Welcome to the American, Penny Hardaway and Dan Hurley

Memphis' hire of Penny Hardaway and UConn bringing in Dan Hurley from Rhode Island were the major storylines for the American Athletic Conference this offseason. However, they're both going to need some time to raise the talent level and on-court play at their respective programs.

The hope is they can turn around the Tigers and Huskies quickly, because there's not much else to point to as positives in the league for 2018-19.

Here are five questions for the American:

1. Is there more than one NCAA tournament team?

The league as a whole is significantly worse than a season ago, when three teams earned 6-seeds or better in the NCAA tournament. UCF is the favorite, but the Knights went just 9-9 in conference and didn't reach any postseason tournaments last season.

Houston and Cincinnati are behind Johnny Dawkins' club, as the Cougars said goodbye to star Rob Gray and the Bearcats lost their entire frontcourt. Wichita State is expected to take a massive hit.

The entire first-team all-conference unit from last season is also gone. It should make for a fun title race but a disappointing Selection Sunday.

2. Can UCF stay healthy?

That's the biggest question for the Knights, who have the pieces to win the league. All-conference guard B.J. Taylor missed the first half of last season with a foot injury, while 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall played just 16 games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. Backup guard Chance McSpadden also missed the final month of the season with a finger injury. Meanwhile, guard Aubrey Dawkins missed the entire season with a shoulder injury.

It was rare to see the entire team at full strength in 2017-18, but a fully stocked UCF squad this season is the best team in the league.

3. How far do Wichita State and Cincinnati fall?

Wichita State and Cincinnati have been the epitome of consistency the past several seasons. Twenty-five-plus wins, a single-digit NCAA tournament seed, a top-25 ranking. That will be tested this season.

Wichita State loses its top four and six of its top seven scorers from last season, led by star guard Landry Shamet. The Shockers do bring back Markis McDuffie and welcome a deep recruiting class, but there are a lot of questions for Gregg Marshall right now.

Cincinnati is in slightly better shape, as it has guards Cane Broome, Jarron Cumberland and Justin Jenifer to lean on early. The Bearcats' frontcourt is in rough shape, and Mick Cronin will need immediate help if they're to be competitive at the top of the standings again.

4. Will Penny Hardaway's recruiting successes translate to on-court wins?

The buzz is back in Memphis. Immediately after taking over for Tubby Smith, Hardaway landed a quartet of four-star high school prospects, including point guards Tyler Harris and Alex Lomax and shooting guards Antwann Jones and Ryan Boyce. He's also got the Tigers in the mix for at least four five-star prospects in the 2019 class, led by No. 1 prospect James Wiseman.

But what does any of that mean for Memphis' on-court prospects this season? The Tigers do bring back double-figure scorers Jeremiah Martin and Kyvon Davenport, but Hardaway has no college coaching experience and filled his coaching staff with mostly former NBA guys. There's momentum in the program, but Hardaway will need to win, too.

5. Will Dan Hurley bring UConn back?

Talent certainly isn't the issue for the Huskies, although Kevin Ollie wasn't landing the same caliber of player the past couple years that he did when he first took over for Jim Calhoun.

That said, Hurley is going to attempt to change the culture in Storrs -- and he's got the pieces to show progress relatively quickly. Jalen Adams is arguably the league's best player, while Christian Vital also returns. Tarin Smith and Kassoum Yakwe are a pair of intriguing transfers.

The Huskies aren't likely to push for an NCAA tournament bid this season, but Hurley has won at each of his stops, regardless of the talent level. He'll have the same expectations at UConn.

Five players to watch

1. Jalen Adams, UConn

Many thought Adams would enter the NBA draft after last season, but he returned and is the favorite for preseason Player of the Year. He averaged 18 points and nearly five assists last season and can carry the Huskies.

2. B.J. Taylor, UCF

One of the most productive guards in the league when healthy, Taylor is the key for the Knights' championship dreams. He played in only 16 games last season but scored at least 20 points on seven occasions -- including five times in the final nine games.

3. Jarron Cumberland, Cincinnati

Cumberland entered college with a scorer's reputation, but he has taken a back seat to veterans his first two seasons in the program. That won't be the case this season; Cumberland will have to shoulder most of the offensive load.

4. Markis McDuffie, Wichita State

McDuffie needs to return to form for the Shockers. He nearly won Missouri Valley Player of the Year two seasons ago, but missed 11 games last season with a stress fracture in his left foot and wasn't the same player.

5. DeJon Jarreau, Houston

A top-100 recruit coming out of high school, Jarreau showed flashes of his playmaking ability during his one season at UMass. After sitting out due to transfer rules, Jarreau will get first crack at attempting to replace Rob Gray.