The Daily Dig:  3.8.10

The GMC Sierra Conference USA Men's Basketball Championship field has been set.  UAB and Memphis seem to be on a collision course for Round 3 in Tulsa.  Marshall and Tulsa seem destined to slug it out on the Miner side of the bracket.  Let's take a look around the C-USA!

THE UTEP MINERS

WaaambulanceTUTO's Jay Koester described Mike Davis' antics following the Six Second Slam. Unlike Joe Muench, Koester realizes that a blog can be used to inform readers while adding more personal narrative than is usually allowed in print.  Muench thinks a blogs only purpose is to generate comments.  Joe used to be an excellent columnist, but his blog is just lazy.

UAB coach Mike Davis went crazy demanding a technical on UTEP because some players entered the court after the slam. In fact, instead of shaking hands like a man after the game, he ran off the court, chasing the referees, yelling at them the whole way. I think he was running to call the Waaaaambulance.

Some National Love for DCYahoo! Sports' Jason King lists Derrick Caracter as a "Winner" from this past week.  King always seems to include C-USA in these posts and it is very much appreciated.

Derrick Caracter– The Louisville transfer scored four points in the final 39 seconds to help UTEP rally from a 10-point halftime deficit in a 52-50 victory against UAB. Caracter’s dunk with one second remaining was the game-winner

Stock Rising USA Today lists the Miners as a team on the rise.  It's amazing that Memphis has seemingly blown past UAB in the at-large discussion since their win last Wednesday.

Texas-El Paso: The Conference USA champion is riding a 14-game winning streak after closing the regular season with a 52-50 victory against Alabama-Birmingham.

A PoliticianBill Knight sat down with Derrick Caracter and asked him about his NBA intentions.  Caracter was very honest but didn't say he would definitely be back in El Paso next year.

A I'm just keeping things one day at a time. I'm enjoying this team and the run we are making. I'm excited about that. We'll just see where things go. I want to finish the season, finish the tournament, then sit down with Coach (Tony) Barbee, sit down with my family and make the best decision for me. We'll see. You come to college to get jobs (laughter). For now, though, I'm just enjoying this season.

The Ocho:  UTEP has risen all the way to an 8 seed in the latest SB Nation Bracketology.

EAST CAROLINA PIRATES

The Axe: Mack McCarthy is out as ECU's head basketball coach.  He will stay inside the program in an "administrative position."

East Carolina men's basketball coach Mack McCarthy will move into an administrative position. According to sources close to the situation, McCarthy informed his players after Saturday night's loss to Southern Mississippi that he will move into an administrative role.

MEMPHIS TIGERS

What a Difference a Week Makes: Memphis' at large hopes were all but destroyed after Aubrey Coleman and company destroyed the Tigers two weeks ago.  But, impressive wins against UAB and Tulsa have the Tigers clawing back in the discussion.

Memphis [23-8 (13-3), RPI: 46, SOS: 63] It's hard to imagine a team stealing an NCAA at-large bid based on a body of work that includes two wins over UAB, along with so-so victories over teams like Oakland, Marshall, Tulsa and IUPUI. But the Tigers might actually accomplish the feat if they can win a couple of games in the C-USA tournament. The Tigers won seven of their last eight games, including Saturday's 75-53 rout of Tulsa at home. Memphis is 2-5 against RPI top-50 foes and 7-5 against the top 100.

A Simple Plan:  The Memphis Commercial Appeal's Dan Wolken discussed the state of the current C-USA Tournament.  He has some suggestions that make a lot of sense.  And, he realized they make too much sense for the conference to ever listen to them.

I have a plan to change the format of the C-USA Tournament that would not only save a lot of money but help the league secure more NCAA bids by protecting its top seeds. The first round of the C-USA Tournament, under my format, would be played on campuses. The six top seeds would host the bottom six seeds in a single-elimination game. For instance, this year the matchups would be:

Unlikely Heroes:  Two Memphis seniors got some real playing time against Tulsa.  Stories like these are why Senior Night can be so special.

Understand, Barham is a walk-on from Christian Brothers. D.J. Stephens couldn't get a scholarship offer from SMU. Desperate for bodies, Pastner was forced to throw them both into the rotation. And there they were Saturday, playing meaningful minutes against the team that was picked to win Conference USA, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers to blow the game wide open.

UAB BLAZERS

It Tastes Like Burning:  UAB's Aaron Johnson played a heck of a game in El Paso.  The loss was a tough one, though.

"That was the worst loss we had this year, by far. It just crushed us. I can't explain how I feel right now." -- UAB's Aaron Johnson after the loss at UTEP.

TULSA GOLDEN HURRICANE

Deja Vu:  Tulsa's Doug Wojcik thinks the Hurricane can make a run for the title in front of their hometown fans.

"We have done this before," TU coach Doug Wojcik said on Saturday night. "We are going to prepare to play Rice." Two seasons ago, Tulsa stormed into the league title game after winning three contests in three days to set up a title-game matchup against Memphis on the fourth day.

Fresh Faces:  Todd Graham has made several key changes in his staff to help get Tulsa back on track in football.

Defensive play has been a big concern for Graham during his entire tenure at Tulsa. Like the high-scoring Houston Cougars, the Golden Hurricane’s defensive problems have held the program back in big games. Graham hired Texas A&M’s Van Malone to coach the secondary and Tulsa’s director of high school operations Jess Loepp will take over as the linebackers’ coach.

MARSHALL THUNDERING HERD

Senior Night:  Here's another good Senior Night story, this time from Huntington

Chris Lutz and Tyler Wilkerson added a touch of class on Senior Night for the Marshall Thundering Herd. Lutz and Wilkerson were introduced and walked out with family members before the Herd game Tuesday against UTEP. Darryl Merthie was the third senior introduced, but his mother didn't make it to the game from Florida. His classmates left their place at center court and escorted Merthie out for his salute.

Cuatro:  Marshall locked up the #4 seed in the C-USA Tourney after beating SMU this weekend.  Hassan Whiteside had another big game.

Hassan Whiteside also had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds for Marshall (23-8, 11-5 C-USA), which clinched the fourth seed and a first-round bye in the upcoming conference tourney.

A Glance Up 1-10

La Tuna:  NMSU signed a JC running back with a history of violence. And I don't mean as a blocker.

Turner is a 24-year-old running back from Fullerton Junior College in California. But his age tells only part of the story. A convicted felon, Turner was sentenced to five years in federal prison on Jan. 10, 2003, after pleading guilty to a second-degree felony charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon in Orlando, Fla, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Poooor Aggies:   Remember when the Las Cruces Sun-News was saying NMSU is on the bubble?  Well, it popped against Utah State on Saturday.  The Utah State Aggies now think they should get at large consideration.  Sorry fellas, but the WAC is clearly a one-bid league.

it will be tough for the NCAA to keep the Aggies out of the Big Dance. This can be said because numbers don't lie. Fifteen consecutive wins. A third straight WAC regular-season title. Winning the BracketBuster game against a team that today will play for the Missouri Valley Conference championship. Winning, by three full games, a league that's ranked in the top 10 nationally.

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