Conference-USA has centered around just one team the entire year. The Memphis Tigers have thoroughly dismantled the entire conference, finishing with an unblemished record in league play. While the Tigers have received national acclaim for their performances this season, the rest of the conference has been completely forgotten about, and with good reason. SMU made a splash in the off-season with the hiring of Larry Brown, but that could not cover up the fact that SMU, along with the rest of the conference is not all that good. Southern Miss had a strong showing under Donnie Tyndall, but is lacking the firepower Larry Eustachy had at his disposal a year ago. Tulane has had a nice resurgence, capturing their first winning record in 2008. But those success stories are few and far between, considering the entire conference failed to accrue a single win over a top-25 opponent.
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Where: BOK Center, Tulsa, Ok.
When: March 13-16
Final: March 16, 11:35 a.m. (CBS)
Favorite: Memphis Tigers
The perennial-favorites have lost just once since Christmas, and finished the season unbeaten in league play. Their lone loss came on the road at Xavier in a rare late-February non-conference game, and they won all of their C-USA games by a 13-point average margin of victory. Memphis’ issue is that they struggled to play up to the level of their competition in non-conference play. Luckily for the Tigers, they won’t find much stiff competition in the C-USA tournament. On top of that, they are also likely to get guard Antonio Barton back, who has been out with a foot injury for the past six weeks.
And if they lose? Southern Mississippi
While not as talented as Memphis, Southern Miss has a strong squad that is offensively gifted and well-balanced. Six different players can be primary scorers on any given night, and JuCo transfer Dwayne Davis, who was named C-USA Newcomer of the Year, has been hot as of late, averaging 28.5ppg in his last four games. Donnie Tyndall’s squad will need to limit turnovers, which has been their primary issue all season. If they can maximize the number of offensive possessions, they will have a real chance to steal a bid from Memphis and the rest of the NCAA tournament bubble.
OK, this is a stretch, a really, really big stretch. Yes, Tulsa is 16-14 overall and just 8-8 in Conference-USA, but I mean, why not? From what we’ve seen this entire season, it would come as no shock to me if Tulsa were to advance to the championship game. They have Danny Manning at the helm this year, the same Danny Manning from the 1988 Kansas “Danny and The Miracles” team. Plus the tournament is being held in Tulsa at the BOK Center. We’ve already seen some bizarre stuff from championship week. Liberty, a team with 20 losses, won the Big South tournament. Anything can happen folks.
– Josh Davis, Tulane
The junior forward has been the conference-s most dominant player this year and averages a double-double per contest. He has failed to score ten points just three times and has scored 20+ points in nine games. He is Tulane’s catalyst and is involved on nearly every play. He ranks in the top-40 in the country among minutes used, and is among one of the best rebounders in the country, providing the Green Wave with extra possession.
– Joe Jackson, Memphis
He’s the Tigers’ team leader, top scorer and most important player. The Memphis-native is one of the most efficient offensive players in the country, and does a bit of everything for the Tigers, averaging 4.9apg, 3.1rpg and 1.7spg. In all but one of Memphis’ losses this season Jackson has struggled to assert himself in the offense. Luckily none of the losses came against C-USA competition, which means he is likely to be a force for the next four days.
– Elijah Pittman, Marshall
The junior forward leads the team in points and has been playing some of his best basketball since February 1st. Teamed with guard DeAndre Kane, the Thundering Herd have one of the better 1-2 punches in Conference-USA. They will need to ge the most out of their duo if they want to steal a bid from league-leading Memphis.
CBT Prediction: Memphis is going to win the tournament but only because I envision mass chaos throughout the entire C-USA bracket. This tournament often provides us with the unexpected, which could lead to a final between Memphis and 5-25 Rice.
You can contact Troy Machir on Twitter at @TroyMachir