The Conference USA season has come and gone, and now only two remain standing. The (6) Marshall Thundering Herd, and the home team (1) Memphis Tigers meet up Saturday morning in what will decide the Conference USA tournament champion, as well as who gets the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. While Memphis, by most, is considered a lock, the Herd's only real chance of making the NCAA tournament is to win this game right here. We'll see how it goes.
(6) Marshall Thundering Herd (21-12, 9-7) vs. (1) Memphis Tigers (25-8, 13-3) 9:30 a.m. MT on CBS
The Thundering Herd did well to make it this far, knocking off (11) SMU, (3) Tulsa (in 3 OT's), and most recently (2) Southern Miss on their way to the Conference USA championship game. Memphis had a first round bye, but has also played extremely well, dropping (8) UTEP 65-47, and (4) UCF 83-52 on their route to the C-USA tourney final.
The Herd entered this season with high expectations and started fast before hitting an extremely rough patch, losing 6 out of 7 games midseason. The Tigers didn't start nearly as fast, falling to every quality opponent they faced, before finally finding their rhythm down the stretch. That rhythm allowed Memphis to establish itself as the best team in Conference USA, and they have reinforced that claim with big wins over the last two days.
Memphis has already beaten Marshall twice this season, including by 7 in Memphis, and by 20 in Huntington. And, while the Tigers have the distinct advantage of playing this game on their home court, the Herd realize what's at stake, and seem to have found that hunger over the last couple of days. I'd expect a good one on Saturday morning, but the way the Tigers have been playing, I'm not sure ANYONE in conference could beat them.
(3) The Tulane Green Wave meet the (1) UTEP Miners in the final of the Conference USA tournament. An automatic bid to the NCAA tournament is on the line. After enjoying a bye on Wednesday, the Green Wave knocked off (11) ECU 67-51, and the home team(2) Memphis Tigers 63-44 to make their way into the final. The Miners also had the day off on Wednesday, and had an impressive run of their own, knocking off (9) Southern Miss 92-79, and (4) UAB 70-59 en route to the championship game.
The Miners 28-3 record marks the best ever in program history, and they will look to continue to improve that mark. In the two meeting this year, the Miners won 65-64 in OT in New Orleans, and 80-65 in El Paso. While the Green Wave have had a very impressive season of their own, and are playing some great basketball, the Miners just have way too much at stake, and will be ready to play come tipoff. We as Miner fans may not have been able to celebrate much on the men's this year, but I'd expect to be celebrating for our women come tomorrow night. Go Miners!