UTEP to host 2014 Conference USA basketball championships

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Conference USA will have a drastically different look next season, with four schools leaving for the American Athletic Conference and five schools joining the league run by commissioner Britton Banowsky.

The league’s board of directors met Tuesday, and one of the items of business was determining which sites would host the league’s championships for the 2013-14 academic year. The men’s and women’s basketball championships will be hosted by UTEP, with games being played from March 11-15, 2014.

Next March will mark the second time that El Paso has hosted the men’s tournament, with the first coming in 2011. Departing member Memphis won that tournament, beating the host Miners 67-66 in the title game. All 16 schools will be invited to the conference tournament.

Since the first round of major conference realignment Memphis hosted five of eight Conference USA tournaments, with the Tigers winning each one. While FedEx Forum certainly offered a home-court advantage, it’s also important to note that Memphis was the conference’s best program during that period.

As for the other three Conference USA tournaments, two were played at the BOK Center in Tulsa (not the Golden Hurricane’s home court). But with Tulsa leaving Conference USA for the American Athletic Conference (ECU and Tulane also leave in 2014), it’s likely that the board of directors didn’t want the event played in the city of a departing member.

Also of note from Tuesday’s meeting was the decision to remain at 14 members for the foreseeable future. With the ACC coming to a grant of rights agreement last month, many expect conference realignment (at the highest level) to be on hold for the time being.

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Good luck Goodluck: UNLV’s Okonoboh to transfer

Goodluck Okonoboh
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
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UNLV sophomore Goodluck Okonoboh is transferring out of the program, a source told

The 6-foot-10 center was the No. 31 recruit in the Class of 2014, but he never was able to find a place in the UNLV rotation. He averaged 2.9 blocks as a freshman, but is a career 34 percent free throw shooter that never proved he could be more than just an athlete.

With Ben Carter getting eligible and UNLV landing Stephen Zimmerman this season, Okonoboh’s minutes dried up. He played just 19 minutes total against UCLA and Indiana.

VIDEO: Northeastern beats No. 15 Miami at the buzzer

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Quincy Ford capped off a 24 point night by drilling a step-back jumper at the buzzer as Northeastern knocked off No. 15 Miami, 78-77, in Coral Gables on Friday.

Northeastern led at the half, but Miami had seemingly taken control of the game when they went up 70-63 with four minutes left. But David Walker, who finished with 21 points, helped to lead the Huskies back, sparking a 13-2 run that put Northeastern up 76-72.

After a three from Davon Reed and a bucket from Sheldon McClellan put Miami ahead, Ford hit the shot that gave NU the win.

Miami was one of the hottest teams in the country following their win in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off last weekend, as they rolled over Mississippi State, Utah and Butler. But against Northeastern, the Hurricanes came out a bit sluggish — tryptophan hangover? — and never could find a way to slow down Northeastern’s stars. Ford and Walker are Bill Coen’s two stars, and they finished with a combined 45 points.

To be fair, Northeastern is a good team. They’ve not top 25 good and they’re probably not better than any of the teams that Miami beat last weekend, but they are coming off of an NCAA tournament appearance and they are a favorite to win the CAA this year. They’re well-coached and did the things they needed to do to beat Miami: they shot 12-for-22 from three and they gave up just six offensive rebounds.

As far as Miami is concerned, I’m not overly concerned about this loss. It doesn’t change what happened in Puerto Rico and it certainly doesn’t change the fact that they have talented guards, size up front, depth and plenty of experience. Jim Larrañaga’s got a squad.

The red flag is that the Hurricanes have had a tendency to be inconsistent in recent years. Remember, they won at Duke last season then went to the NIT. And point guard Angel Rodriguez, who scored 10 of his 12 points down the stretch on Friday, is arguably the most inconsistent player in college basketball.

If they haven’t solved those problems, that’s a much bigger concern than losing a hard-fought game to a good mid-major team.