Josh Pastner

Conference USA preview: Can anyone dethrone Memphis?

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Throughout the month of October, CollegeBasketballTalk will be rolling out our previews for the 2012-2013 season. Check back at 9 a.m. and just after lunch every day, Monday-Friday, for a new preview item.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To look at the rest of the Conference Previews we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

It will be an interesting season in Conference USA as four members are headed to the Big East at the end of the academic year. But even with those changes there’s one thing that remains the same: the Memphis Tigers are the preseason favorite to win the title.

Josh Pastner enters his third season at Memphis and while the Tigers have reached the NCAA tournament in each of his first two seasons they’ve failed to pick up a win (Arizona in 2011 and Saint Louis last season). That has to change, and with the Tigers being a more experienced group there’s no reason why fans shouldn’t expect multiple NCAA tournament victories this March.

The question within Conference USA  entering this season is a simple one: which team (or teams) is best capable of challenging Memphis for conference supremacy? Could that be Marshall, or is it someone else? Here’s an early look at Conference USA.

Five Things to Know

1. Memphis loses wing Will Barton but returns five players who started at least 19 games last season. Three of those players are preseason All-Conference USA selections, with forward Tarik Black making the first team and guards Chris Crawford and Joe Jackson making the second team. Also on the second team is sophomore wing Adonis Thomas, who played in just 19 games last season due to a broken foot.

2. UCF is ineligible for postseason play due to NCAA sanctions but Donnie Jones’ program received a much-needed boost when senior forward Keith Clanton decided to stick with the program. Clanton, who averaged 14.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game last season, was voted Preseason Conference USA Player of the Year by the coaches.

3. Tom Herrion may have to replace two starters from last year’s squad at Marshall, but he’ll have the services of two of Conference USA’s best players in junior guard DeAndre Kane (16.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and senior forward Dennis Tinnon (10.2 ppg, 10.0 rpg). The Thundering Herd haven’t reached the NCAA tournament since 1987, and that’s a dry spell they’re capable of ending this season.

4. Larry Brown makes his debut at SMU this season, and this is likely to be a tough campaign in the season before the Mustangs join the Big East. SMU has three transfers sitting out this season, and their leading returnee is senior guard London Giles (10.0 ppg). That means freshmen such as Blaise Mbargoba and Jordan Dickerson will have to show themselves capable of contributing if SMU is to accomplish anything in 2012-13.

5. The Conference USA tournament was originally slated to be played in Memphis, but once the Tigers accepted an invitation to join the Big East the powers that be in C-USA voted to move the tournament to Tulsa. However, Danny Manning’s young squad likely doesn’t have the talent needed to take advantage of the event being held in their city.

Impact Newcomers

F Shaq Goodwin (Memphis)
Goodwin was one of the nation’s best power forward prospects in the 2012 class (and one of the best tight ends in the country as well), and he’ll factor into the rotation at Memphis. Adding a player of Goodwin’s size and athleticism (6-9, 250 and runs the floor very well) will bolster the Tigers’ front court production this season.

F Danuel House (Houston)
Unfortunately Danrad “Chicken” Knowles wasn’t cleared academically, but James Dickey still has the talented House to call on this season. The 6-7 House is extremely athletic and can score from anywhere on the floor. He averaged 26.0 points per game as a senior at Hightower HS in Sugar Land, Texas.

F/G Twymond Howard (UTEP)
Howard was a Parade All-America selection last season as he averaged 25 points and 12 rebounds per game at Pearl (MS) High School. Howard’s a good athlete who can get to the rim and finish, and combined with sophomore McKenzie Moore gives Tim Floyd a couple solid newcomers to add to the rotation (if Anthony January enrolls in January as planned the Miners will have another talented piece to call on).

G Daiquan Walker (UCF)
The Knights need help at the point with Isaiah Sykes (94 assists in 2011-12) being their leading assist man from last season and the freshman Walker is one option for Donnie Jones. The Philadelphia native played alongside UNLV freshman Savon Goodman last season, averaging 18.1 points, 8.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game in helping to lead Constitution High to a Pennsylvania Class A state title.

G/F Michael Craig (Southern Miss)
The South Mountain CC transfer will have plenty of opportunities to make an impact in Donnie Tyndall’s first season at Southern Miss. Craig averaged 22.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game last season, earning NJCAA First Team All-America honors.

Other newcomers of note: G Kareem Canty (Marshall), G Geron Johnson (Memphis/Garden City CC transfer), C Blaise Mbargorba (SMU), G Pat Swilling Jr. (Tulsa/College of Southern Idaho transfer), F Chris Washburn (UTEP) 

Breakout Players

F Adonis Thomas (Memphis)
Thomas was expected to be one of the best freshmen in America last season but his broken foot robbed the Memphis native of valuable playing time and explosive athletic ability. Thomas is 100% now, and with Barton and Wesley Witherspoon gone there’s more room for him to go to work.

F Tristan Spurlock (UCF)
Spurlock, a transfer from Virginia, averaged 7.2 points and 4.4 rebounds per game in 22 contests (six starts) in 2011-12. Spurlock’s a very good athlete who should see an increase in scoring opportunities with guard Marcus Jordan (354 field goal attempts) moving on. Keith Clanton and Isaiah Sykes are going to need help, and Spurlock is capable of being that third offensive option.

F Shawn Williams (SMU)
This one’s just as much about necessity as it is talent. Williams, who began his college career at Texas, averaged 5.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per game in 2011-12. And given the Mustangs’ lack of experience he’ll have to improve on that production if SMU is to “tread water” this season.

G Rashard McGill (Southern Miss)
McGill started 27 of the 31 games in which he played last season, but the Tallahassee CC transfer wasn’t all that productive with averages of 2.5 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. McGill averaged 14.6 minutes per contest in 2011-12, a number that’s likely to increase with the Golden Eagles having to replace five of their top six scorers.

G Tim Peete (Tulsa)
Peete started ten of the 31 games in which he played last season, averaging 5.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per contest. His 67 assists were tied for second on the team, but with Jordan Clarkson and Eric McClellan both gone Peete is Tulsa’s leading returnee in that department. Danny Manning has a lot of new pieces (and some returnees who were seldom used in 2011-12) in his first run as a head coach, likely meaning that Peete will have a larger role on the floor.

Player of the Year: G DeAndre Kane (Marshall)
According to Ken Pomeroy’s numbers Kane (16.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.5 apg) finished last season with a possession percentage of 29.5% (tops on the team) and his responsibilities are unlikely to diminish this season. If Kane can raise his shooting percentages (38.8% FG and 58.6% FT last season) he’ll be even tougher for opponents to deal with.

Coach under pressure: Ben Braun (Rice) 
Not sure there’s another team in America that saw more players transfer out this offseason without the benefit of a coaching change. Big men Arsalan Kazemi (Oregon) and Omar Oraby (USC) both call the Pac-12 home now, while Jarelle Reischel (Rhode Island) and Dylan Ennis (Villanova) made moves to the northeast.

In total six players transferred this offseason (the departure of assistant Marco Morcos could have had an impact), leaving senior guard Tamir Jackson and a very inexperienced roster. Is there enough talent for the Owls to renew optimism in a program that posted its first winning season since 2005?

All-Conference Team

G DeAndre Kane (Marshall)*
G Joe Jackson (Memphis)
G Ricky Tarrant (Tulane)
F Keith Clanton (UCF)
F Tarik Black (Memphis) 

Predicted Finish

1. Memphis (To be expected; Tigers need to show they can be successful in the NCAA tournament)
2. Marshall (Kane and Tinnon are one of the better tandems around, and are capable of getting the Herd into the Big Dance)
3. Houston (no Knowles but adding Danuel House to the combo of Joseph Young and TaShawn Thomas should make them formidable)
4. UTEP (John Bohannon was one of C-USA’s most improved players last season, and they welcome some talented newcomers as well)
5. UCF (Keith Clanton and Isaiah Sykes are back, but what they do at the point will determine UCF’s level of success)
6. Southern Miss (a new era in Hattiesburg, and Donnie Tyndall should keep the Golden Eagles in the top half of the standings)
7. Tulane (Joseph Bruha and Kendall Timmons are healthy, and Ricky Tarrant is a star in the making)
8. East Carolina (senior point guard Miguel Paul is one of Conference USA’s best)
9. UAB (wings Jordan Swing and Preston Purifoy will have to lead the way for Jerod Haase’s squad)
10. Tulsa (heavy personnel losses leave Danny Manning looking for his newcomers to help out senior Scottie Haralson on offense)
11. SMU (Larry Brown’s debut will be made with an eye toward the Big East in 2013)
12. Rice (Tamir Jackson returns, and that’s good because most everyone else left)

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

No. 10 Florida State uses early run and outlasts No. 12 Louisville

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 25:  Dwayne Bacon #4 of the Florida State Seminoles drives to the basket against the Illinois Fighting Illiniin the second half during the consolation game of the NIT Season Tip-Off at Barclays Center on November 25, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Using a hot start in which they jumped out to a 16-2 lead, No. 10 Florida State held on from there as they outlasted No. 12 Louisville for a 73-68 ACC home win.

The Seminoles (18-2, 6-1) led for the entire game as this was a one-point game with under two minutes left with a chance for Louisville to take the lead.

Both teams struggled to find consistent offense as 38.5 percent was the high mark between the two teams.

Freshman Jonathan Isaac was a standout on both ends for the Seminoles as the 6-foot-10 forward displayed his versatility in so many ways. Isaac finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds as its his third consecutive double-double. Dwayne Bacon (16 points) and Terance Mann (15 points) also played well for the Seminoles while Michael Ojo finished with 10 points.

Playing another game without Quentin Snider, Louisville (16-4, 4-3) the Cardinals struggled to open the game and never really recovered in this one. Tony Hicks led Louisville with 16 points and 17 field goal attempts and that usually isn’t a good sign for an offense that is facing a top-1o team on the road.

Mangok Mathiang had a solid outing with 13 points and 13 rebounds while Deng Adel (12 points) and Jaylen Johnson (10 points) also finished in double-figures.

VIDEO: Clock stoppage costs Georgia win at Texas A&M

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 11:  Mark Fox the head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs gives instructions to his team during the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the quarterfinals of the SEC Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 11, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Texas A&M wiped out a 13-point second-half deficit to defeat Georgia 63-62 on Saturday in one of the season’s odder endings.

The Bulldogs had the final possession trailing by one, but the clock inadvertently stopped with 5.6 seconds remaining. Georgia’s J.J. Frazier dribbled the ball near the top of the key, and thought he had time to pass down low to Yante Maten.

Maten received the pass from Frazier, and officials whistled a foul on the Aggies when Maten attempted a layup. With the clock still stuck at 5.6 seconds, officials used game video to count down Georgia’s final possession, and determined that time had run out before the foul was called on A&M.

Here is the play:

Georgia coach Mark Fox kept his composure afterward but was obviously upset at the outcome.

“Our kid (Frazier) looks up and thinks he has time to make a play, but he doesn’t,” Fox said. “I don’t know who stopped the clock; I’d like to know.”

Afterward A&M officials said a “belt-pack” worn by one of the officials malfunctioned and inadvertently stopped the clock. They were checking further into what happened. The Aggies (10-8, 2-5 Southeastern) snapped a two-game losing streak, while the Bulldogs (12-7, 4-3) have lost two of their last three.

Robert Williams led the Aggies with 18 points and D.J. Hogg followed with 16, while Maten led the Bulldogs with a game-high 19 points.

Central Michigan’s Marcus Keene scores 50 points on Miami (OH)

marcus-keene
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Central Michigan junior Marcus Keene has been a big story in college basketball this season since he’s become the nation’s leading scorer.

The 5-foot-9 guard had his finest scoring display yet on Saturday as Keene dropped 50 points in a Central Michigan win over Miami (OH) in the MAC. Keene only needed 23 field goal attempts to hit 50, as he was 10-for-15 from three-point range and 15-for-23 overall. He also went 10-for-10 from the free-throw line.

Keene was averaging 28.7 points per game entering Saturday as his previous season-high was 44 points against Montana State. Keene also had 40 in a win over Green Bay.

The last player in a Division I game to score 50 points was South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters when he scored 53 points against IPFW on Feb. 7, 2013.

Oregon’s Dillon Brooks has a sprained foot

LAHAINA, HI - NOVEMBER 21: Dillon Brooks #24 of the Oregon Ducks tires to dribble around Rodney Pryor #23 of the Georgetown Hoyas during the first half of the Maui Invitational NCAA college basketball game at the Lahaina Civic Center on November 21, 2016 in Lahaina, Hawaii. (Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)
(Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)
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Oregon junior Dillon Brooks was diagnosed with a sprained left foot on Saturday after the star forward left Thursday’s win over Cal.

There is no timetable for when Brooks will return but a sprain is good news compared to what the injury could have been for Brooks.

The 6-foot-7 Brooks is averaging 13.4 points per game this season as the Ducks look like a much better team with him in the lineup. Brooks missed the first three games of this season with a left foot injury, so that is why there was major concern when Brooks left the Cal game.

Oregon’s faces Stanford at home on Saturday.

No. 9 North Carolina survives BC despite Berry’s off night

WINSTON-SALEM, NC - JANUARY 11:  Justin Jackson #44 of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts after a shot against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during their game at LJVM Coliseum Complex on January 11, 2017 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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No. 9 North Carolina survived a scare from Boston College in Conte Forum on Saturday, winning 90-82 in a game that they led by one or two possessions for much of the second half.

Justin Jackson scored 22 points in the win while Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks combined for 34 points, 14 boards, five assists and three blocks.

Boston College isn’t the pushover that they were last season. The Eagles already have a pair of ACC wins in that building this year and their back court seems to have an axe to grind against the schools that didn’t recruit them. Ky Bowman, a Havelock, N.C. native, and Justin Robinson, a Raleigh native, combined for 51 points and seven assists against North Carolina. They had 43 points in a win over N.C. State and 40 points in a loss at Duke.

Put another way, North Carolina had to show up and play well to win this game. Beating BC isn’t a given this year.

And, frankly, UNC didn’t play all that well. They got lit up by BC’s back court and their stars, Joel Berry II and Justin Jackson, did not play all that well. Jackson finished with 22 points and hit a couple big shots, but he was 6-for-16 from the floor. Berry was more-or-less a non-factor. He hit a dagger three with just over a minute left but finished the afternoon with just nine points and sans an assists.

Maybe I’m making too much of it – and maybe I’m undervaluing the return of Pinson and how that affects who UNC needs to be a playmaker – but this win keeps UNC on pace with Notre Dame for first place in the ACC, and teams that win leagues as tough as the ACC is this season can only do so by winning the games in which they don’t play well.