Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by rtmsf on January 27th, 2009

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

  1. Memphis: 15-3 (5-0)
  2. Houston: 12-5 (3-1)
  3. UCF: 13-6 (3-2)
  4. UAB: 13-7 (3-2)
  5. Tulsa: 13-7 (3-2)
  6. Southern Miss: 12-6 (2-2)
  7. Tulane: 8-10 (2-2)
  8. UTEP: 11-8 (2-3)
  9. East Carolina: 10-8 (2-3)
  10. Marshall: 9-10 (2-3)
  11. SMU: 6-11 (1-4)
  12. Rice: 6-13 (1-4)

There wasn’t any lack of excitement this week and in some cases that excitement was also coupled with a bit of controversy.

In fact the Houston basketball program tested the adage that “any publicity is good publicity” during this past weekend when they played Arizona. However there were other storylines from the past week of action, albeit a bit less controversial than the aforementioned incident.

1.) Stompgate ’09:  The unfortunate incident that made the most headlines this past weekend began with Arizona forward Chase Budinger drawing a charge call after a collision with Houston guard Aubrey Coleman. After the conclusion of that play, Coleman stepped on Budinger’s face in an act that looked equal parts negligent and malicious. Naturally this act enraged Budinger who was assessed a technical foul for his retaliation following the stepping. But the worst punishment was saved for Coleman, who was ejected for the flagrant foul. After watching the video of the incident and the reactions of both players, I’m convinced that Coleman deserved to be ejected and could have shown a lot more remorse immediately following the act. But the act itself was in my opinion, an attempt to show dominance over Budinger by stepping over him instead of around him. Something went horribly wrong in between and now we have a major headline story. It’s worth noting that Coleman’s had no other incidents this year at Houston or on his previous team at Southwest Mississippi Junior College. In the end, before rushing to crucify the young Mr. Coleman, we all must think of the “he who is without sin” line.  Following the game, Coleman gave what appeared to be a sincere and remorseful apology.

2.) An Epic Choke:  What was lost in the hysteria following the Stompgate was the fact that Houston blew a 9 point lead in less than a minute to Arizona. Things became a lot more difficult for the Cougars after the ejection of Coleman, but they still managed to hold a 9 point lead around the one minute mark. That’s when things completely fall apart. Over the next 30-40 seconds, the Wildcats chipped at the Cougar lead due to a combination of turnovers and poor free throw shooting. But with just under 20 seconds left the Cougars simply needed their top scorer: Kelvin Lewis, to make a single free throw and effectively ‘ice’ the game. Lewis missed both free throws and ‘Cats nailed a three to tie the game at 88 and send it into overtime. The Cougars then proceeded to enter into a 6+ minute scoring drought that only ended with a meaningless late bucket. In a short period of time, a sure win turned into the most heartbreaking of losses, as Arizona won by a final score of 96-90.

3.) A Shot to Remember:  There’s been a fair amount of disappointment this season for Marshall hoops fans, but last Wednesday the ‘Herd fans in the Cam Henderson Center had a night to remember. With the score tied at 50 against SMU and with almost no time left on the clock, ‘Herd guard Markel Humphrey heaved up a 75 foot prayer of a shot that almost everyone in the building believed would miss the basket… But Humphrey nailed it and sent ‘Herd fans home with one of the most unlikely 53-50 victories. There have been plenty of memorable moments in CUSA hoops this year, but this one ranks near the top.

4.) Avenging the One Loss:  There wasn’t much to be unhappy about in a 2007-08 basketball season that saw Memphis go 38-1 and lose at the last second in the national title game. Well, except for the Tigers’ nationally-televised home loss to in-state rival Tennessee, their lone defeat that year. The Tigers needed to go into the always-intimidating Thompson-Boling Arena and beat a vengeance-minded Volunteer team. Despite a late rally, the Tigers held off the Vols with a game-high 17 points from super frosh Tyreke Evans and won 54-52.

5.) Six Times the Charm:  Speaking of Evans, the latest ‘diaper dandy’ to don the Memphis blue and white was named the CUSA Rookie of the Week for the 6th time this season. This is has never happened before and is a testament to not only John Calipari’s recruiting ability, but his ability to develop talent as well.

6.) A Forgettable Week for the Mustangs and Owls: There have been some highlights this week, but there have also been some lowlights for a couple of CUSA teams. Things were starting to look positive for the SMU basketball program, with an upset of Colorado and a home win over Tulane. But the Ponys proceeded to lose to Marshall on a 75-foot last second shot. Adding insult to injury, ECU got their 5th ever road win since join Conference USA against the Ponys by a score of 80-74.  The Rice hoopers lost their two CUSA games by an average of 33 points and averaged only 46.0 points in each. While the Owls’ two opponents (Memphis and UAB) aren’t slouches, they are looking way less competitive now as compared to earlier in the year. The loss of the team’s top freshman, Lucas Kuipers, didn’t help matters either.

rtmsf (3998 Posts)

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