Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 31st, 2011

Stephen Coulter is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

A Look Back

  • Three-Team Tie Atop Conference Standings: With UAB’s win last Saturday, the Blazers moved into a three-way tie for first place in the conference standings. Now, UAB, UTEP and Memphis share the top spot in Conference USA with five weeks remaining in the regular season schedule.
  • Tulsa Nips UTEP in 69-68 Thriller: Only days after losing a nail-biter to SMU, Tulsa got its own dramatic victory on Saturday when they knocked off UTEP on Justin Hurtt’s 16-foot jumper that went in with 6.8 second remaining. Hurtt scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half, soaring past Preseason Conference Player of the Year Randy Culpepper in the final seconds to make the clutch shot. Culpepper finished with 28 points and had made a big-time three-pointer only seconds before Hurtt nailed the game-winner on the other end of the court.
  • Memphis Slams UCF, Falters Against Marshall: Inconsistent play continues to sidetrack Memphis this season as the Tigers were able to earn a double-figure win earlier in the week against Central Florida, but couldn’t compete at all on Saturday night in a 85-70 loss to Marshall. DeAndre Kane continues to lead the Thundering Herd, scoring 20 points and adding four assists.
  • Southern Mississippi Recovers, Blasts Past ECU and Tulane: A week after losing a pair of conference games, Southern Mississippi retaliated by dropping East Carolina and Tulane by a combined 20 points. Gary Flowers continued his dominance, scoring 15 points and grabbing 13 boards in the win over Tulane. The Golden Eagles outrebounded the Green Wave, 42-26, and went on to score 24 points in the paint, including 17 second-chance points.
  • UAB Sweeps Week, Hands UCF Sixth Consecutive Loss: Central Florida has plummeted from mid-major darling to Conference-USA doormat, losing six in a row, including a loss last Saturday to UAB. The Blazers couldn’t have marched to the top of the conference in a more dominating fashion. First they topped surging Marshall on Wednesday night 60-56, then beat the Knights, a team that was undefeated until earlier this month. Against UCF, the Blazers saw big games from Dexter Fields (19 points), Jamarr Sanders (18 points) and Aaron Johnson (11 points, 11 assists).
  • SMU Squeaks Pasts Tulsa On Game-Winning Shot, Completes Perfect Week by Knocking Off Rice: Junior Robert Nyakundi shined in Saturday’s win over Rice, notching a career-best 29 points. However, Nyakundi’s best moment of the week came in Wednesday’s victory over Tulsa, when he hit a game winning three-pointer from the left corner with 1.1 seconds remaining. The Golden Hurricane blew a perfect opportunity, missing seven free throws in the final eight minutes and allowed SMU to win a game in which they didn’t score in the final eight minutes of play.
  • Tulane Road Woes Extend Losing Streak To Five: It’s a toss-up as to which team is struggling more—Tulane or UCF. Although the Green Wave have the better conference record, they have struggled more than most people can see. During their six-game win streak, the team scored above 85 four of six times. However, that offense has disappeared, as the team has failed to score more than 67 in five straight losses that now have them at the bottom of the conference after starting 2-0 on the opening weekend.
  • Rice Edges Houston in OT. Arsalan Kazemi was the story once again for the Owls as the team claimed their second conference win this year, beating Houston 79-71 in overtime. The sophomore forward and sure-ballot First-Team Conference USA, scored 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. It didn’t stop there – Kazemi recorded four assists, four steals and four blocks as well. Teammate Connor Frizzelle carried a bit of the burden too, leading the team with 18 points and hitting a crucial three pointer with 13 seconds left in regulation.

Power Rankings

  1. UTEP (17-5, 5-2) –You can’t really blame Tim Floyd’s squad for coming up short at Tulsa, especially losing in the final seconds. While senior Randy Culpepper may get all the attention, fellow classman Julyan Stone has emerged as a team leader. Stone averages 7.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game, both team best.
  2. Memphis (16-5, 5-2) – The Tigers have to be disappointed in the loss to Marshall, however the conference crown is still a possibility. With their young talent, Memphis can be dangerous, what they really need is consistency. Freshmen Will Barton and Tarik Black are finding their stride.
  3. UAB (13-5, 5-2) –UAB survived 19 lead changes against a UCF team desperate for a win. The made it through with a win and a share of the conference’s No. 1 spot because they made 10 of 20 three-pointers. In addition, 19 points from sophomore Dexter Fields off the bench was gigantic. The team needs to continue that type of play against a tough upcoming schedule.   
  4. Southern Miss (16-5, 5-3) – Southern Miss got back on track against a struggling Tulane. Credit the Golden Eagles for a 16-1 run in the second half to close out the win. Trumping East Carolina had to give them some confidence as well. The team is 30th in the nation in rebounding behind Gary Flowers. The forward leads the team in points, rebounds and blocks.
  5. Marshall (14-7, 2-4) – Like the teams above them in the standings, Marshall has found its way to 14 or more wins thanks in large part to a dominating trio of scorers. For the Thundering Herd, these men are all starting guards—DeAndre Kane, Damier Pitts and Shaquille Johnson—who just defeated Memphis this past weekend. Credit senior Tirell Baines for dropping 17 points in the big game.
  6. SMU (13-8, 4-3) –Papa Dia and Robert Nyakundi have become the conference’s best duo over the past three weeks and they have the Mustangs surging heading into February.   
  7. Tulsa (10-9, 4-3) – The Golden Hurricane have interchanged a win for a loss since Dec. 30, hence their just above .500 record in conference play. Although not consistent, Tulsa has emerged as a looming threat thanks to Justin Hurtt. The senior, who averages 20.5 points per game, will have no problem being on the First Team All-Conference at the end of the season.  
  8. East Carolina (12-9, 4-3) – Jontae Sherron and Darrius Morrow have provided a spark for a team that appeared to be stuck in the bottom part of the conference only weeks ago.  
  9. Houston (11-9, 3-4) –A three-game losing streak has Houston reeling in the conference standings. It may be time to hit the panic button if the Cougars lose to Marshall on Tuesday night. They have an opportunity to get back to the top of the conference—the product of a tight conference race, which means Adam Brown will need to continue to be the team’s offensive spark.
  10. UCF (14-6, 1-6) –Coach Donnie Jones must right the ship and do it fast, because the Knights out of conference wins will be meaningless if this team doesn’t have a surge in February. Although they have lost six straight, they are only four back of the conference lead.   
  11. Tulane (12-8, 2-5) – Kendall Timmons is leading this team every single game, however, the support has faded and so have the Green Wave.
  12. Rice (10-11, 2-5) –You can’t mention sophomore Arsalan Kazemi enough when talking about the Owls. The Iran native is one of the more interesting stories in college basketball, averaging 11.6 rebounds a night, while carrying the team offensively.  

A Look Ahead

  • Houston and Marshall Joust To Stay Alive in Conference Standings: Tuesday night the conference schedule gets started early as the Cougars and the Thundering Herd square off. Houston is struggling currently, however, the league has been inconsistent thus far and the Cougars have the experience necessary to get back on track.
  • UAB Hosts So. Miss In Mid-Week Showdown: The game of the week has to be Southern Miss traveling to UAB. The inside match-up, as well as the guard play, will be more than interesting to watch. The winner adds a pretty solid win to their resume.
  • Struggling UCF Looks To Tap UTEP for Second CUSA Win: The Knights may rank last in the conference standings, and the Miners rank tied for first, however the standings don’t matter for a UCF team taking it one game at a time. Keith Clanton has been a consistent threat for the Knights, but can he top Randy Culpepper?
  • Memphis Looks to Avoid Consecutive Losses To Tulsa, Gets Ready for Gonzaga: Memphis remains atop the conference standings, because of their high-scoring offense, which is led by young, talented guards like Will Barton. The question remains though, can these youngsters be consistent for the Tigers? The home test versus Tulsa will gauge how serious this team is and then their out of conference showdown will display whether or not they are ready for March.
  • SMU and East Carolina Duel to Stay a Game Back of Conference Leaders: The Pirates have won their last two road contests. In addition, they played Memphis close on the road, losing by three on January 8. ECU remains a game back of the conference lead due to great road play. If they can beat a surging SMU team, it will be big for the program.
  • Rice Travels to Tulane In Battle of the Basement: Arsalan Kazemi and Kendall Timmons square off in a match-up between conference bottom-dwellers. Tulane looks to end a five game losing streak, while the Owls look to ascend from the bottom and reach the middle of the pack.

 

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Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 26th, 2011

 

Stephen Coulter is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

A Look Back

  • Memphis Tops UAB in OT Duel For Conference Supremacy. Memphis took a one-game conference lead over UAB last Saturday night when the Tigers beat the Blazers 76-73 in OT in one of the best games in the early part of the conference season. In the final two minutes of regulation, there were four lead changes, which ultimately resulted in a tie. In overtime, the Tigers, led by the dynamic Will Barton, took control and limited the Blazers to a mere five points in extra play. Barton finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and three assists, while UAB’s Cameron Moore led all scorers with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Despite missing five of six free throws in the final 25 seconds of overtime, and shooting a putrid 14-27 from the charity stripe, the Tigers held off the Blazers to earn their third consecutive win.
  • UTEP KOs Houston On The Road, Snaps’ Cougars Three-Game Win Streak. UTEP handed in-state foe Houston its first home loss in conference play last weekend, while extending their win-streak to three games. In addition, the loss halts Houston’s own three-game win-streak and drops them a game back in the conference standings. In what was a back-and-forth game, the Miners’ Randy Culpepper finished with 18 points, while teammate Julyan Stone dropped four crucial points in the game’s final minute.
  • Marshall Edges No. 21 West Virginia in Chesapeake Energy Classic. Last week, the Thundering Herd dropped the Mountaineers, the then-No. 21-ranked team in the AP poll, 75-71. Marshall got off to a fast start, jumping out to a 35-21 lead in the first half, and they never looked back. The Herd got its first trademark win under first-year head coach Tom Herrion knocking off in-state rival WVU behind a dynamic performance from Damier Pitts. The junior guard exploded for a career-high 25 points, while recording four rebounds and five assists.
  • SMU Earns Second Quality Conference Win By Knocking off So. Miss. Two of the conference’s most inconsistent teams shared the court last weekend, resulting in SMU’s second conference win of the season and their second against a team win 14 wins or more. Earlier this season, SMU topped Memphis, however, the Mustangs have been consistent all season long. The game also featured two of the conference’s premier post-players in SMU’s Papa Dia and USM’s Gary Flowers.
  • Bottom-dweller Rice Halts UCF, Drops Knights To 1-4 In Conference Play. Head coach Donnie Jones can’t seem to catch a break. After starting off 1-2 in conference with a pair of road losses, Jones’ Knights couldn’t get their second conference win despite playing back-to-back home games against teams that ranked near the bottom in conference standings. Following a shocking 12-point loss to East Carolina, the Knights fell to lowly Rice 57-50 last Saturday. Since starting 14-0, UCF has lost four in a row.
  • Tulane’s losing streak extends to three with loss to Tulsa. After winning nine of ten, Tulane has dropped three consecutive conference games following last weekend’s 65-61 home-loss to Tulsa. The Green Wave could not overcome five Golden Hurricane players scoring in double figures.
  • East Carolina Rises Behind Jontae Sherrod’s Strong Performance. Senior guard Jontae Sherrod earned Player of the Week honors after leading the Pirates to a 2-1 record in a daunting three-game week. Sherrod averaged 18.7 points per game, while recording 21 points against UCF.

Power Rankings

  1. UTEP (16-4, 4-1) – The best team in the conference is only four wins away from reaching the 20-win mark. In fact, the Miners may be closer to that number with four of five games against teams with a sub-.500 conference record.
  2. Memphis (15-4, 4-1) –Despite a sluggish start—a close win over ECU and a loss to SMU – the Tigers have rallied and overcome injury issues by beating three of the conference’s top teams. Although they have yet to win a game in dominating fashion, Memphis doesn’t need to look further than their team free throw percentage to understand why they play in so many close games.
  3. UAB (13-5, 3-2) –The Blazers roughest stretch began with a narrow, hard-fought loss to Memphis. Now, UAB must take on Marshall (twice), UCF, USM and Tulane in their next five games.  
  4. Southern Miss. (14-5, 3-3) – Following a bad loss to SMU, So. Miss will look to rebound against a surging East Carolina team. Gary Flowers has cemented himself as a first-team All Conference member, averaging 20.6 points and 7.2 rebounds a game.
  5. Marshall (13-6, 1-3) – The out-of-conference win over WVU helps the team confidence, now they have to top UAB on the road to really prove themselves.  
  6. UCF (14-4, 1-4) –Once a top 30 defensive team, the Knights have given up 74 or more points in three of their four losses this season. So far, the Knights have one conference win with a stretch that doesn’t favor their revival. Their upcoming schedule includes Memphis, UAB and UTEP.  
  7. East Carolina (11-8, 3-2) – Jontae Sherron and Darrius Morrow have provided a spark for a team that appeared to be stuck in the bottom part of the conference only weeks ago.  
  8. Houston (11-7, 3-2) –Before losing to UTEP last weekend, Houston’s three-game win streak was the squad’s longest of the season. They have yet to lose three in a row.
  9. Tulane (12-6, 2-3) – A few weeks ago, this was the hottest team in conference. Now, with a three game losing streak and games against UTEP and USM looming, the Green Wave appear to be in trouble.  
  10. Tulsa (10-9, 3-2) – The team lacks a point guard currently and it can be shown by the fact they are only averaging 12 team assists a game.
  11. SMU (11-8, 2-3) – Besides Papa Dia and Robert Nyakundi, the team lacks a true third scoring option and team’s have began to notice this.  
  12. Rice (9-10, 1-4) –By beating a team that was No. 1 in conference standings until January 8, the Owls were able to notch their first conference win of the year and now get back-to-back home games against Houston and SMU. Arsalan Kazemi could take home player of the year honors. The sophomore forward currently averages four offensive rebounds a night.

A Look Ahead

  • Struggling UCF Looks to Rebound Against Surging Memphis. Two weeks ago this game appeared to be a match-up that would determine who was No. 1 in conference. With the Knights struggling, Memphis appears to be in charge of the C-USA once again.
  • UTEP and UAB Hope To Continue Home Dominance. UTEP and UAB have more in common then their abbreviated names. Both programs are dominating at home this season. The Miners are 12-1 in El Paso, while the Blazers are 9-1 in Birmingham. While the Blazers will be test by Marshall in a game featuring two 13-win teams, the Miners get to extend Tulane’s losing streak to four.
  • So. Miss Tries To Get Off The Schnide Against Hot East Carolina. Back-to-back losses to Memphis and SMU have dropped Southern Mississippi to the middle of the pack. However, Gary Flowers and company plan to change that by dropping East Carolina tonight.
  • Tulsa and SMU Tangle In Middle Tier Battle. After appearing in the bottom of the conference in the first two weeks, Tulsa and SMU have rebounded to the middle of the Conference USA standings. Furthermore, each team has done it different ways—SMU relying on two or three main scoring threats, while Tulsa has distributed the scoring equally. We’ll see which style wins out tonight.
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Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by rtmsf on December 22nd, 2010

Steve Coulter is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

[ed note: this post was written before Tuesday’s games]

A Look Back

  • Knights stay perfect, top Miami after power outage.  The No. 3 shooting team in the nation resides in Orlando. That’s right, the Knights of Central Florida are shooting the ball as well as any team in the nation, a huge reason for the team’s 10-0 record so far. On Saturday, the team stayed undefeated when they ousted Miami 84-78 at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida, after trailing as much as 43-31 in the first half. The 12-point deficit was the largest the team faced this season, however the Knights rebounded by scoring 51 points and shooting 75 percent in the second half after a 25-minute delay due to a power outage. The loss snapped a five-game win streak for the Hurricanes, while UCF’s Marcus Jordan led all scorers with 23 points.
  • Central Florida cracks top 25 for the first time this season.  Following the 10-0 start to begin their season, Central Florida was rewarded Monday afternoon when the new AP Top 25 poll was released. UCF is ranked No. 24 in the poll, marking the first time the team has been ranked this year. For now, the Knights remain unranked in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, however they were the top vote getter among unranked teams, garnering 47 votes.
  • UTEP extends win streak to six, tops Texas Tech and SFA.  UTEP is carrying a six-game winning streak into their road contest with BYU on Thursday after the Miners were able to top Texas Tech 82-71 last week. On Monday, the Miners beat Stephen F. Austin 61-52. In both games, Randy Culpepper was the leading scorer, finishing with 28 and 18 points, respectively. With the win, the Miners extended their winning streak to six. They haven’t lost since Nov. 26 when they were beaten by Georgia Tech.
  • Thin Memphis lineup survives scares over weaker opponents; wins 300th in past decade.  After a nationally televised loss to Kansas, the Memphis Tigers struggled against two lesser opponents. On Dec. 16, the Tigers failed to beat Austin Peay in regulation, surviving the Governors 70-68 in overtime. The win marked the second Memphis overtime win in four games. With a thin lineup suffering from injuries and transfers, coach Josh Pastner only played nine players against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The result wasn’t pretty, as the Tigers slipped past the Islanders after going into halftime down a point. Joe Jackson finished with a team-high and career-high 23 points. With the win, the Tigers became only the third NCAA Division I program to register 300 wins over the last decade.
  • DeAndre Kane’s double-double performance lifts Herd, keeps win streak alive.  Marshall limited VMI’s high-octane offense on Sunday night, edging the Keydets 98-70. Sophomore DeAndre Kane led the Herd, scoring 18 points and dishing out 13 assists. Shaquille Johnson led the team in scoring, recording 19 points. With the win, Marshall extended its winning streak to five games.

Power Rankings

  1. Central Florida (10-0).  For the first time this season, the Knights are ranked in the top 25. As a reward, they top the CUSA standings this week after Memphis’ recent struggles. The balanced scoring of Keith Clanton and Marcus Jordan, who both average more than 16 points a game, is making this one of the better offensive teams in the nation.
  2. Memphis (9-1).  With a big non-conference game coming up against Georgetown, the Tigers have to be concerned about where they are right now. The team is limited in terms of depth and is struggling on the rebounds as well as in the first half of games. Freshmen Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford need to continue to step up for the injured Wesley Witherspoon.
  3. UTEP (9-2).  After some early season struggles, senior Randy Culpepper has regained his grip on the conference’s POY discussion, leading the Miners with 19.8 points per game. The Miners take a six-game winning streak with them this week when they take on No. 23 BYU on Thursday night.
  4. Southern Mississippi (7-1).  Although they didn’t play, the Golden Eagles dropped one spot in the conference rankings. Senior Gary Flowers remains one of the best players in the conference.
  5. Marshall (8-2).  With Damier Pitts returning from injury, Marshall just got that much better as they look to add to their five-game winning streak when they take on 8-3 James Madison this week. Senior Tirrell Baines is playing huge in the low post for the Herd, who need as many big bodies as they can find.
  6. UAB (8-2).  The Blazers have a huge non-conference game against VCU tonight. If they want to win they will need to rely heavily on junior Cameron Moore, who is averaging 19.1 points and 9.5 rebounds a game.
  7. Tulane (6-3).  Nothing wrong with how the Green Wave played VCU on Saturday, however the team can’t expect to win games after falling behind by 13 in the first half.
  8. Southern Methodist (6-4).  SMU used a pair of wins over bottom competition to rise in the CUSA power rankings. Junior Robert Nyakundi has been a scoring machine of late, finishing in double figures in six consecutive games.
  9. East Carolina (7-4).  After a five-game winning streak, the Pirates have dropped back-to-back games, losing narrowly to Coastal Carolina last Saturday on a buzzer-beating jump shot.
  10. Houston (6-5).  The Cougars have struggled on the road this year, but luckily they have a pair of home games before they start conference play on Jan. 5. The team lost in overtime to Texas A&M-CC last Saturday.
  11. Rice (5-4).  Tough games against Miami and LSU loom for the Owls. The team has won its last two games though.
  12. Tulsa (5-5).  The Golden Hurricane have played back-to-back overtime games, barely edging out Weber State last week 81-79. Senior guard Justin Hurtt dropped a season-high 36 points in the game. Hurtt has scored above 20 points in half of the team’s games this season.

A Look Ahead

  • Wednesday is loaded. On Wednesday, Southern Miss takes on East Tennessee State in the Cancun Governor’s Cup, while Rice continues their play in Vegas when they take on Miami. In addition, East Carolina travels to George Washington looking to snap a two game losing streak. The games of the night have to be 8-2 Marshall at 8-3 James Madison and UCF taking their unbeaten record on the road against UMass.
  • Thursday trumps all; two top 25 teams duke it out in Memphis.  While the early days of the week have some intriguing matchups, Thursday tops the week off with a plethora of good basketball. The top game, of course, is No. 17 Memphis hosting No. 9 Georgetown. UTEP at No. 23 BYU is also one to watch as well.
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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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