Checking in on… Conference USAPosted by rtmsf on December 7th, 2008
Allen R of Houston Basketball Junkies is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.
There is no polite way to spin it: this was a bad week for Conference USA basketball.
From the outset of the season I have said that this league as a whole needs to win some significant non-conference games.
Not only did the conference not win any games of significance, there were several embarrassing losses this week.
1.) A New Tiger Comes Aboard: It was a generally ‘ho-hum’ week in Memphis as the Tigers beat Marist 100-61 and then entered into an 11 day layoff for final exams. But this past Thursday the NCAA cleared Tiger freshman F Matt Simpkins to practice and play with the team. Previously Simpkins had academic issues that kept him off the court. Coming out of the Patterson School in North Carolina, Simpkins was a 4-star prospect and expected to make immediate contributions.
2.) Ay, the Pirates Be Winning Road Games: Did I mention last week that ECU basketball has been pretty bad in the recent years? This week they beat UNC-Wilmington on the road 99-85, which is a team the Pirates hadn’t beaten away from home since 1992. Adding onto the significance was the fact that they hadn’t won back-to-back road games in even longer. Texas native James Legan had 26 points for the Pirates in their road win. I guarantee that this team will ruin a fellow C-USA team’s season when it’s all said and done.
3.) The Ugly: I can’t overlook some of the truly hideous games of the week. The Tulane Green Wave look like the odds-on favorite to be the worst team in Conference USA this year. In an intra-city rivalry game against New Orleans the Wave lost in a 49-39 snoozer. The most baffling loss came from the Tulsa Golden Hurricane who lost 73-58 to Ohio University. And to top it all off the Rice Owls lost 78-75 to Texas…San Antonio. Currently the Owls are 1-3 on their home court, with their only win coming over lowly Texas State.
4.) The ‘D’ in Davis Isn’t for ‘Defense’: No team has shown more of a ‘Jekyll & Hide’ persona than the UAB Blazers at this point in the year. They have shown themselves more than capable of running with the likes of teams such as Oklahoma and Arizona. Yet they just cannot play a lick of defense, regardless of who the opponent is. It took an overtime period for the Blazers to squeak by a bad USF team 78-77 at home. Lawrence Kinnard had 20 points and Robert Vaden had 18 in the USF win. This past Saturday the Blazers lost 87-80 to former CUSA foe Cincinnati in yet another lackluster defensive performance. There are enough good offensive teams in this league to give coach Mike Davis and the Blazers fits if they don’t shore up the defense.
5.) Arsalan Kazemi: This is not breaking news, but it’s a really cool story. Rice coach Ben Braun has signed the first ever Iranian player in Division 1 basketball. Arsalan Kazemi, a 6 foot 8 forward prospect from the Patterson School and Isfahan, Iran, signed a letter of intent on November 2nd to play basketball for Rice University. Given all of the political tensions between Kazemi’s home country and the United States, this should be an interesting story to follow the next few seasons. Even more important than the political implications, Kazemi chose Rice over bigger name programs like Maryland, Arkansas, Cincinnati, Missouri, Oklahoma State and Seton Hall.