant as Houston is something that is unique to Davis. While Davis’ inconsistency has been an issue for him as of lately, he’s unquestionably one of the league’s best players and will 100% be in the conversation for AAC Player of the Year.
1. Jarron Cumberland — Cincinnati (G, JR)
While there’s a clear bias in this ranking as I’m a Cincinnati fan, I don’t think anyone can debate the fact that Cumberland has been an absolute animal since conference play started. His 19.0 points per game this season top the league, and his 22.2 points in conference play are something that are unheard of in the American Conference. He also ranks third in 3 point percentage, shooting a phenomenal 42.4%. His defense isn’t anything to scoff at either, as he averages 1.3 steals per game on of the country’s top defensive teams. What sets Cumberland apart is his ability to score in so many different ways. He can get you from deep, off the dribble, and on the drive, which isn’t something you see very often from a player his size. While there is still a pretty significant portion of the season remaining, it seems like Cumberland is the clear favorite as of lately.