November 23, 2020 

AAC introduces new format as conference schedule released

Plus, a look at non-conference openers as teams feel the pressure of putting together a season

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UCF huddles up during practice on Jan. 21, 2020, prior to a Jan. 22 game at Tulane. The teams will kick off the 2020-21 American Athletic Conference season against one another. (Photo: UCF Women’s Basketball via Twitter)

Team-wise, the American Athletic Conference is getting a notably new look for the 2020-21 campaign. The season of change extends to the conference schedule, too, which was announced Friday.

For the first time in conference history, each of the 11 teams will play each other twice for a total of 20 games — up from 16 games from 2016 to 2020 and 18 from 2013 to 2016 (though some teams played fewer than 18 games in 2013-14).

The season begins Tuesday, Dec. 15, when UCF hosts Tulane; they were separated by a single point in the No. 2 and No. 3 spots in the preseason poll, respectively. Games continue on Wednesday, Dec. 16, and will mainly be played on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays for the rest of the season. 

Increasing the number of league games has been a common practice in several conferences this season, as many teams have struggled to schedule non-conference games — or don’t schedule any at all — and end up making up the difference in conference play.

“It’s been a challenging scheduling year to say the least,” USF head coach Jose Fernandez said. “Going to 20 league games has made it difficult, and losing out on our multiple-team event (Battle 4 Atlantis) didn’t help as well. We are still in need of one more non-conference game, but with the need for strength of schedule/RPI parameters on our part, it has not come to fruition.”

The American in particular is one of the last conferences to announce its full schedule, coming just five days before the season is due to tip off. But with much of the preseason turmoil worked through, the conference now turns its attention to executing another successful season.

“Preparation for this season has looked different for everyone, but we’re ready to go,” said Memphis head coach Melissa McFerrin. “We are confident in our team and our abilities to make this season a good one.”

All 11 teams have made at least one appearance in a postseason tournament since the conference’s inception, with the 2018-19 season seeing UCF make the NCAA Tournament and Cincinnati, Houston and USF playing in the WNIT. Without UConn in the picture to set the standard by which the conference is judged, this high representation in postseason tournaments looks to continue.

Exposure to a wide audience won’t be an issue this season, as The American and ESPN begin a 12-year media rights extension in 2020-21. Five conference games will air on ESPN networks, with all other AAC games available on ESPN+.

While TV schedules have yet to be announced, it seems likely that at least one of those five games will feature Florida favorites USF and UCF, who face off on Sunday, Feb. 7 and in the regular-season finale on Tuesday, March 2.

The full AAC conference schedule can be viewed here.

Non-conference beginnings

Each team opens non-conference play as follows (AAC team listed first, TV info listed when available):

Wednesday, Nov. 25

  • Houston at Oklahoma, 1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports Southwest

  • SMU at Texas, 2 p.m. ET, Longhorn Network

  • East Carolina at Towson, 2 p.m. ET, FloHoops

  • UCF vs. Virginia, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN+

  • Cincinnati vs. North Carolina A&T, 6 p.m. ET

  • Tulane vs. Nicholls State, 8 p.m. ET

Friday, Nov. 27

  • Wichita State vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 2 p.m. ET

Saturday, Nov. 28

  • USF vs. Jacksonville, 4 p.m. ET

Sunday, Nov. 29

  • Memphis vs. Southern Illinois, time TBA

Saturday, Dec. 5

  • Tulsa at Missouri State, time TBA

Sunday, Dec. 6

  • Temple at Florida Gulf Coast, 2 p.m. ET

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