Heading into the Conference USA tournament the question was whether or not Southern Miss could do enough to ensure that the league would get two NCAA berths. But thanks to Marshall’s 73-62 win over Southern Miss in a C-USA semifinal the question now may be if the league could end up getting three.
Damier Pitts led the Thundering Herd (20-12, 9-7) with 24 points, DeAndre Kane added 14 and seven assists and Dennis Tinnon posted his 11th double-double of the season with ten points and 13 rebounds. Marshall won despite turning the ball over 16 times to the Golden Eagles’ three, making up for the miscues by shooting 54.3% from the field.
Angelo Johnson led Southern Miss (25-7, 11-5) with 24 points and Darnell Dodson added 14 off the bench, but the four starters other than Johnson combined to score 12 points. As a team the Golden Eagles shot 34.2% from the field, making 25 field goals (Marshall also made 25) but needing 73 attempts to do so.
The question now is how the selection committee will evaluate the resumes of both teams. Southern Miss entered the day with an RPI of 15 according to the NCAA’s released numbers to go along with an SOS of 41. Clearly those are both numbers that help the case for Larry Eustachy’s team, and their 9-4 record against the RPI Top 100 (featuring wins over Memphis, Colorado State and USF) doesn’t hurt their case either.
As for Marshall, Tom Herrion’s club sits at 56 in the RPI but their strength of schedule numbers are very good, sitting at 21. Marshall’s best non-conference win: Iona, another team hoping to fight their way into the Big Dance. At the very least things have gotten a bit more interesting in Conference USA, and even if Memphis obliges other bubble teams and grabs the automatic bid there’s a chance that C-USA could grab three bids anyway.
You can follow Raphielle Johnson at @raphiellej.