Coaches poll picks Penny and the Tigers to finish fourth in the AAC

In this June 8, 2018 photo, Memphis basketball coach Penny Hardaway poses in the school’s basketball offices in Memphis, Tenn. Hardaway knows exactly what Memphis fans demand from the Tigers in men’s basketball, and the first-time college coach says he feels born to coach this team right now. The charismatic former NBA star with his own shoe already has revived interest in his alma mater. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

PHILADELPHIA — University of Memphis senior guard Jeremiah Martin was named to the American Athletic Conference Preseason first team, while the Tigers, under the direction of first-year coach Penny Hardaway, were picked to finish fourth in voting conducted by the league’s 12 coaches.

The results were announced Monday in Philadelphia, site of the annual Media Days.

Memphis was picked to finish behind UCF (114 points), Cincinnati (107) and Houston (103) in the Coaches Preseason Poll. The Tigers received 85 votes, including one first-place vote.

Hardaway, the former NBA All-Star, was named UofM coach at his alma mater in March and his hiring has energized the program. The Tigers signed a strong recruiting class after Hardaway was announced to mix with five seniors, all of whom played significant minutes last season.

As for Martin, he ranked second in the conference in scoring last season. He averaged 18.9 points per game and was named to the league’s second team. He is among a solid group of returnees for the Tigers, who have four starters back, including second-leading scorer (at 13.3 points per game) and leading rebounder (at 6.1 per game) in Kyvon Davenport.

UCF, which led with six first-place votes, returns its top six scorers, including senior guard B.J. Taylor, the Preseason Player of the Year and senior center Tacko Fall, the league’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2017.

Cincinnati is the defending regular-season and tournament champion and will be paced by first-team preseason all-conference pick Jarron Cumberland. The Bearcats have earned eight consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.

Houston, which also appeared in the NCAA Tournament, lost the league’s career scoring leader in Rob Gray, but return Corey Davis, Jr., and Armoni Brooks. Davis is a second team preseason all-conference pick and Brooks was the league Sixth Man of the Year in 2018. The Cougars also welcome guard Nate Hinton, the conference’s Preseason Freshman of the Year.

Following Memphis in the Coaches Preseason Poll are UConn (75), Temple (74), SMU (63), Wichita State (60), Tulsa (48), Tulane (23), ECU (22) and USF (18).

The Tigers play the first of two exhibitions Oct. 25 against LeMoyne-Owen at FedExForum. They open the season Nov. 6 at home against Tennessee Tech.