The Weekend Dig:  2.27.10


Rice at UTEP highlights a full slate of games across C-USA.  Memphis, UAB, and Marshall are all at home.  Let's take a look around the C-USA landscape:  From El Paso to Greenville! 

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Today's C-USA Schedule:

1.  Tulane (7-19, 2-11) at UAB (22-5, 10-3)

2.  UCF (13-14, 5-8) at Marshall (21-7, 9-4)

3.  Tulsa (19-9, 8-5) at East Carolina (9-18, 3-10)

4.  Houston (14-13, 6-7) at SMU (13-14, 6-7)

5.  Southern Miss (16-11, 6-7) at Memphis (20-8, 10-3)  CBS College Sports

6.  Rice (8-19, 1-12) at #25 UTEP (21-5, 12-1):  Preview HERE.

UPSET ALERT:  At this point, it's really only an upset if UTEP, Memphis, UAB, or Marshall lose a ball game.  All four C-USA leaders have home games.  If you are going to identify one as a potential upset you have to look at Memphis.  Southern Miss has played everybody in C-USA tough over the last month.  Memphis had their at-large hopes destroyed Wednesday night when Aubrey Coleman and company ran them out of H-Town.  USM is playing for any type of postseason tournament;  while a potential NIT destination might lead to a dejected and disinterested Tiger team. 

UTEP MINERS

Leif Larsen Was a Beast:  His NFL Combine bench record has been tied but never broken.  It may be a shared record now, but it still stands.

Arkansas center prospect Mitch Petrus has just tied the Combine bench press record, which is co-held by a former Bills draft choice. Petrus put up 45 reps on the 225-pound bench press tying both Ohio St. DE Mike Kudla (2006) and UTEP DL and former Bills sixth-round pick Leif Larsen (2000).

Crossroads:  Former UTEP star Quentin Demps needs a good off-season.  The Philadelphia Eagles say it's time for him to step up and take the next step in his NFL progression.

Quintin Demps has a huge few months ahead of him. He has already been at the NovaCare Complex and knows that he has to treat this time much more effectively than he did a year ago. Demps was the leading candidate to start at free safety in 2009 and he lost that job very early in the process.

A Blessing:  UTEP woman's track star Blessing Okagbare already has an Olympic Bronze Medal, but now she wants a team championship.  The women are in first place going into today's final day of competition.

If one athlete has a résumé too big to care about a Conference USA title, it should be Olympic bronze medalist Blessing Okagbare. "This would mean so much, so much, I can't explain it," said Okagbare, who competes in both horizontal jumps and the two short sprints (60 and 200 meters). "An Olympic medal is an individual thing. This would be a team thing."

I'm Putting This One in a Drawer.. Just in Case:  Last year, El Paso Magazine profiled Tony Barbee.  He discussed his long term plans in some vivid detail.

"I can see where people might struggle to identify with me," he says. "Everyone was so attached to Coach Haskins and now every two years another guy breaks their hearts. So fans aren’t willing to fully invest themselves in a coach because they don’t know if he’s going to stick around." That’s just the mentality Barbee is here to dispel. "I want the fans to understand that I’m fully committed to El Paso and this UTEP community."

RICE OWLS

It's almost as if the Houston Chronicle has stopped covering Rice basketball.  I'm serious.  The football team had their "Night Owl" event.  If UTEP has anything as cool as the Night Owl sounds, I want to know about it.

The evening's highlight was an amazing school record power clean lift of 421 pounds by senior Defensive lineman Scott Solomon. The successful lift nearly brought down the house as teammates and coaches mobbed Solomon afterwards.

MARSHALL THUNDERING HERD

Heir Jordan?  The West Virginia Gazette analyzes Marcus Jordan's first year as a player for UCF.

OK, not Michael Jordan, but his son, Marcus. No. 23 has been known to take in games in a suite at UCF Arena, but will almost certainly attend tonight's game only in spirit. And while UCF had to deal with a shoe controversy when Marcus Jordan arrived, the freshman is not other-worldly like Dad - not yet, anyway. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder even wears a different number, 5.

Wait. What?  Hassan Whiteside says he isn't sure about whether or not he will declare for the NBA draft.

He has not made a final decision on whether he'll return to Marshall next season or leave for the NBA. Until he departs, Whiteside will be arguably the most recognizable figure roaming the Marshall campus.

SOUTHERN MISS GOLDEN EAGLES

Close But No Cigar:  Larry Eustachy talked to the Hattieburg American.  He knows his Eagles are improving but knows they have more potential to improve.

"We just can’t seem to make plays consistently because of our inexperience," Eustachy said. "We are not near the team we are going to be."

MEMPHIS TIGERS

Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen:  With a week left in the C-USA regular season, Memphis is now admittedly  "playing for seeding" in the Conference USA Tournament.  Josh Pastner doesn't want to look past a good USM team.

They're kind of in the same situation as Houston. I think they're very dangerous, and I think they're going to be tougher than Houston. They've got good enough talent that they can beat anyone. We're going to have to play our best game of the year."

TULSA GOLDEN HURRICANE

Dude, Really?  Anybody who watched Tulsa and Duke on Thursday knows the game was never in question.  That's news to Jerome Jordan and company.

What did the Duke game show TU? "We can play with anybody," Jordan said. Doug Wojcik — like any coach — hates losing. But he preferred to concentrate on the bright side of the loss to the Blue Devils. "We gained a lot of confidence last night," Wojcik said. "We played well. As I look back, we had no regrets. You could see a swagger today in the shootaround and the guys feel good. Now they know the task at hand."

Of Note

Does the Graham Leader have a source on this?  Their sportswriter, Clay Stewart, believes that UT-San Antonio will join Conference USA at some point in the near future. 

UTSA will likely be included in Conference USA and will play its home games at the Alamo Dome in San Antonio.

A Glance Up 1-10

Can the Aggies Steal a Bid?:  the Utah Tribune lays out the path to a WAC title for Utah State.  They have a season-ending clash with NMSU that should be for the WAC regular season title.  The WAC is undoubtedly a one-bid league.  NMSU has a very real shot at winning the tournament.

By almost every estimation, Utah State played ugly offensive basketball in Thursday night's 61-50 win over Hawaii on the island. And by everyone's estimation, the Aggies' 13th consecutive win paints a mighty sweet, mighty clear picture. Utah State has won 13 consecutive games. The Aggies are now 12-2 in the Western Athletic Conference. And now, USU is in the best position imaginable, which is having to beat Fresno State and New Mexico State at the Spectrum with the Bulldogs invading Logan on Monday

Got a link, video, or image I missed?  FanShot it or email me at minerrush@gmail.com!

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