Morning Five: 03.17.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 17th, 2014

morning5

  1. Well we are finally here. The brackets were released a little over 12 hours ago and by now you have probably analyzed (or overanalyzed your picks). And you have your choice of bracket challenges to enter including the ridiculously hyped Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge from Quicken Loans (it’s not technically a billion if you read the fine print), which has some interesting caveats. If you want a contest free of all of those hassles and you want more glory, join our annual Bracket Nonsense Challenge.
  2. We have spent a lot of time talking about the coaching carousel, but players will also start to move on in the next few weeks. Most of the names will be less well-known players transferring, but there are also some very big early entry decisions pending. Perhaps the biggest name to make news on this front is Noah Vonleh, who appears to be leaning toward entering this year’s NBA Draft. Indiana has a decent, but not spectacular incoming class so Vonleh leaving early would be a significant blow to Tom Crean’s ongoing rebuilding efforts. With Vonleh expected to be a top-10 pick in this year’s Draft we have a feeling that he will not be wearing an Indiana jersey for much longer.
  3. Speaking of the coaching carousel, three more coaches were fired over the weekend. The biggest move was at USF where Stan Heath was fired despite having four years remaining on his contract. Heath went 97-130 in seven seasons so his dismissal should not be that surprising and although the USF program is far from a powerhouse it does have many things about it–being in the AAC and a major city–that could make it appealing to a high-major assistant looking to take his first coaching job or a mid-major coach looking to move up a level. Tom Herrion was slightly more successful at Marshall (67-67 in four seasons) than Heath was at USF (albeit without a NCAA Tournament appearance), but that was not enough to help him retain his job as the school bought out the last two years of his contract. Herrion’s team went 11-22 this season, but undoubtedly would have been better if their best player from last season (DeAndre Kane) had not transferred and/or their top scorer this season (Elijah Pittman) not been suspended nine games into the season. The final firing of the weekend came from Jacksonville where Cliff Warren was fired after nine seasons. Warren led the Dolphins to five straight winning seasons from 2007-11 before finishing with three consecutive losing seasons.
  4. If you want to find out what happens in the aftermath of a coach getting fired, we encourage you to check out Brandon Marcello’s piece on what happened to Tony Barbee and his Auburn players after the coach was fired. One could argue that the decision was not necessarily a surprise, but the timing and speed at which it was made likely caught many of the involved off-guard. We are not sure whether to view the Auburn players’ reaction (or lack thereof) as one of shock or apathy. It will be interesting to see what will happen to all of those coaches who expressed their interest through Charles Barkley, who apparently has become the unofficial go-between for the job.
  5. We are literally as far away from Championship Week as we can possibly be, but that doesn’t there was not some news about its future over the weekend. The ACC appears to be on the verge of moving out of Greensboro and could be moving to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The two sides are currently negotiating a mutli-year deal that could bring the ACC Tournament to the New York area as soon as 2017. This would fit with the ACC’s goal of expanding its reach up north and could make the New York area the place to be during Championship Week with Madison Square Garden being the other premier venue.
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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 5th, 2012

Ryan Peters is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA. You can find him on Twitter @pioneer_pride and read his musings online at Big Apple Buckets and Pioneer Pride.

Top Storylines

  • A Conference in Considerable Flux – Before MemphisHoustonUCF, and SMU defect to the Big East – which officially makes a geographic mockery of the Big East’s name – C-USA will have one final season together as a full-fledged “upper-level” Division I conference. With only six NCAA Tournament teams and zero NCAA tournament victories in the past three seasons, however, can C-USA muster together a respectable showing for the 2012-13 campaign that doesn’t rival most mid-major conferences? Memphis is the only virtual lock to go dancing, yet several other programs (see MarshallUTEP, and Tulane) are on the rise and could conceivably end up on the right side of the tournament bubble come March. Still, it may be overly optimistic to think C-USA will break the two-team NCAA bid barrier that has eluded the conference since 2005.
  • A Run Towards Perfection – In his fourth season as Memphis’ head coach, Josh Pastner has an opportunity to do something his predecessor, John Calipari, did with apparent ease for three straight seasons prior – have his Tigers run the table in C-USA. With the conference slightly weaker heading into this season (according to Ken Pomeroy), Memphis has a real opportunity to put up a perfect 16-0 regular season mark against their conference foes. It will still prove to be difficult, especially when facing UCF and Marshall twice as part of their unbalanced schedule, yet Memphis returns four starters and is sitting on a potential NBA lottery pick in Adonis Thomas if the 6’7” small forward can stay healthy for much of the season.

Josh Pastner leads a talented home-grown roster in Memphis’ final season in C-USA.

  • Welcoming Back a Legend – Anytime you can hire a head coach with a resume such as the 71-year old Larry Brown, I guess you have to do it, given SMU’s desperation to hire a big name. After all, you’re talking about a guy with an NCAA championship and an NBA championship on his resume. The problem is – aside from his age and inability to coach through the initial contract at his last three destinations – Brown has been away from the college game for nearly 25 years, when he won the 1988 NCAA championship coaching Danny Manning (who, interestingly, is a new C-USA coach himself) and the Kansas Jayhawks. How much can the Mustangs reasonably expect from Brown under these conditions? The cupboard is bare with the graduation of leading scorer and most efficient player, Robert Nyakundi, and the removal of four players including starting point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas, so you have to wonder if Brown will have the patience to stick around long enough to fully rebuild a SMU program that hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1993. One benefit from Brown’s hiring is that he has assembled an impressive coaching staff, which includes the Mustangs possible head-coach-in-waiting in Tim Jankovich.
  • New Coaching Blood – Including Brown, there are four C-USA programs that hired new coaches this offseason, which makes up a whopping one third of the entire league. The most notable new hires are Brown and the aforementioned Danny Manning, who left his assistant post at Kansas in an attempt to push Tulsa out of complacency. Donnie Tyndall (Southern Miss) and Jerod Haase (UAB) complete the list of coaches. It will be an uphill battle in season one; research has shown head coaches typically struggle in their first season at their newest destination. Perhaps these men can buck the trend and adapt quickly, although the more likely scenario has some of the league taking advantage and pushing ahead of these rebuilding programs for the time being. Well, maybe except for Rice (more on that later)…

Reader’s Take I


Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Memphis (14-2)
  2. Marshall (12-4)
  3. UTEP (11-5)
  4. UCF (10-6)
  5. UAB (9-7)
  6. Southern Mississippi (8-8)
  7. Tulane (7-9)
  8. East Carolina (7-9)
  9. Houston (6-10)
  10. Tulsa (5-11)
  11. SMU (5-11)
  12. Rice (2-14)
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Set Your TiVo: 12.19.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 19th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

It’s a slow Monday night but keep your eye on what happens in these two games, even though neither will be on the tube.

Belmont at Marshall – 7:00 PM EST no TV (***)

  • For Tom Herrion, keeping control of the basketball has to be at the top of his game plan tonight. Marshall has a poor turnover margin, mostly due to its 15 turnovers per game average. It won’t be easy against Belmont either, a team that thrives off of giveaways and easy baskets. Offensively, Marshall has an edge in the paint with Dennis Tinnon (10/10) and Robert Goff. The Thundering Herd averages 42 RPG and is #2 nationally in offensive rebounding percentage. If Marshall’s guards, including top two scorers DeAndre Kane and Damier Pitts play well and can handle the ball, this team has to be favored at home.
  • With four losses on its resume already, Belmont has pretty much wrecked any chance it had of an at-large NCAA bid should it need one. Of course, the Bruins could win the Atlantic Sun tournament and make it anyway. As we mentioned, rebounding is a strength for Marshall and therefore a concern for Belmont. Rick Byrd’s team needs to create turnovers to help offset what should be a significant disadvantage on the glass. Belmont is #16 in offensive efficiency and it will need a quality game out of guards Kerron Johnson and Drew Hanlen. Hanlen is the team’s best three point shooter at 42.6%. Defensively, the Bruins do not have a good free throw rate. Luckily for them in this game, Marshall is one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the country.

    After Challenging Duke In Its Opener Belmont Has Struggled

  • Belmont is 1-4 on the road so you’d think it is due for a win away from home. Both teams shoot a lot of three pointers but the Bruins are much more efficient. Marshall shoots only 26.4% from deep but gets a lot of offensive rebounds, leading to a two point FG% of 52.6%. An astounding 43.7% of Belmont’s field goal attempts are triples so you can bet those will have to be falling in order for the Bruins to win this one on the road. Expect a close game throughout with Marshall being the ever so slight favorite.
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RTC Conference Primers: #8 – Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 30th, 2011

Joe Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can find him on Twitter @vbtnBlog.

Reader’s Take I

The A-10 has earned three invitations to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last four seasons. Xavier and Temple, as they have for the past two seasons, will claim two bids.


Top Storylines

Xavier's Tu Holloway Is A First-Team All-American Candidate And One Of The Nation's Best Seniors

  • A-10 to Barclays in 2013: Barclays Center, under construction in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, is in the market for multi-day sporting events while the Atlantic 10 is looking for a bigger stage for their post season tournament — a perfect match perhaps? The two announced a deal late last month that will move the 2012-13 A-10 Conference Tournament to the 675,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art sports and entertainment venue that will feature an 18,000 seat arena for basketball. The Atlantic 10 has vacillated between rotating campus sites and a “permanent neutral” site since the first conference tournament in 1976-77. The current location since the 2006-07 tournament, Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, is a 10,500 seat amphitheater. While technically neutral, the attendance is up when one or more of the Philadelphia contingent (La Salle, Saint Joseph’s and/or Temple) advances to the quarterfinal round and beyond, and down when they do not. The conference will return to Boardwalk Hall for their 2011-12 tournament, then move over to Barclays Center the following season.
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RTC Conference Primers: #9 – Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 28th, 2011

Steve Coulter is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

Reader’s Take

Despite having two teams earn bids into the NCAA Tournament last season, Conference USA walked away without a win.

 

Top Storylines

  • Can Memphis Pull Away?: While the Tigers have fielded strong teams since John Calipari left after the 2008-09 season, they’ve never had quite as much talent in that time as they figure to show this season. With essentially every notable contributor returning, a huge gap could form quickly. On the other hand, chemistry rarely comes instantly, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Memphis have a double-digit loss season, either.
  • Central Florida Continues To Build: Thanks partially to a soft non-conference schedule of six opponents with KenPom ratings 200 or lower and a non-D-I matchup, UCF cracked the national rankings for the first time in school history. While the Knights came down to Earth once conference play began, momentum is important no matter how it’s established. After winning two postseason games, we’re excited to see how the UCF follows up on a surprising season.
  • Realignment Hovers Over C-USA: Perhaps no single conference houses as many schools that were rumored to be on their way out than Conference USA, even if its membership ultimately stayed intact. East Carolina and UCF are frequently connected to the Big East; Memphis’ basketball program is as valuable a commodity as there is outside of the Power Six, and in its shakier days, the Big 12 could have found itself eyeing the Texas schools as a contingency plan in case the Longhorns and Sooners packed up for the Pac-12. It didn’t come to pass, but you have to wonder just what C-USA will look like in the long term.

This Year's Tigers, Led By Will Barton, Could Be Pastner's Most Talented Memphis Team Ever

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Summer Updates: Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 18th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our newest update comes courtesy of our Conference USA correspondent, Steve Coulter.

Reader’s Take I

Summer Storylines

  • Joe Jackson Goes Patriotic: The Memphis guard and MVP of the CUSA Championship was selected as a member of USA Basketball’s U-19 Would Championship squad on June 23. After a week of training camp, Jackson was among the final twelve players selected by the USA Basketball committee. The squad left for Europe on June 30 and returned July 10. While Team USA disappointed in finishing fifth, Jackson more than held his own against some of the top international talent in the world, averaging over 11 points and 4 assists in 9 games. Jackson was accompanied to Latvia for the competition with eleven other collegiate sophomores including Michigan State’s Keith Appling, Villanova’s James Bell, Stanford’s Anthony Brown, Arizona State’s Jahii Carson, Michigan’s Tim Hardaway, Jr., Connecticut’s Jeremy Lamb, Illinois’ Meyers Leonard, Creighton’s Doug McDermott, North Texas’ Tony Mitchell, Butler’s Khyle Marshall and Florida’s Patric Young.

Memphis guard Joe Jackson was a bright spot for Team USA in Latvia, despite a fifth-place finish in the FIBA U-19 World Championships. (Vytautas Mikaitis)

  • Thundering Herd Runs Deep: Marshall already had one of the more loaded backcourts heading into the 2011-12 season with stars Damier Pitts and DeAndre Kane, but with the addition of Justin Coleman, a one-time Louisville commit, the Thundering Herd will certainly have the deepest backcourt the conference has to offer. Coleman sat out last year, but he will be coming off the bench as a shooting guard this season. Along with Coleman, junior college transfers Robert Goff and Dennis Tinnon will be new faces for the Herd. Goff and Tinnon are strong power forwards, looking to aid a weak Marshall frontcourt.
  • Memphis Coaching Legend Larry Finch Passes Away: Former Memphis coach Larry Finch passed away from natural causes at Saint Francis Hospital in Memphis on April 2 at the age of 60. Finch finished his career with the most wins in Tiger basketball history, a record he still holds today. Before leading the Tigers from 1986-97, Finch was a player at Memphis from 1970-73 and worked as an assistant at his alma mater from 1979-86. He passed away as not only a celebrated coach of the game, but a rare influence at the collegiate level. During his 11-year stint as head coach, Finch had seven 20-win seasons, made six NCAA appearances, amassed 220 wins and propelled 7 former players into NBA Draft selections. He finished his career with a loaded resume, having taken his alma mater to the Final Four, getting his jersey retired by the program and becoming the school’s all-time winningest coach.

Power Rankings

  1. Memphis: Freshman swingman Adonis Thomas, the No. 16 ranked prospect on Scout Inc.’s Top 100, is the conference’s best newcomer and he joins the already lethal Wesley Witherspoon as a scorer on a loaded Tigers roster that includes two of the nation’s best young guards in Joe Jackson and Will Barton. Head coach Josh Pastner can continue his Conference USA dominance this season, but the Tigers need to play solid defense and claim more out of conference wins then they did last season. Otherwise, they will be playing for their NCAA Tournament lives again come March.  As of now, Witherspoon and Barton are two of only four Conference USA prospects in the Top 100, ranking in at No. 79 and No. 80, respectively. Read the rest of this entry »
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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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The Other 26: Week 10

Posted by KDoyle on January 21st, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.

Introduction

The week is here, long at last. Going into the season, BYU and San Diego State were projected to be strong, but this strong? Just to give you an idea of where these two juggernauts stood before the season, the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll had San Diego State receiving 73 votes and BYU 55 votes in the top 25 poll. In Zach Hayes’ Bracketology—a bracket that, in my mind, is very accurate for his latest edition—he had SDSU as a six seed and BYU a seven. Clearly, each team has exceeded many of the critics and so called experts expectations. Who would have thought that the teams would combine to have a 38-1 record at this stage of the season? Not even Steve Fisher or Dave Rose would have thought that.

In the grand scheme of things, the tilt in Provo, Utah, next week will not have an impact on whether or not either team will make the NCAA Tournament—it is a foregone conclusion that both are in—but this may be San Diego State’s biggest roadblock between them having an undefeated regular season or not. Can the magic carpet ride that San Diego State has been flying on continue, or will Jimmer Fredette and Co. take the air right out from under them? It will all go down on Wednesday evening in Provo.

The Other 26 Rankings

Read the rest of this entry »

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RTC Live: FIU @ Marshall

Posted by jstevrtc on November 29th, 2010

Game #49: RTC is again happy to make the acquaintance of a gym in which we’ve never been before — this time, the Cam Henderson Center in Huntington, West Virginia at Marshall University.

We have a Sun Belt vs Conference USA tilt tonight as Isiah Thomas’ Florida International Golden Panthers (4-1) attempt to corral the Thundering Herd of Marshall (3-2). The Herd have a new coach in Tom Herrion and are still attempting to recover from the loss of one-and-done Hassan Whiteside, but sophomore guard DeAndre Kane is doing what he can to soothe that pain (16.0 PPG and 5.0 RPG) and take up some of the work left behind by Hassan, now a Sacramento King. The Panthers, led by junior guard DeJuan Wright’s 14.8 PPG and 8.6 RPG, have already achieved more than half of their total number of wins from last season (7-25) . Both teams feature deep benches, each having nine players who average at least 15 minutes a contest. We expect a sea of green in the Henderson Center for this one and we’ll open the live blog window about 15 minutes before the 7:00 PM ET tipoff. Hope to see you there.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2010

Steve Coulter is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

A Look Back

  • Kendrick out at Memphis: There may not be a bigger headline from Conference USA this season than the news of Memphis cutting ties with their McDonald’s All-American Jelan Kendrick before the Tigers’ first regular season game.  It’s a surprising move for second-year coach Josh Pastner, who cut the start recruit for an overall indifference towards the team. According to reports, Kendrick missed at least two weeks of practice in the preseason for “personal reasons.” In addition, Kendrick had several opportunities to make good with the head coach and his staff, but failed due to an utter indifference toward the program’s rules. From a personnel standpoint, his departure is a disappointment to most fans, considering the hype around Pastner’s club has sky-rocketed from last season to this season, where the Tigers are slotted as a preseason top 20 team.  The absence of the 6’6 freshman, who seemed poised to start and possibly lead the team in scoring, leaves a hole in the Memphis lineup. However, the move speaks highly to Pastner’s belief in the team and their ability to win without Kendrick. Pastner’s confidence has paid off thus far, as the Tigers have jumped out to a 4-0 start, beating Miami 72-68 on national television the day after cutting Kendrick loose. Pastner continues to make character a high priority. During the season opener against Centenary, the 33-year-old coach didn’t play freshman Chris Crawford, citing academic reasons. Also, he kept star Wesley Witherspoon on the bench after he showed up late to practice. Three weeks into the college basketball season, one thing is clear in Memphis — if you want to get on the court, you have to play by Pastner’s rules.
  • Clarkson rising for Tulsa: Freshman Jordan Clarkson, of San Antonio, has emerged as a possible favorite for freshman of the year. The guard finished with two double-figure scoring games, while leading the Golden Hurricanes to a pair of wins. At week’s end, Clarkson was shooting 66% from the floor and above 50 percent from the field.  Tulsa was able earn wins over Oral Roberts and Missouri State due to Clarkson’s 17-point and 13-point efforts, respectively.
  • Culpepper continues to score: The Preseason Player of the Year is well on his way, as UTEP’s Randy Culpepper has already emerged as the conference’s top scorer. After only three games, the guard is averaging 20.3 points a game, shooting over 45 percent from both the field and the three-point range.
  • Dia lifts Mustangs to SMU Invitational victory: Papa Dia’s performance in the SMU Invitational was enough to cement the senior center as the tournament’s MVP, while the Mustangs (2-3) ran away with wins over Lamar and Portland State. Dia was also named C-USA Player of the Week, after averaging 18.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists in four games last week. The big man is shooting a crazy 71.8 percent from the field.

Power Rankings

  1. Memphis (4-0): Undoubtedly the best team in conference. Wins over Miami and LSU help create momentum as this team continues a rough out of conference schedule. So far, all the players have responded positively to the last minute departure of Jelan Kendrick. If they continue to win games, Josh Pastner will look like a coaching genius for cutting his prize recruit on the eve of the Miami game.
  2. Southern Miss (3-0): R.L. Horton shoulders too much of the scoring load, averaging 19.5 a game. However, the Golden Eagles are undefeated thus far and after trouncing South Alabama last week, everything is looking good. Angelo Johnson in the backcourt could pose a problem to many clubs come conference play.
  3. UAB (2-1): It is impossible not to mention Aaron Johnson when talking about UAB. The guard’s 9.3 assists per game are unmatched right now; the next best is Zamal Nixon of Houston with 6.8 a game. It doesn’t hurt that Cameron Moore is averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds thus far. A close loss to Arizona State is a good measuring stick to where this team is. This week they will travel to Little Rock, Ark., to take on Arkansas.
  4. Central Florida (3-0): Although South Florida is a bottom tier Big East team, UCF still has to feel good about their out-of-conference upset. However, Marcus Jordan and Keith Clanton carry too much of the scoring burden at the moment. They are the only teammates, besides Tulsa’s Jordan Hurtt and Steven Idlet, which rank in the top ten scorers in conference. Clanton’s above 73 percent shooting percentage is impressive.
  5. UTEP (2-1): Randy Culpepper may be leading the conference in scoring, but the Miners will need to amp up their scoring all around if they want to topple New Mexico State and Georgia Tech this upcoming week.
  6. Houston (3-1): The Cougars remain in the top part of the conference, still relying on the magic from last season’s improbable run in the conference tournament. It helps that Maurice McNeil is averaging 11 rebounds a game, while registering 1.8 blocks a contest. A perfect 3-0 record will be tested in upcoming weeks, as the schedule gets tougher.
  7. Marshall (3-1): Marshall doesn’t boast any big wins, defeating Maryville and Glenville State by large margins. Tom Herrion’s club has a good record, but right now the out of conference schedule remains soft, which forces the question. How good can the Thundering Herd be if they aren’t competing against high quality opponents?
  8. Tulsa (2-1): The duo of Jordan Clarkson and Justin Hurtt give this team a lot of talent in the backcourt. Add in newcomer Scottie Haralson, who is currently averaging 15 points, a game, and the Golden Hurricanes could a trio of guards that make them a threat come March. Battles with UNLV and potentially Stanford (if not Murray State) loom.
  9. Tulane (3-1): Kendall Timmons is having an outstanding start to the year, averaging 13.7 points in the conference. In addition, he is second in the conference in rebounds (11.3 rpg) and first in steals (3 spg). However, the Green Wave have beaten up on lowly Maryville and Centenary, so it is hard to tell what kind of a team they are at this moment.
  10. SMU (2-3): The Mustangs are the only team with a losing record in conference. However, that will most likely change with Wayland Baptist coming in on Wednesday. Not an ideal early start for SMU, but stout performances by senior center Papa Dia has people excited.
  11. Rice (3-1): Projected to be one of the worst teams in the conference by most analysts, the Owls have jumped off to a quick start, but don’t be fooled by the record. Last week’s 75-58 win over St. Gregory’s is nothing to get excited about. North Texas comes into tonight and should prove to be a good measuring stick. Arsalan Kazemi is currently leading the conference with 12 rebounds per game.
  12. East Carolina (3-2): Two losses to North Carolina State and Charlotte should have them ranked higher, but considering whom they have beaten, East Carolina is still a low tier team in this conference.

A Look Ahead

  • Memphis’ schedule only gets tougher: Surviving Miami and LSU wasn’t easy, however Memphis can’t be looking for a breather just yet. The team’s out of conference schedule only gets tougher from here.  The December schedule features a game against a tough Western Kentucky team, which is followed by games against Kansas and Georgetown. In addition, the Tigers will hit the road later this season to take on Tennessee and Gonzaga. Overcoming Miami’s backcourt tandem of Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant as Memphis did in the 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon is a good sign for what is a very young and inexperienced backcourt. Freshmen Joe Jackson and Will Barton will be relied upon as the season progresses, an will certainly be tested during a tough opening stretch. Also, the duo has had to deal with the departure of the aforementioned Kendrick, which only increases the pressure.
  • UTEP enters pivotal nonconference stretch: At 2-1, the UTEP Miners could be looking at a sub-.500 record if they can’t pull out a key victory over either New Mexico State or Georgia Tech. Tonight UTEP hosts NMSU at 7:05 CST, while they travel to Atlantic City on Friday to play in the Legends Classic Championship where they will take on Georgia Tech. UTEP advanced to the championship in Atlantic City after a home victory against Western Carolina last week in the Legends Classic Regional’s.
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RTC Conference Primers: #9 – Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 28th, 2010

Steve Coulter of the DU Clarion is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Memphis (15-1)
  2. UTEP (14-2)
  3. UAB (12-4)
  4. Marshall (10-6)
  5. Southern Mississippi (9-7)
  6. Houston (8-8)
  7. Tulsa (8-8)
  8. East Carolina (6-10)
  9. Southern Methodist (6-10)
  10. Central Florida (5-11)
  11. Tulane (2-14)
  12. Rice (1-15)

All-Conference First Team

  • G: Justin Hurtt, Tulsa, Sr.
  • G: Randy Culpepper, UTEP, Sr. (Preseason Player of the Year)
  • F: Wesley Witherspoon, Memphis, Jr.
  • F:  Gary Flowers, Southern Mississippi
  • F/C: Will Coleman, Memphis, Sr.

All-Conference Second Team

  • G: Brock Young, East Carolina, Sr.
  • G: Joe Jackson, Memphis, Fr.
  • G/F: Will Barton, Memphis, Fr.
  • F: Jeremy Williams, UTEP, Jr.
  • F/C: Papa Dia, SMU, Sr.

Memphis has a talented stable of young talent, including the recently-cleared Will Barton. (bouncemag.com)

Impact Newcomers

Several freshman and transfer players will suit up for C-USA squads this season, but three that have grabbed everyone’s attention before the season has gone under way.

  • Charles Carmouche, SG, Memphis: The junior transfer from New Orleans is a sharpshooter who can be the difference-maker late in the season. He is eligible to play right way, as the Privateers dismantled their program and moved to Division III status.
  • Scottie Haralson, G, Tulsa: The UConn transfer could get a lot of playing time and be one of those studs that people talk about at the end of the season. Of course, it really depends whether he is cleared to play.
  • Joseph Young, G, Houston: The freshman was a Parade All-America Third-Team selection from Yates High School. He is a talented young guard in a class with athletic forwards that makes Houston a contender in the conference once again. The infusion of a guy like Young into the lineup could spark a team looking for a playmaker. Young was the Texas Gatorade Basketball Player of the Year last season.

What You Need to Know

  • There are six first-year coaches in the league this season; Tim Floyd getting hired at UTEP was probably the biggest offseason coaching move.
  • The Conference USA Men’s Basketball Championships will be held in El Paso, giving UTEP a slight home court advantage against their conference opponents. The first game tips off on Wednesday, March 9. The tournament ends on Saturday, March 12 and the final will be broadcasted on CBS.
  • UAB’s Aaron Johnson enters the season in need of 173 assists to become the school’s all-time leader. 597 assists is currently the record and the senior point guard leads a well-balanced UAB squad that could emerge as an at-large dark horse. The 5’8 point guard finished his junior year averaging 9.6 points per game, 4.8 assists per game, and 2.5 rebounds per game.

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Comings & Goings: Favors, T. White Declare; Marshall, Charlotte Make Hires

Posted by jstevrtc on April 10th, 2010

The Coaching Carousel keeps on a-spinnin’. Fox Sports’ Jeff Goodman reported on Saturday that Pittsburgh associate head coach Tom Herrion has been hired at Marshall.  The Thundering Herd were a nice surprise from the past season, posting a 24-10 record (11-5 CUSA) in 2009-10 under Donnie Jones, who just left for Central Florida after three seasons at Marshall.  With stud freshman and national blocks leader Hassan Whiteside having declared for the NBA draft, and leading scorer Tyler Wilkerson and starting guard Chris Lutz both lost to graduation, Herrion will have his work cut out for him in Huntington.

Ohio State assistant Alan Major will take over at Charlotte and try to get that school back to the NCAA for the first time in six years, which shouldn’t be too hard with the pending expansion.  The 49ers were 19-12 under Bobby Lutz last season and were in the talk for an at-large bid late in the year out of a very tough Atlantic 10, but they put an end to such speculation by dropping seven of their last eight games.  This is Major’s first head coaching job, and it will be interesting to see what kind of talent he brings to Charlotte having spent time under one of the better recruiters in the game in Thad Matta at both Xavier and OSU.

Three more declare, but look for one to return. In a move that surprised nobody, Georgia Tech freshman forward Derrick Favors declared for the NBA draft, joining fellow Yellow Jacket Gani Lawal in that endeavor.  Favors was in the top 50 in both blocks (2.1 BPG) and field goal percentage (61.1%) as a freshman and was second on the Georgia Tech squad (behind Lawal) in scoring at 12.4 PPG.  With those numbers, plus a 6’10, 246-pound frame, Favors is projected to be the third pick in the draft by NBADraft.net.

Mississippi’s Terrico White is also headed for the NBA draft, but don’t be surprised to see him back in Oxford next year.  The 6’5 sophomore forward is not hiring an agent, and it sounds like he’s going through the process just to be evaluated in order to see where he ranks and where he needs to improve his game.  Can’t blame him at all.  Though he doesn’t appear in either round on the current NBADraft.net list, his name did show up there from time to time over last season and he’s listed as the seventh pick on their 2011 draft.  White averaged 15.1 PPG and 4.6 RPG last year for the Rebels and his stock will certainly improve with a year to develop further expertise in the backcourt.  One man who won’t be back next year is VCU’s Larry Sanders.  The 6’11 and 235-pound junior center averaged 14.4 PPG, 9.1 RPG, and 2.1 BPG for the Rams last year and says he plans on hiring an agent.  NBA Draft.net has him projected as a late first-rounder.

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