Tournament Most Valuable Player Tulsa's James Woodard celebrates after their defeat of Louisiana Tech in the finals of the Conference USA Tournament March 15, 2014. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World

Best-case scenario

While the American Athletic Conference features an upgrade in the level of competition, members are rewarded by being in a multi-bid league. By virtue of finishing in the top five, Tulsa could sneak into the NCAA Tournament with the help of a couple of key nonconference victories. The Hurricane will have early opportunities to make its case while facing ranked teams Oklahoma and Wichita State, and it also will play Creighton, Auburn and either Oregon State or Oklahoma State. But TU also will need to avoid bad losses to the bottom-dwelling conference teams.

Most likely scenario

Much like it did last year and now seemingly more likely with a new coach, Tulsa might struggle to develop rhythm and consistency early and then get going in the second half of the season. In that case, it would probably finish near the middle of the pack in the AAC and wouldn’t have enough wins to land a bid to the NCAA Tournament. But making the NIT would be a solid finish to Frank Haith’s first season, as well as the team’s first season in a new conference.

TU men's basketball: Schedule for 2014-15 season

Nov. 8: vs. SW Okla St. (exh.) 4 p.m.

Nov. 15: at Oral Roberts 7 p.m.

Nov. 17: vs. La.-Lafayette 8:30 p.m.

Nov. 19: vs. Abilene Christian 7 p.m.

Nov. 24: vs. Auburn* 10 p.m.

Nov. 26: vs. OSU/Oregon St. * TBA

Nov. 29: at Wichita State TBA

Dec. 3: vs. Creighton 7 p.m.

Dec. 7: at Ark.-Little Rock 2 p.m.

Dec. 10: vs. SE Okla. St. 7 p.m.

Dec. 13: vs. Oklahoma 1:30 p.m.

Dec. 17: vs. Missouri State 7 p.m.

Dec. 22: vs. Incarnate Word 7 p.m.

Dec. 31: at Central Florida 11 a.m.

Jan. 4: vs. Houston 1 p.m.

Jan. 10: at Temple 2 p.m.

Jan. 13: vs. Connecticut 8:30 p.m.

Jan. 17: at South Florida 10 a.m.

Jan. 21: vs. Memphis 6 p.m.

Jan. 24: at East Carolina 11 a.m.

Jan. 27: at Tulane 6 p.m.

Jan. 31: vs. South Florida Noon

Feb. 5: at Houston 6 p.m.

Feb. 7: vs. SMU 7 p.m.

Feb. 12: at Connecticut 6 p.m.

Feb. 18: vs. East Carolina 6 p.m.

Feb. 22: vs. Temple 5 p.m.

Feb. 25: vs. Tulane 7 p.m.

Feb. 28: at Memphis 7 p.m.

March 4: vs. Cincinnati 8 p.m.

March 8: at SMU 2 p.m.

March 12-15: The American

Championship, Hartford, Conn.

*MGM Grand Main Event, Las Vegas

Kelly Hines 918-581-8452

Sports Writer

Kelly has been the University of Tulsa football and basketball beat writer since 2014. She grew up in Moore, was valedictorian at Christian Heritage Academy and graduated from Oklahoma State University. Phone: 918-581-8452