In The Dig: A majority of ESPN's "Experts" think UTEP will come out victorious in the 2011 Conference USA Tournament; The Marshall Players vote for the best in the league; and all the Tourney links you need including a stellar read on Aaron Johnson.
2011 Buick Conference USA Championship Tournament Central
The UTEP Miners
What a Great Idea: Chuck Landon of the Herald Dispatch polled Marshall's 13 players to see who they thought deserved the Conference's Most Valuable Player Award and to be on the All-Conference Team. Neither Julyan Stone or Aaron Johnson of UAB were even voted to the first team. The Herd's players did show UTEP some love. They voted Randy Culpepper to the first team, and he finished second in the MVP vote to Gary Flowers (6 votes to 5).
Flowers edged Culpepper for "Player of the Year" honors, six votes to five, with two abstentions. The "Coach of the Year" went to UAB's Mike Davis with 10 votes, followed by Marshall's Tom Herrion with two and East Carolina's Jeff Lebo, one.
ESPN"s "Experts" Think UTEP is the Favorite: Jay Bilas, Pat Forde, and Doug Gottlieb all think UTEP will win the C-USA Tournament. So does Andy Katz, Joe Lunardi, Diamond Leung, Dana O'Neil and Miles Simon. Only Eamonn Brennan and Fran Fraschilla are picking against UTEP. Brennan takes Memphis and Fran Fraschilla has chosen SMU to win it all. Story here.
More from Forde: A week after slamming CTF in his Forde Minutes column, Pat Forde wrote that UTEP is the favorite to win the wide open C-USA Tournament.
Storyline: Calling this tournament wide open might be an insult to UAB, but what the heck: it's wide open. As many as seven teams will converge on El Paso thinking they have a shot -- but the Miners have home-court advantage and should know what to do with it.
Minutes pick: UTEP (19).
The Madhouse on Mesa Street: SB Nation Houston's Dustin Rensink has three bold predictions about the tournament. Dustin knows the Don is going to be wild.
-Neither Houston-based team makes it out of the first round.
-At least one of the top four seeds loses on day two.
-UTEP rides the home court to the conference championship, and a return trip to the NCAAs
Everybody's Favorite Talking Head: ESPN's Andy Katz thinks the El Paso fans will have an impact on this tournament.
4. Hosting the conference tournament doesn't guarantee a final appearance, but the fan base in El Paso is second only to Memphis in this league in passion and will no doubt make it tough for UTEP opponents
From the Horse's Mouth: Here are Tim Floyd's comments on Marshall and Houston.
Checking in With the Coogs: James Dickey has reinstated Cougar senior guard Adam Brown for the C-USA Tournament. Dickey suspended Brown for the last three regular season games for a violation of team rules.
Phi Slamma Jamma was a Long Time Ago: Doug Smock of the West VIrginia Gazette isn't too worried about Marshall's first round opponent. You see, these aren't your fathers Cougars.
Remember, this is the school of Elvin Hayes and "The Game of the Century." And the school of Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and the "Phi Slama Jama" offense. Otis Birdsong and Michael Young have their jerseys retired there, too.
Maniax Comes Through: Thanks to MinerManiax for this insight on the Houston-Rice game. It was a very big deal for Rice to sweep the Coogs last Saturday. Here's some video from 713News.com.
The Champs Are Late: El Paso's insane wind storm yesterday threw off travel arrangements for some C-USA squads including UAB. Mike Davis tweeted:
It's a great feeling to be the 2011 C-USA Champs! Tried to make it to El Paso earlier today, but weather forced us back to Dallas.
Best Thing I Read Yesterday: I want to not like Aaron Johnson because he took Julyan Stone's rightful place on the All Conference USA first team. But, then I read this incredible story about his 11 siblings made the journey from Chicago to Birmingham to see his final game. Check it out.
Random But Noteworthy
The Billy Gillispie Watch: The Dallas Morning News knows that BCG is the fan favorite in Lubbock.
NFL Draft Watch: The St. Louis Rams are very interested in Tulsa running back Charles Clay.
Shipped to Safety: Cannon Smith, formerly a quarterback at Memphis, has been moved to safety. Smith of course is the son of FedEx's Fred Smith.
A Glance Up 1-10
Bad Timing: New Mexico State's offensive coordinator Jeff Dunbar abruptly resigned from the team on Friday. Yes, just a few weeks before spring ball, NMSU is now scrambling to hire a new OC. Tough times in Las Cruces....
"When we went into the recruiting process last year, Dunbar was right in the middle of it," Sal said. "For him to leave a month before spring practice, it's just really disappointing."
Welcome To El Paso
As some teams did arrive yesterday, they were greeted by mariachis. What else?
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