The Daily Dig:  3.2.10

The #21 UTEP Miners are in Huntington, West Virginia, to take on the Marshall Thundering Herd and their potential NBA lottery pick, 7'0 freshman center Hassan Whiteside.  Let's take a look across the C-USA landscape!

UTEP MINERS

Memphis West? Marshall coach Donnie Jones says that UTEP has become "Memphis West" due to Tony Barbee's recruiting and coaching ties to the Tigers.  Doug Smock does a heck of a job covering Marshall.

"They are Memphis," said MU coach Donnie Jones. "A lot of guys on their roster are from Memphis, and [coach Tony Barbee] has implemented how [former boss and ex-Tiger coach John Calipari] plays.

"He's got a team that's got a chance to be a Sweet 16 team. They're on a roll."

With interesting matchups all over the court, the most fun stands to be Caracter and Moultrie against Tyler Wilkerson and Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside, the 7-foot freshman, was honored for the sixth time this season as the league's Rookie of the Week.

A Bear Walks into a Bar:  The family of Don Haskins has given their blessing to the opening of The Bear's Den; a restaurant and bar that will be just a few blocks from the DHC.  The Den will also serve as a quasi-museum, filled with UTEP memorabilia.

Now a group of El Paso businessmen, in conjunction with the Haskins family, have come up with a tribute of their own -- The Bear's Den: The Official Don Haskins Sports Lounge & Grill, located just a long jump shot from the Don Haskins Center at the corner of Mesa and Cincinnati streets.

This Was PredictableSeth Davis, of Sports Illustrated, and ESPN's Andy Katz both think Tony Barbee will be mentioned for open jobs after the season.

Davis tweeted:

Some dish on DePaul job: Steve Lavin and Craig Robinson are interested. So is Isiah Thomas, but admin cool to him. Sleeper is Tony Barbee.

Katz responded

@SethDavisHoops But I agree that Tony Barbee could end up being hot name in March.

What a Claim:  El Paso, Inc. doesn't have any numbers, but they're pretty sure UTEP's winning streak has been good for the economy.

It’s hard to figure the exact economic impact of winning, but it’s clearly better for the bottom line than the alternative. Since a crowd of 7,768 saw the Miners beat Tulane Jan. 27, attendance has been over 10,000 for three straight games, including 12,092 for the Feb. 6 spanking of Tulsa. That’s impressive in an arena that officially seats 12,000.

The Bubble:  SB Nation's Bracketology has UTEP as a 10 seed in the Syracuse regional with a first-round game against 7-seed Texas A&M.  Sports Illustrated has some numbers:

UTEP (22-5, 13-1, RPI: 53, SOS: 125) has won 12 straight. Now the Miners travel to Marshall and then host UAB. Win both and they have a sweep of the Blazers, a decisive league crown and a very solid claim for an at-large, if needed. GW: at UAB, Oklahoma (N, in Oklahoma City)? BL: None, but missed some chances out of conference.

MARSHALL THUNDERING HERD

99 Free Throws:  I already used the Doug Smock article, mainly because the El Paso Times hasn't posted any sort of game article online yet, so I'll toss up some more statistical nuggets from the famed triple-overtime win over UCF.

There were 236 points scored, 99 free throws attempted and seven players who fouled out during 40 minutes of regulation and three 5-minute overtime periods. Numerous individual and team records were rewritten, both single game and career marks, in Marshall's basketball history as well as Conference USA.

TULSA GOLDEN HURRICANE

In New YorkThe New York Times has a nice feature on Jerome Jordan.

"It gives me goose bumps to watch that tape now," said Dave Wojcik, a Wake Forest assistant who recruited Jordan at Tulsa while working as an assistant for his brother, Doug. "Big ’Rome looked like Bambi on ice when we first laid eyes on him."

HOUSTON COUGARS

Seed Questions:  The Houston Daily Cougar looks at where the Cougars will end up come tourney time.

The loss pushes the Cougars into a tie with Southern Miss for seventh place in the C-USA standings. With only two games remaining before the C-USA championship, which Tulsa will host March 10-13, UH must brace itself for a difficult four-day stretch.

UCF (GOLDEN?) KNIGHTS

To be Golden or Not to be Golden:  Does anybody know if UCF dropped the "Golden" from their nickname?  Anyway, the Orlando Sentinel has another article on Marcus Jordan.  He gets taunted because he's MJ's son.

Marcus Jordan is an easy target for student sections at Central Florida road games. Like at the University of Houston last month, when the Cougar crazies were giving him a particularly tough time about his famous name, his shoes and, of course, his dad. Every trip to the free-throw line meant another chorus of a taunting chant he must hear in his sleep: "You’re not Mi-chael [clap-clap, clap-clap-clap]!"

RICE OWLS

Lead from the Top:  The Owls are getting closer to hiring a new AD.

The same persons with knowledge of the situationalso said other candidates include UCLA senior associate athletic director for external relations Ross Bjork, who was a finalist for the recent AD opening at UNLV; Buffalo athletic director Warde Manuel; Saint Louis athletic director Chris May, who would be an interesting choice since the Billikens do not play football; and Bowling Green athletic director Greg Christopher.

A Glance Up 1-10

Wait.  What?:  The Las Cruces Sun News says NMSU is on the bubble.  The WAC is clearly a one-bid league.  I think they have a shot to win the tourney, but don't have any chance at an at-large bid.

According to RealRPI.com, the Aggies are ranked No. 68 in RPI with a strength of schedule ranking of 94. Only Utah State (33 RPI) is ranked higher in the WAC while only Hawaii (88) and Nevada (89) are ranked ahead of the Aggies' 94 in strength of schedule. The Aggies are 4-5 against top 100 RPI teams this season, but their 87-80 win at UTEP (No. 49 in RPI) in December has proven to be one of the WAC's two signature wins (Utah State beat BYU, which is No. 22 in RPI).

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