If you read our National Preview, or any of our other League Previews, you will see a common theme among them and that Covid made it a very interesting year within the league. The Appalachian Athletic Conference (AAC) fits that mold as well. Last season we saw some teams in the league play 20 AAC games while others only played 14. At the end of it, Reinhardt came out as the Regular Season Champions and Union won it’s 8th straight AAC Tournament to claim an auto-bid to the National Tournament. Tennessee Wesleyan was then voted by the coaches to receive the 2nd auto-bid. There is an interesting newcomer to the league for this upcoming year, as Johnson (TN) joins the NAIA and enters into the AAC. Johnson is coming off of a season where they were the NCCAA II National Champions.
Looking over rosters, it looks like this will be a league with a ton of returners, both old and young as the AAC welcomes back 16 All-Conference selections from last season. Paced by 1st Team All-American and AAC Player of the Year, Markelle Turner. The Sophomore sensation finished in 2nd place, behind NPOY Kyle Mangas, for the NAIA scoring title averaging 27.5ppg. Turner is electric and no doubt primed for another big season.
This should be a fun league once again this season. One of the greatest things about the “covid year” rules, is that it provided an opportunity for players to return for an extra season and it is good to see so many players in the AAC take advantage of it. You expect to see Union as the preseason favorites, but Tennessee Wesleyan, Reinhardt and Point return almost everyone as well and you have a sneaky Montreat team that could be back in the mix as well.
2020-21 Champions and Qualifiers
Regular Season Champions
AAC Tournament Champion
National Tournament Qualifiers: Union (KY) – Lost 55-68 to Thomas More (KY) Opening Round of the NAIA National Championships
Tennessee Wesleyan – Lost 62-67 to Warner (FL) in the Opening Round of the NAIA National Championships
2021-22 Season Preview
Conference POY Watch List:
Markelle Turner 6’4, Union – 27.5ppg, 3.2rpg, 3.6apg. Defending AAC Player of the Year, 1st Team NAIA All-American. One of the most electric scorers in the NAIA!
Bryant Bernard 6’0, Tennessee Wesleyan – 20.75ppg, 3.0rpg 3.0apg. 2020-21 1st Team All-AAC member. Tough, gritty guard that plays both ends of the floor.
Corey Bowen 6’9 Point – 16ppg, 5.8rpg. – 2020-21 1st Team All-AAC member. One of the best big men in the country that you don’t hear a lot about.
Lorenzo Freeman 6’2 Point – 20.6ppg, 6.5rpg. 2020-21 1st Team All-AAC member. Stud guard who is a big reason Point made a big jump this past season!
Noah Dunn Montreat – 18.6ppg, 6.1rpg. 2020-21 1st Team All-AAC and AAC Freshman of the Year. Big impact in his first year, looking forward to seeing his growth into year two!
Coby Jones 6’3, Johnson –20.9ppg, 6.9rpg 2.3apg. NCCAA Mideast Region Player of the Year.
Miles Long 6’0, Johnson – 12.7ppg, 4.7rpg, 3.9apg. NCCAA Mideast Region Newcomer of the Year.
Kourtney Ware 6’4, Kentucky Christian – Transfer from Campbellsville-Somerset. Was one of top shooters in JUCO a few years back.
Favorites to Win AAC:
Union – A program that has won 8 straight AAC Tournament Titles and 7 of the last 8 regular season crowns. Union is not only established itself as a perennial league power, but they are also returning the best player in the league in Markelle Turner.
Tennessee Wesleyan – Return Top Five players from last season including 1st Team All-AAC player Bryant Bernard. Ray Stone has the Bulldogs playing some tough, good basketball and they have the experience to compete for a title.
Point – Return two All-AAC 1st Team players in Corey Bowen and Lorenszo Freeman and 2nd Team member Ray Reeves. Head Coach Jake Deer has done a great job getting this team turned around and the Skyhawks will look to make the next jump this season!
Reinhardt – Kristian Collins and Jalin Wimberly return to lead a team that went 19-8 and tied for 1st place in the AAC last season. They are good enough to win
Montreat – 2020-21 Freshman of the Year Noah Dunn is back to go along with fellow 1st Team All-AAC member Jaja Davis. This was a bit of a young team last year that had it’s ups and downs. If they can play more consistently this year, they can find themselves in contention.
Johnson – This Royals team has played a lot of NAIA’s in past years, including a lot of the teams they are now in the league with. They return their main scorers from last season that won an NCCAA DII National Championship. The AAC will provide a new challenge, but this is a team that knows how to win.