Checking In On… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2011

Steve Coulter—is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA. You can also find his musings online at http://www.duclarion.com/sports or on Twitter @broncos2thebowl

Reader’s Take

 

Caught on Film

Conference USA Player of the Week Alandise Harris had the throwdown of the week with this dunk in a win over Arkansas that earned the top spot on ESPN’s Top Plays.

The Week That Was

  • Memphis Falls In Maui, Picks Itself Up: The 13th ranked Memphis Tigers have had an up-and-down beginning of their season, finishing with a total of 196 points in their two victories, while shooting a miserable 33 percent from the field in their lone loss to No. 15-ranked Michigan. The Tigers failed to find an offensive spark against the Wolverines, losing 73-61 in the opening round of the Maui Invitational on Monday. Senior Charles Carmouche was the only Memphis player to shoot 50% in the game making six of his 12 attempted shots and finishing with a team-high 14 points. On Tuesday night, the Tigers redeemed themselves, holding on to narrowly defeat in-state foe Tennessee 99-97 in double overtime. Memphis was in control most of the way, but blew its ten-point halftime lead as the Volunteers surged late behind a stellar performance from junior Jeronne Maymon, who hit a game-tying shot in the closing second of regulation. He finished with 32 points and 20 rebounds while guard Will Barton had 25 points and 11 rebounds. Sophomores Antonio Barton and freshman Adonis Thomas helped the Tigers, providing a spark off the bench and finishing with 21 and 19 points, respectively. Antonio, the little brother of Will, hit a crucial jump shot in the second overtime with a little over a minute remaining.
  • Rice, Marshall, Tulane Off To Hot Starts: While the conference’s current leaders—Rice, Marhsall, Tulane (all 4-0)—will see tougher competition in weeks to come, the three teams have gotten to the top of the conference standings by throttling weaker competition. Junior swingman Arsalan Kazemi has the Owls started in the right direction, averaging a double-double through the first four contests. Similarly, junior swingman Kendall Timmons has been an integral part of the Green Wave’s early season surge out of the conference cellar. Timmons is shooting a pristine 66.7% from the field while averaging 18.7 points a game for Tulane. The Thundering Herd are the least shocking of the unbeatens remaining in conference; however, they’ve taken advantage of a weak early schedule. Marshall can prove themselves in weeks to come when they play a pair of Big East giants—Cincinnati and Syracuse—on the road.
  • Eligibility Notes: According to reports early this week, UCF guard A.J. Rompza will be eligible next month, following an NCAA investigation that probed the university’s men’s and basketball team. Rompza’s return will happen on December 30, but before he returns to the hardwood, the guard will have to pay a $900 penalty for receiving improper benefits. Head coach Donnie Jones will sit out three conference games due to violations after school President John Hitt gave him an official reprimand.

Power Rankings

  1. #13 Memphis (2-1): The Tigers are currently a top 60 scoring offense; however, the team’s inability to rebound is hurting them in the early stages. The team averages almost 80 points a game, but has struggled early on the glass, averaging less 30 rebounds per game as a team. The team’s guards were exposed on a national stage against Michigan as they were handled on both ends of the court. They found redemption against Tennessee and showed glimpses of how good they really can be offensively.
  2. Houston (3-1): A gigantic road win over Arkansas has the Cougars soaring in the power rankings. Despite being knocked from the ranks of unbeatens on Tuesday night, Houston has proven they can run the court, averaging 86.3 points a game and shooting almost 50% from the field. Sophomore Alandise Harris is one of the best forwards in the conference, which will help them once conference play starts.
  3. Marshall (4-0): DeAndre Kane and Damier Pitts have lived up to preseason expectations as the duo has led the Thundering Herd to a perfect start through four games. Kane has played flawlessly, averaging 15.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 2.3 steals per game. The sophomore is certainly putting up conference POY-type numbers early on, but the road gets much tougher for Marshall as road trips to Cinncy and Syracuse are coming up. Something worth noting: the undersized Herd are one of the best rebounding teams in the country with nine players currently averaging two or more rebounds a game.
  4. Tulsa (4-2): The Golden Hurricane have battled early and often in their first six games, playing in three contests that were decided by a total of 14 points. On Tuesday, the team was able to finally win a close contest, edging Jackson State 57-51 on the road. Tulsa was a game removed from playing Seton Hall in the Charlestown Classic Championship, but couldn’t outlast Northwestern in the second half. Kodi Maduka and D.J. Magley have fortified themselves as strong post players next to forward Steven Idlet, producing a trio that averages over 22 rebounds per game combined. Guards Jordan Clarkson and Scottie Haralson continue to lead this team in the backcourt.
  5. Rice (4-0): When talking about Rice, one cannot talk enough about Arsalan Kazemi. The junior has been doing everything for the Owls this season, continuing to build on a stellar sophomore campaign. The Owls have played one of the weakest schedules among Division I teams, but they have dominated all four games, winning by 15 points or more in each contest. The team is sixth in the country in rebounding.
  6. Central Florida (2-1): The Knights looked outmatched last week when they took on #19 Florida State. On offense, the team shot a horrendous 18 of 59 from the field (30.5%), while being outrebounded 42-28. Guards Keith Clanton and Marcus Jordan are currently shouldering too much of the scoring burden, which has created an alarming problem at the point guard position.
  7. Tulane (4-0): The Green Wave got their biggest win of the young season on Tuesday night, knocking off Navy 57-55 in a nail biter. While junior Kendall Timmons has been team’s leader once again this season, sophomore forward and NC State transfer Josh Davis has developed into a nice post player. Davis is averaging 17.7 points, 11 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game.
  8. Southern Mississippi (2-1): The Golden Eagles came away with a split on their trip to the Rocky Mountains. Despite a tough loss to the University of Denver, the Eagles recovered quickly, blowing out Colorado State 79-58. Senior forward Maurice Bolden is filling the void when Gary Flowers graduated providing a low presence for a Southern Miss team that lacks frontcourt presence.
  9. East Carolina (3-1): A close loss to Campbell hurts the Pirates considering how weak their schedule has been thus far. Junior guard Miguel Paul is making a name for himself early on, establishing himself as one of the conference’s premier point guards.
  10. UAB (1-2): Once a preseason conference favorite, the Blazers have stumbled out of the gate and average under 10 assists per contest. The schedule only gets tougher with road trips to Wichita State, VCU, and Florida looming.
  11. SMU (3-3): The Mustangs have been in every game so far this season; however, the team has struggled offensively where the pressure is too high on senior swingman Robert Nyakundi. Under the glass, the Mustangs are also struggling with less than 30 rebounds per contest.
  12. UTEP (1-2): Tim Floyd’s team has struggled early on, which isn’t a good thing with road trips to Oregon and UNLV on the schedule. The Miners finish their non-conference schedule with contests against Clemson and Colorado State. As the team looks to replace its three top scorers from last season, it has yet to find a consistent offensive threat. Currently UTEP has only one player that averages double digits.

Looking Ahead

  • UTEP (1-2) at Oregon (2-1), November 29 at 10 PM: A win against the Ducks redeems the Miners early struggles. UTEP must have two legitimate scoring threats to attack the vulnerable Oregon backcourt.
  • Northern Iowa (3-1) at Rice (4-0), Friday @ 6 PM: Arsalan Kazemi will look to continue his early season surge as the Owls try to go perfect through their first five games.
  • TCU (3-2) at Houston (3-1), Saturday @ 8 PM: The Horned Frogs are coming off back-to-back losses, which is perfect for a Houston team that has found its identity early on.
  • Tulsa (4-2) at Oklahoma State (3-0), November  30 @ 7 PM: Tulsa gets an opportunity to play a Big 12 team in Oklahoma State that is flat out dominating the glass. The Cowboys rank fourth in the country in rebounds. In order to pull off the upset, the Golden Hurricane will need a strong performance from each of their three big men.
Brian Goodman (742 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.


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