Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by rtmsf on February 3rd, 2009

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

  1. Memphis: 18-3 (7-0)
  2. UCF: 15-6 (5-2)
  3. Tulsa: 15-7 (5-2)
  4. UTEP: 13-8 (4-3)
  5. UAB: 14-8 (4-3)
  6. Houston: 12-7 (3-3)
  7. Southern Miss: 13-7 (3-3)
  8. Tulane: 9-11 (3-4)
  9. East Carolina: 10-10 (2-5)
  10. Marshall: 9-12 (2-5) 
  11. Rice: 7-14 (2-5)
  12. SMU: 6-13 (1-6)

“It’s the same old song…”

That isn’t just a line from a classic ‘Motown’ song, but the story of Conference USA basketball summed up in five choice words.

Some things change, but as last week proved, there are some things that always remain the same for a while.

1.) Don’t Boo the Aubrey: In his first game coming off the one game suspension by Conference USA, Houston guard Aubrey Coleman responded to boos and jeers from the Memphis student section by scoring 35 points. The only problem was none of Coleman’s teammates showed up and they combined for a total of 33 points, as the Tigers beat the Cougars 83-68 at the Fed Ex Forum. It was quite evident last Saturday that even in a down year, Memphis has far more talent than even the upper-tier CUSA teams like Houston.

2.) The Baby Knights: No, I’m not referring to the hapless son (Pat Knight) of basketball legend Bob Knight. The UCF basketball team is one of the younger teams in the country, with 8 freshmen on the roster. Yet they currently sit at 2nd place in CUSA with a 5-2 record and a 15-6 overall record. Early in the year they endured demoralizing losses to Valparaiso and Morehead State, but coach Kirk Speraw has gotten them to regroup and potentially make a run at the NIT or other postseason action. For the next few years the Knights are set with young guards like A.J. Rompza and Tony Davis. It doesn’t hurt either that they have arguably the best player in the CUSA: Jermaine Taylor, who’s averaging 23.9 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. Taylor has the athleticism and skill set to go in the first round of the NBA draft and to make life sufficiently miserable for the rest of the Knights’ opponents. I think Houston coming to Orlando will be a huge test this coming Wednesday.

3.) Fighting Coaches and Misbehaving Mascots in the Bayou City: If you take out the peripheral events of last Wednesday’s game between Tulane and Rice, it was still quite exciting. The Owls held a 19 point lead at halftime, but the Green Wave chipped at it until the game was tied near the end of regulation. With several seconds remaining on the clock, ‘Wave guard Lester Ricard took the ball the length of the court and laid it in as time expired to give the ‘Wave a 61-59 win. In the post game handshakes, Owl coach Ben Braun took offense to some of the behavior of ‘Wave coach Dave Dickerson and the two had to be physically separated by team personnel. If that wasn’t bad enough though, Sammy the Owl (the Rice mascot) was ejected from the game by the lead official Curtis Shaw for a phantom ‘head-butt’.

4.) Another Defection at Marshall: Near the start of the season, Marshall guard Brandon Powell was dismissed from the team for violations of team rules and few people were surprised. Powell left the University of Florida under controversial circumstances and was on a short leash. But it was a little surprising when center Marcus Goode left the Marshall program for ‘personal reasons’. It’s unclear exactly what’s going on, but everything ‘Herd coach Donnie Jones has said indicates that it was Goode’s decision to leave. The 6’10” 300 pound Goode had become somewhat of a fan favorite in Huntington due to his rotund appearance, among other things.

5.)  Rock Bottom, You’ll Know When You Hit It: Typically I use this section to talk about the lowlights of CUSA basketball in the previous week. But every team had some kind of positive to fall back on… that is every team except SMU. It’s bad enough that they lost to Arkansas-Pine Bluff earlier in the year and gave the SWAC one of their only Division 1 non-conference wins. But they did it after Mustang coach Matt Doherty said that they’d ‘flip’ last year’s terrible record and win 20 games this year. Well the Mustangs better start a double-digit winning streak because they are 6-13 and dead last in the conference. In what’s become a sad norm, they lost to UCF and Tulsa this past week to drop their conference record to 1-6. I honestly believe that Paul McCoy and Derek Williams would be the only players on their roster to get significant playing time on any other CUSA team. If Doherty’s seat isn’t getting toasty by the end of this year, then I question how much SMU really cares about a winning basketball program.

6.) Saving the Worst for Last: I addressed the Aubrey Coleman situation in my last weekly round-up of CUSA basketball. But it seriously disturbed me this past week when the FBI had to be called to investigate racially-charged emails that threatened the life of Coleman. It truly speaks poorly of us as a society that an incident that caused no injury to Chase Budinger would prompt such a disgusting response in people. I’m a very jaded person who is shocked by very little, but I couldn’t believe this happened… in America. Yeah, America.

rtmsf (3954 Posts)

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