Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by rtmsf on January 19th, 2009

Allen R of Houston Basketball Junkies is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

  1. Memphis: 14-3 (4-0)
  2. Houston: 11-4 (2-1)
  3. Southern Miss: 11-5 (2-1)
  4. Tulsa: 12-6 (2-1)
  5. UTEP: 11-6 (2-1)
  6. UCF: 11-6 (1-2)
  7. UAB: 10-7 (1-2)
  8. East Carolina: 9-7 (1-2)
  9. Marshall: 8-9 (1-2)
  10. Tulane: 7-9 (1-2)
  11. SMU: 6-9 (1-2)
  12. Rice: 6-11 (1-2)

This week in Conference USA basketball was full of the various surprises and dramatics that make college basketball season something special.  However when the dust settled this week, the same team was still the proverbial ‘King of the Castle’ and still nobody else from the pack has distinguished themselves.

So here’s what happened in this week of CUSA basketball:

1.)    Down to the Wire in Tulsa:
The basketball gods couldn’t have picked a better night to display the late game dramatics of the Tulsa/Memphis match-up from last Tuesday. Despite the horrible announcing of Doug Gottlieb and whoever his broadcast partner was, I made it to the end of the game and Tulsa held a slim 54-53 lead with 4.5 seconds on the clock. Tulsa’s junior big man Jerome Jordan had a career night of 20 points and 13 rebounds and it looked like the Golden Hurricane were going to end the Tigers’ 44 game CUSA winning streak. But Tiger senior Antonio Anderson had other ideas, driving the length of the court and scoring on a layup as time expired lifting Memphis to a 55-54 victory. There will be other challenges for the Tigers, but I have a hard time believing they will be as dramatic as last Tuesday. The question of the year is: Who (if anyone) can beat the Tigers?

2.)    0’for No More: Coming into their last game against UTEP, the Houston basketball program had never won a game at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso. With the Miners playing some of their best basketball lately, the odds were against the Cougars. But the balanced scoring effort from the Houston starters (all five scored in double digits) helped pace a 94-86 Cougar win. Kelvin Lewis had 29 points and Aubrey Coleman added 24 in the winning effort.

3.)    Rivalry Game Letdown: I doubt that a good deal of Marshall fans came into last Wednesday’s game with West Virginia, expecting a win. But the 87-76 loss was this basketball season in a microcosm for the Thundering Herd. There was a solid, promising effort at times and yet in the end the defense and team basketball just wasn’t there. It’s safe to say now that transfers Chris Lutz (Purdue) and Octavius Spann (Georgetown) have been disappointments for the Thundering Herd. Bob Huggins has a solid team this year at West Virginia, but they certainly aren’t invincible.

4.)    Cousins Creates Recruiting Battle: For much of the past year, DeMarcus Cousins of Mobile, Alabama was the ‘five star’ cornerstone of what looked like a great recruiting class for UAB. But when the university would not give Cousins a release if Mike Davis left, his commitment became doubtful. In the talk leading up the nationally-televised game between Cousins’ Leflore High and South Atlanta High, there was talk Memphis was the new favorite for Cousins. While Coach Davis was in attendance at the Leflore/South Atlanta game, there are question marks about whether he’ll even be the coach at UAB next year. It’s clear that the recruitment of Cousins will heat up an already intense rivalry between the Blazers and Tigers.

5.)    And Now For the Embarrassing Moments: Nobody said it would be easy to rebuild the fortunes of the Rice basketball program coming off a 3-27 record last year. But there were promising moments and yet on Saturday the Owls got blown off the court, losing by 25 (77-52) at home to UCF. They are desperately short on any players with offensive ability and the news just keeps getting worse, as their top freshman Lucas Kuipers is done for the year… There’s no shame in losing to UAB on the road, but blowing nearly a double-digit lead in the last 5 minutes of the game like UCF did, is. The Golden Knights allowed the Blazers to go on a 17-0 run and led by Robert Vaden’s 19 points they pulled out a 60-52 win.

Well that’s another week completed and though there are some exciting stories, the fundamental question of whether this league will get more than one bid still remains.

rtmsf (3998 Posts)

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