Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by rtmsf on February 11th, 2009

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

Conference Standings.

  1. Memphis:   20-3 (8-0)
  2. Tulsa:   17-7 (7-2)
  3. UAB:   16-8 (6-3)
  4. Houston:   14-7 (5-3)
  5. UCF:   15-8 (5-4)
  6. UTEP:   13-9 (4-4)
  7. East Carolina:   12-10 (4-5)
  8. Southern Miss:   13-9 (3-5)
  9. Marshall:   11-13 (3-6) 
  10. Tulane:   9-13 (3-6)
  11. Rice:   7-15 (2-6)
  12. SMU:   7-14 (1-7)

Slowly but surely, Conference USA basketball has rounded back into the form that’s earned it the nickname of: Memphis and the 11 dwarves in recent seasons.  I don’t want to completely trash every other team in the league, because there are some good teams and good players out there. Just because things are so ‘top-heavy’ in CUSA basketball, that’s not an excuse to completely ignore everyone else.  But the underlying fact remains: nobody besides Memphis has played well enough up to this point to earn a trip to the big dance.

1.) Getting It Done on the National Stage: In yet another opportunity to show their chops against a top 25 foe on national television, Memphis went on the road and took care of business. The Tigers used stifling defense to hold the Gonzaga Bulldogs to a 37.6% shooting night and 50 points. In fact, the starting three Gonzaga guards were held to a total of 11 points. Meanwhile on the offensive end Tyreke Evans (22 points) and Robert Dozier (18 points, 10 rebounds) took care of business. The fact that the Tigers shot 44.2% total from the field probably made the biggest difference on Saturday night.

2.) The Pirates and the Jinx: So far this season I have written glowing blurbs on CUSA teams like UCF and Southern Miss only to see those teams enter into tailspins shortly thereafter. Last week UCF lost 97-69 at home to Houston, which represented their most decisive defeat since 1998. To make matters worse, rival East Carolina laid an 89-75 beat-down on the Knights the following Saturday.  I hope the following things I write don’t have the same kind of negative consequences. But things are really looking up at East Carolina, where the Pirates currently sit at 12-10 overall and 4-5 in CUSA. I know those records don’t look impressive, but last season they finished the year with 11 wins total and 5 in CUSA. They broke 80 points in back-to-back wins last week over Southern Miss (82-79) and UCF (89-75). Also, their sophomore point guard, Brock Young, leads the NCAA with 7.8 assists per game. Pirate coach Mack McCarthy deserves big kudos for the progress his team has made, even if they aren’t tournament material just yet.

3.) Welcome Back Aubrey: In case people haven’t noticed, Houston guard Aubrey Coleman has been on a complete warpath since his suspension against UTEP. In his first game back against Memphis, he had 35 points and in his encore against UCF the following Wednesday he had 30 points and 11 rebounds. But Coleman’s grand finale came in his first game back at Hofheinz Pavilion. Even though most of his teammates looked like they were sleepwalking, he helped carry his team to a victory with his 27 point, 12 rebound performance. That was also his 8th double-double of the 2008-09 season. For his efforts, Coleman was named CUSA Player of the Week.

4.) Mike Davis Doesn’t Like Hattiesburg: The contests between Southern Miss and UAB have become fairly heated since the formation of Conference USA. This rivalry just had a nice little chapter added to it after last Saturday’s contest at Southern Miss’ Reed Green Coliseum. It had been a source of great shame in the last few seasons for Blazer hoops fans that their team struggled against a historically mediocre Southern Miss program. However, the Blazers exorcised a few demons when they soundly defeated the Golden Eagles 66-49. The boys in green and gold were led by Paul Delaney III and his team-high 16 points, along with 15 a piece from Robert Vaden and Channing Toney. To add insult to injury, a few hundred Blazer fans made the trip to Hattiesburg and effectively took over Reed Green. Finally in his post-game comments, Blazer coach Mike Davis talked about how he typically wasn’t in a rush to leave town, except when he was in Hattiesburg. Ouch! Oh and Golden Eagles coach Larry Eustachy better have some tricks up his sleeve this year or the next, because his program is going nowhere fast.

5.) Race to the Bottom: For the past couple of weeks I have used this section of my weekly CUSA wrap-up to rag on the woeful SMU basketball program. But after their earth-shattering win over Cal State-Bakersfield this past weekend, how can I speak ill of them? Ok, maybe I just got tired of posting the same thing over and over again. This week I’ll focus my energies on Tulane. No they aren’t the worst team in CUSA, but they are definitely not trending upward. They’ve posted impressive wins over Tulsa and Rice, but haven’t done much else. They’ve had two overtime losses in their last three games: to UCF (74-79) and Marshall (86-89) respectively. The sad part is that Dave Dickerson had the Green Wave sitting at 15-6 overall at one point last year and it’s been pretty much a disaster since. If that’s not frustrating and flummoxing, I don’t know what is.

rtmsf (3998 Posts)

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