Conference USA Tournament PreviewPosted by rtmsf on March 9th, 2010
Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League and an occasional contributor. He will be live-blogging some of the key games this weekend from Tulsa at the C-USA Tournament.
- UTEP 15-1 (24-5)
- Memphis 13-3 (23-8)
- UAB 11-5 (23-7)
- Marshall 11-5 (23-8)
- Tulsa 10-6 (21-10)
- Southern Miss 8-8 (18-12)
- Houston 7-9 (15-15)
- SMU 7-9 (14-16)
- UCF 6-10 (14-16)
- East Carolina 4-12 (10-20)
- Tulane 3-13 (8-21)
- Rice 1-15 (7-22)
Conference USA Tournament
This year’s Conference USA tournament is going to be slightly different from the previous years when Memphis was the only horse in this show. Believe it or not, the Tigers are NOT the favorite (that honor would belong to UTEP), and they will be fighting this weekend as a bubble team. Only UTEP has locked down an at-large berth for March Madness. UAB is also considered a bubble team, but at 11-5 in conference, anything short of a championship game showing will likely keep them out. It is likely that only two teams are coming out alive from C-USA — Memphis and UTEP — but a team like Tulsa (which is essentially playing a home tournament) could pull it together and win (I also have a little faith left for UAB).
Wednesday, March 10- First Round
#10 East Carolina vs. #7 Houston — The Cougars have the nation’s leading scorer, Aubrey Coleman (26.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.7 spg), they are the only conference team to upend UTEP, and they scorched ECU earlier in the year. They might be able to spoil someone’s dance party here in Tulsa. Houston over ECU.
#11 Tulane vs. #6 Southern Miss — I sometimes wonder why conference tournaments include everyone. In theory, Rice (and its seven wins) has a chance to get to the NCAA tournament. Isn’t this the playoffs? Shouldn’t the good teams compete? You think the national bracket expanding to 96 teams is bad? How about fixing this debacle? Now watch me eat my words in a big upset this weekend. Enough with the rants. I’ll take Southern Miss over the Green Wave.
#8 SMU vs. #9 UCF — I think UCF is still a couple years away from being a good team in C-USA. They have some nice young players to build on. Keith Clanton and Marcus Jordan were both named to the conference all-freshman team. Right now they lack the size. Honestly, I am more excited about the outside chance of seeing MJ than I am about the actual game. SMU over UCF.
#5 Tulsa vs. #12 Rice — Tulsa just missed out on the first round bye. The good news is they get to play Rice as punishment. Tulsa
Thursday, March 11 – C-USA Tournament Quarterfinals
#2 Memphis vs. #7 Houston — Memphis needs to win if they want to stay on that bubble. They are going to try to overpower the one-dimensional Cougars offensively; the Tigers have four double-figure scorers. Memphis over Houston.
#3 UAB vs. #6 Southern Miss — It’s the last stand for UAB, who is technically still on the bubble, but barely. UAB over Southern Miss.
#1 UTEP vs. #8 SMU — Randy Culpepper and Derrick Caracter are the best duo in the conference. SMU has the best named team in the conference (Papa Dia, Mouhammad Faye, and Robert Nyakundi). UTEP had a tough contest both times they faced the Mustangs, but that doesn’t mean much this late in the season, and with UTEP rolling. UTEP over SMU
#4 Marshall vs. #5 Tulsa — I smell an upset for the preseason champs. Tulsa is playing at home, and its desperation time. Tulsa over Marshall.
Friday, March 12 – C-USA Tournament Semifinals
#1 UTEP vs. #5 Tulsa — UTEP demonstrated the ability to shut down Tulsa’s star Center, Jerome Jordan, and their perimeter defense is the perfect matchup against Tulsa’s three-point threat. If this game happens, you can pencil UTEP in for the victory.
#2 Memphis vs. #3 UAB — this is a great matchup, and I don’t really know who to take. On one hand, I feel like UAB, desperate for a trip to the tournament, could pull off the upset. Memphis won both matchups, but the last one was a little bit tougher, only a five point victory. It comes down to this: If UAB wins this matchup, they are in. If Memphis gets to this point, they are already in. I’ll take UAB, but it is going to be a tough road.
Saturday, March 13 – C-USA Tournament Finals
#1 UTEP vs. #3 UAB – The Blazers lost to UTEP at home in overtime, and they lost in El Paso with a last second dunk by Derrick Caracter. That heartbreaking loss may have kept UAB out of the NCAA tournament, and I guarantee they will be looking for revenge. Will they be too exhausted after an emotional win against Memphis? I am taking UTEP, but you won’t want to miss this game. The key matchup will be Caracter against Howard Crawford because it will decide the championship.
Players to watch
Derrick Caracter, Forward, UTEP—The second team selection will be key for UTEP’s defense and his rebounding against other big men.
Aubrey Coleman, Guard, Houston—Coleman could mess everything up if Houston meets Memphis on Thursday. Memphis’ last loss came against Houston, when Coleman scorched the Tigers with 34 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists.
Jerome Jordan, Center, Tulsa—He hasn’t lived up to the hype in the second half of the season. NBA riches still await (the Association is enamored with limited 7-footers) but will he step up and deliver a C-USA championship in the final week of his once-promising college career?
So many questions, only one way to answer them… let’s tip it off!