Checking in on… Conference USAPosted by rtmsf on December 31st, 2008
Allen R of Houston Basketball Junkies is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.
Same song, just the second verse now.
This was another tough week for Conference USA basketball as the league desperately tries to find respect in non-conference play.
If we were to stop non-conference play today and commence CUSA play, I’d practically guarantee that this league would only get one bid to the NCAA tournament. But there are a few more opportunities for the teams in this league to prove themselves.
1.) Let’s Get the Bad News Out of the Way: There were a few losses that were just very tough to swallow in the league. While they have a decent business school SUNY-Binghamton isn’t known for being a basketball powerhouse. You wouldn’t know it though by the way the Bearcats went on the road and beat Tulane 74-73. There will be a heated battle between the Green Wave and SMU for worst team in CUSA. Really there’s no shame in losing to a top 10 caliber team like Wake Forest. But ECU didn’t just lose, they got hammered 95-54 by the Demon Deacons. But the real embarrassment came this past Sunday when the Pirates lost 63-55 to mighty Coastal Carolina. To put that loss in perspective CCU has losses to Presbyterian, Savannah State, North Carolina A&T and Coker. I wouldn’t call it embarrassing, but Houston needed a non-conference win against Iowa State if it wanted to call itself a contender for the NCAA tournament. The Cougars allowed ISU’s Larry Brackins to have a career day of 38 points and 14 rebounds, as the Cyclones won 71-67.
2.) Blazing On: Yours truly predicted that there’d be rough times ahead for the UAB basketball program, which lost 4 scholarship players due to academic issues early in the month. To make up for the lack of depth on the bench, Blazer coach Mike Davis brought in Mike Jones, a sophomore receiver from the football team. Early last week the Blazers cruised in a 76-43 win over Florida Atlantic in which Paul Delaney III had 16 points. However in a nationally televised match-up with Louisville, the Blazers faded late and lost decisively 82-62. Expect to see the problem of fading late come up in future Blazer basketball games.
3.) If Tudor is Rockin’, Come A Knockin’: Last week, Rice’s Tudor Fieldhouse was rocking as the Owls gave the #4 Oklahoma Sooners more than they bargained for. Future NBA lottery pick Blake Griffin had 28 points and 11 rebounds, while Willie Warren added 31 points for the Sooners. But the Owls actually held a lead as late as midway through the 2nd half. Despite Griffin’s gaudy totals, the Owls actually had a good defensive game-plan and neutralized him on the offensive end. Also, last Sunday the Owls defeated a respectable Arkansas-Little Rock 79-72 and got their first true road win of the 2008-09 season.
4.) Tigers Try to Get Back On Track: It was a fairly uneventful week for the school that has become the basketball flagship of Conference USA: Memphis. Tiger coach John Calipari got a chance to relax somewhat as his team dominated Drexel from start-to-finish in an 87-48 win. The big test came from Cincinnati, who the Tigers handled 60-45, even though they shot only 37.8% total from the field. While it hasn’t been as dominant as recent years, an 8-3 record in non-conference is nothing to sneeze at.