Conference USA Wrapup & Tourney Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2009

Memphis passed its last regular season road test and now only has a few games to go to return to the “promised land” that they’ve never really left.

While the Tigers’ dominance over the rest of CUSA is nearly unparalleled in the history of modern college basketball, it doesn’t mean that every other team is chopped liver. Basically anything can happen in a tournament setting and the Tigers have endured a few close calls this year.

2009-cusa-tourney-bracket

So here are the teams as they are seeded and some pertinent info:

#1: Memphis Tigers

Coach: John Calipari

Record: 28-3 overall (16-0 in CUSA)

Players to Watch: G Tyreke Evans, F Robert Dozier, F Shawn Taggart, G Antonio Anderson

Season Highlights: In a year that many thought would be fraught with ‘rebuilding’ and the like, the Tigers continue to look dominant. The arrival of the latest one-year wonder: Tyreke Evans, has allowed the blue and gray not miss a beat from last year’s final four squad. But the veteran leadership of guys like Antonio Anderson, Doneal Mack, Shawn Taggart and Robert Dozier has been a huge factor too. They suffered early-season setbacks against Xavier and Syracuse, but they’re currently riding 20+ game winning streak. There have been a few close calls and at the end of the day they’re still undefeated against the rest of the conference.

They Will Win If: They simply show up and play their game. I don’t want to imply that the Tigers will simply cream whomever they play, because they could well lose. But they’re playing an extremely favorable draw on their home court. This is a recipe for success and it also doesn’t hurt that they’ve won over 50 games in a row against CUSA teams.

First Game: vs. the winner of #8 Tulane/#9 East Carolina; Thursday at 8:30 pm.

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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.

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Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by rtmsf on December 31st, 2008

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

Same song, just the second verse now.

This was another tough week for Conference USA basketball as the league desperately tries to find respect in non-conference play.

If we were to stop non-conference play today and commence CUSA play, I’d practically guarantee that this league would only get one bid to the NCAA tournament. But there are a few more opportunities for the teams in this league to prove themselves.

1.)    Let’s Get the Bad News Out of the Way: There were a few losses that were just very tough to swallow in the league. While they have a decent business school SUNY-Binghamton isn’t known for being a basketball powerhouse. You wouldn’t know it though by the way the Bearcats went on the road and beat Tulane 74-73. There will be a heated battle between the Green Wave and SMU for worst team in CUSA.  Really there’s no shame in losing to a top 10 caliber team like Wake Forest. But ECU didn’t just lose, they got hammered 95-54 by the Demon Deacons. But the real embarrassment came this past Sunday when the Pirates lost 63-55 to mighty Coastal Carolina. To put that loss in perspective CCU has losses to Presbyterian, Savannah State, North Carolina A&T and Coker. I wouldn’t call it embarrassing, but Houston needed a non-conference win against Iowa State if it wanted to call itself a contender for the NCAA tournament. The Cougars allowed ISU’s Larry Brackins to have a career day of 38 points and 14 rebounds, as the Cyclones won 71-67.

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Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2008

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

Feast week and turkey day are now in the rear view mirror and another week of basketball is in the books.

There were good moments and bad moments, but ultimately this was a positive week for Conference USA basketball. During the UAB/Oklahoma game in the pre-season NIT, ESPN commentator Steve Lavin gushed about the depth of CUSA, talking about how UAB, UTEP and Tulsa could join Memphis in the NCAA Tournament this year. This kind of coverage is the best thing this conference could hope for.

Now let’s get to the happenings of the past week:

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ATB: pre-Thanksgiving Pass/Fail

Posted by rtmsf on November 27th, 2008

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We’re really not in the mood for this tonight, so it’s going to be short/sweet.  Either you pass or fail, that’s the deal.

Game of the Night. UNC 102, Notre Dame 87.

  • Notre Dame. EPIC FAIL.  Carolina shot 58% on you.  Just.  Go.  Home.
  • Tyler Hansbrough. PASS.  He’s back (34/5 on 13-19 shooting).
  • Kyle McAlarney. PASS.  39 pts on 10 threes, many of which seemed from halfcourt.  The only ND player who came to play tonight.
  • Luke Harongody. FAIL.  13/7 and thoroughly outplayed by Psycho-T.
  • Rest of College Basketball. FAIL.  If Carolina is going to play like this…

Preseason NIT. Oklahoma 77, UAB 67 & Purdue 71, Boston College 64.

  • Blake Griffin. PASS.  Another 32/15 and an OU win.  POY.
  • Paul Delaney III. PASS.  23/6 on 10-14 shooting for UAB.
  • UAB Finishing. FAIL.  With 5:09 to go, UAB was ahead.  The Blazers scored two more relevant points.
  • Robbie Hummell and E’Twaun Moore. PASS.  29/11/8 assts combined.
  • Purdue Down the Stretch. FAIL.  A 19-pt lead with 6:30 to go shouldn’t go to two possessions that quickly.

Anything Else?

  • Oregon St. FAIL.  Another close loss 82-79 in overtime.  To Montana State.
  • Arkansas. PASS.  A solid win 79-77 at South Alabama for one of the worst SEC teams.
  • Indiana. PASS/FAIL.  A pass for getting another win (there won’t be many more).  A fail for barely skating by D2 Chaminade 81-79.
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Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by rtmsf on November 23rd, 2008

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Allen R is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

The first week or so of Conference USA basketball is in the books and really you can’t tell too much from these contests.

My biggest complaint is that teams like Central Florida, Marshall, East Carolina and Southern Miss scheduled Division II and NAIA teams to start out the season. I realize that many schools struggle to find quality non-conference opponents, but there are over 300 Division I teams out there that could be potentially scheduled. In a conference desperate for an RPI boost, this does very little good.

Okay, the rant is now finished. Here are the very early storylines in the conference so far.

  1. Reload Time. With the loss of leaders such as Chris Douglas-Roberts, Joey Dorsey and Derrick Rose it isn’t surprising that the Memphis Tigers have looked a tad bit mortal early on in the season. During a nationally televised match-up against UMass, the Tigers struggled mightily to score any points at the outset. Clearly they are not as crisp as they were a year ago and the roles aren’t as clearly defined. In the second half of the UMass game however, Tyreke Evans showed why he was a top prep recruit and got the Tiger ‘dribble drive’ offense going en route to an 80-58 victory. While this may be the best chance for a Conference USA team to knock off the Tigers, they will only get better as the year grows on.
  2. Blazing Arizona. The current Arizona Wildcat squad would not be confused with some of the great groups to come out of Tucson in the past few decades. Longtime head coach Lute Olson stepped down just before the start of the season, while recruits and players bailed left and right from the program. But that shouldn’t take away from the UAB Blazers’ impressive 72-71 road win over the Wildcats in the pre-season NIT. Coach Mike Davis has a deep, senior-laden team that has proven itself capable of dealing with challenges early in the season. Keep an eye on the health of point guard Paul Delaney III. He missed all of last season with an ACL tear and the Blazers’ success is quite contingent on him staying healthy this year.
  3. First Impressions. At least a few freshmen from Conference USA teams look like they’ll be major impact players on their respective teams. Obviously Tyreke Evans on Memphis has superstar written all over him and has broken into the lineup from day one averaging 15.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. Along with Evans, Tiger freshman Wesley Witherspoon has received a good chunk of minutes early on. Houston point guard Desmond Wade has also worked his way into the lineup from the first day, all the while showcasing a selfless attitude and hard-nosed defensive play (he’s averaged 6 assists and 2 steals per game). Junior college transfer Aubrey Coleman has also played well for Houston early, averaging 16.8 points and earning CUSA newcomer of the week honors  along with Tyreke Evans in week one. On a team full of newcomers UCF’s Dave Diakite has stood out early on and will pose some matchup problems down the road with his combination of size and scoring ability. Another team featuring a lot of new faces is the Marshall Thundering Herd, who have 8 new players on the court (including 3 transfers and Marcus Goode, who sat out the 2007-08 season due to academics). Out of that group, Shaquille Johnson and Chris Lutz have both broken into the Herd starting lineup to start the year. Expect Lutz, a Purdue transfer, to light up the scoreboards all season.
  4. Dancing With Experienced Partners. On the opening weekend of college basketball, both Houston and Tulsa chalked up victories against teams that went to the NCAA tournament last season. One of last year’s biggest Cinderella stories: the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers were defeated by Houston 73-64. In their home opener the Cougars trailed 37-27 at the half, but relied on a stingy defense and an aggressive offense led by Aubrey Coleman (19 points, 6 rebounds) to pull it out. Tulsa hosted Oral Roberts in what has become an interesting regional rivalry game. It was a fairly ugly and disjointed game, but the Golden Hurricane pulled out a 50-43 victory, led by 20 points from point guard Ben Uzoh.
  5. House of Tudor. They may be a few years from being an upper-echelon CUSA team and have no basketball history to speak of, but the Rice Owls finally have a real basketball facility to play in. Previously the Owls played in Autry Court, a tiny and decrepit facility that seriously hampered any recruiting efforts. Prompted by a large donation from former Owl player and Goldman Sachs executive Bobby Tudor, the university began a major renovation of Autry Court that spanned all of last season. Now with new coach Ben Braun the Owls are looking to build a winning tradition in this new arena. For the record the Owls are 0-1 so far this year, with a 78-74 loss to defending Big Sky champion Portland State.
  6. Not Cowboying Up. In one of the games I highlighted as an important non-conference contest for Conference USA, the Oklahoma State Cowboys dismantled Tulsa 91-73 in Stillwater. The Cowboys and their new up-tempo offense under coach Travis Ford made quick work of the Golden Hurricane in the first half. Led by Byron Eaton the Cowboys built a 54-28 first half lead and coasted from there on out. The lone bright spot for the Golden Hurricane would probably be another 20-point performance from Ben Uzoh.
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ESPN Marathon of Hoops Live Blog, Part II

Posted by jstevrtc on November 18th, 2008

10:02 am – OK, back for more.  A little Drexel-Penn for your Tuesday morning.  Come on, is ESPN serious about this this stuff?  They don’t even have a GameCast going for this one.  Amateurs!  OK, I’ll stop.  Right now I have to give props to the Drexel students, because they have stepped up, here.  They’re in full face/body paint, wigs, etc.  Even for the ones who are just in their “Fear the Fire” t-shirts, they’re there in force.  They’ve filled that arena.  It’s rare that ANY college student is gonna get up at 10am for anything, so to show up like they have for a game at this time of day — even if it is a Big Five game — has got to earn some props.  This looks just like a night game in terms of the crowd behavior.  What this really is, is a total bonanza for any professors at Drexel who might be the attendance-taking type.  They could literally just pause the broadcast periodically and check off truant students on their roll sheets by the dozen.  I hated those professors…

10:26am — Drexel is the better team so far.  They’re outhustling Penn, who actually does look tired.  Drexel is up 8 with 12 minutes to go in the first half and this could get out of hand for the Quakers in short order if they don’t get their heads in it.

10:30am — Drexel extends…up ten at the under-8 timeout.

10:35am — Drexel is doing this with defense and hustle.  They’re winning every loose ball.  This is a Penn squad who only lost to UNC by 15, and they’re already down 14 to the Dragons and we’re coming up on the under-4 timeout.

10:41am — The first hyping of UNC-Kentucky.  I’m reminded of the time in 1995 when CBS was broadcasting an elite eight game involving those two teams (the one where Rasheed Wallace got choked — I don’t mean he CHOKED, I mean he GOT choked by Kentucky’s Andre Riddick during a scuffle early on) and Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery showed up in tuxedos, given the history of the two programs.  I think whoever’s calling tonight’s game should do the same, especially with the almost constant hype.

10:51am — Halftime…34-27, Drexel.  This could have been worse for Penn who are in full sleepwalking mode.  Drexel decided to chuck (and miss) some threes late in the half; they have the better athletes but a couple of ill-advised shots and a couple of hand-checking fouls let Penn back into this.  If Penn wakes up at halftime, things could get interesting.

Right now, I’m actually a little impressed with Drexel.  Bruiser Flint has got his team mentally ready, except for that hiccup at the end of the half, and I’m gonna repeat my props to the crowd.  Drexel doesn’t look like a team playing their first game of the season, they look like they’re on number five or six.

I’m not complaining (heh heh….) but I’m starting to realize that maybe grabbing a nap before starting this endeavor may have been a good call, instead of working a whole day.  Oh, I’m not goin’ anywhere…but the coffee machine is now operational.

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