Conference USA Basketball Preview

USA TODAY Sports

The fall chill is in the air and its time to flip on the bright lights and play College Basketball. MinerRush brings you a look at the C-USA as new teams, players and coaches will bring in a new era of C-USA basketball. Take a look at our Pre-Season Power Rankings, and Rush Awards.

We take a look at seven new teams, cities and players to watch in our Pre-Season Power Rankings. 2013-14 will usher in new teams in Charlotte (Atlantic 10), Florida Atlantic (Sun Belt), Florida International (Sun Belt), Louisiana Tech (WAC), Middle Tennessee State (Sun Belt), North Texas (Sun Belt), Old Dominion (Colonial), Texas-San Antonio (WAC), as old members Central Florida, Houston, Memphis and SMU all moved on to American Athletic Conference. We will also introduce you to the new faces of C-USA Basketball with The Rush All-C-USA Teams and Rush Awards. Here is the MinerRush outlook for 2013-14.


POWER RANKINGS

1. Southern Miss Golden Eagles

2012-13 Record: 27-10, 12-4
2012-13 Postseason: NIT
Coach: Donnie Tyndall
Coaching Record: 27-10 at Southern Miss, 141-94 overall

Top Returning Players:

Neil Watson, Sr.Guard, 2012-13 season stats: 8.0 ppg, 4.9 apg, 44.2 3pt%

Jerrold Brooks, Sr,Guard, 10.9 ppg

Michael Craig, Sr, Guard, 9.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg

Top Newcomers:

Aaron Brown, Jr, SF 6'5 180 lbs

Ude Ifeanyichukwa, PF, Jr, 6'10 235 lbs

Davon Hayes, G/F, Fr, 6'7 lbs

Outlook: The Golden Eagles did a good job least season in adding JUCO talent like Michael Craig and Daveon Boardinghamd to compete at the top of the C-USA. That trend will continue this year with addition of Brown, and Ifeanyichukwa that will add depth and contribution to a team with the best guard lineup in the league. One of the more experienced teams in like league should get off to a hot start, how good they will be will answered early with a road date with defending National Champion Louisville on 11/29.

2. UTEP Miners

2012-13 Record: 18-14, 10-6
2012-13 Postseason: None
Coach: Tim Floyd
Coaching Record: 58-41 at UTEP, 386-221 overall

Top Returning Players:

Julian Washburn, Jr, G/F, 12.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 28 steals

John Bohannon, Sr, C, 10.2 ppg, 6.3 rebs, 50 blocks

McKenzie Moore, Jr, G, 8.6 ppg, 5.2 rebs,

Top Newcomers:

Vince Hunter, Fr, F, 6'8 200 lbs

Matt Wilms, Fr, C, 7'1 220 lbs

Outlook: The Miners are looking up at So. Miss after being humbled in last year's C-USA tournament semi-final game by the Golden Eagles. The Miners return starters Washburn, Bohannon and Moore who all averaged 20-plus minutes and we be relied upon as the leaders of Tim Floyd's group. The excitement will come from freshman Matt Wilms, and the 21st ranked prep player in the country in Vince Hunter as they have shown they can dominate at the D-1 level. The Miners will be tested early in which we will find out if they can live up to a high ranking, with a match-up with I-10 rival and NCAA tourney team New Mexico State, plus the Battle for Atlantis tournament during Thanksgiving. A lot of the talk has been about who did not show up to campus over the summer, but the talent returning and who did show up will be "O.K." according to Floyd.

3. Louisana Tech Bulldogs

2012-13 Record: 27-7, 16-2
2012-13 Postseason: NIT
Coach: Michael White
Coaching Record: 45-23 at Louisiana Tech, 45-23 overall

Top Returning Players:
Raheem Appleby, Jr, G, 14.9 ppg

Cordarius Johnson, Sr, G, 7.9 ppg

Kenneth Smith, Jr, PG, 6.8 ppg 5.0 apg, 34 starts

Top Newcomer:

Leo Edwards, Fr, F, 6'8 230 lbs

Outlook: The Bulldogs were one of the top scoring offenses in the nation last season and in the WAC, and return majority of those points. While Appleby is the go-to-guy, Smith is the catalyst at Point Guard as the Bulldogs will compete with So. Miss for the top backcourt in the conference category. Rebounding will be the question as they graduated some depth from last years 27-win team, Chris Andersen and Michale Kyser will be relied upon in that depot. Though the strength is in the guards with plenty of size and depth, they will need to take care of business at home as 27 wins will be hard to come by again, though they can, and will compete towards the top of the conference.

4. Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders

2012-13 Record: 28-6, 19-1
2012-13 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Kermit Davis
Coaching Record: 208-139 at Middle Tennessee, 279-189 overall

Top Returning Players:

Neiko Hunter, Sr, F, 7.7 ppg, 51.6 FG%

Shawn Jones, Sr. F, 8.5 ppg, 5.4 rebs, 43 blocks

Kerry Hammonds, Sr. G, 6.3 ppg, 20 steals

Top Newcomers:

Tharone Chilton, Jr, PG, 6'2 160 lbs

Marcus Tarrance, Jr, G, 6'6 210, lbs

Ronald Ross, Jr, G, 6;3 215

Outlook: The Blue Raiders graduated four seniors from last year NCAA tournament team, though return two productive forwards from last year. and added three talented JUCO guards to replace the graduation loss. Kerry Hammonds will be relied on to score from the perimeter and crash the boards as he returns and will see his minutes increase. The Blue Raiders have some depth and size but will have to adjust with the new JUCO transfers and a tough schedule early on. Expect them to be no worse than seven once conference starts, they will be a threat as they play more games.

5. Charlotte 49ers

2012-13 Record: 21-12, 8-8
2012-13 Postseason: NIT
Coach: Alan Major
Coaching Record: 44-49 at Charlotte, 44-49 overall

Top Returning Players:

Pierriá Henry, Jr,G, 10.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg 3.7 apg

Willie Clayton, So, F, 8.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 57.9 FG%

Terrence Williams. Jr, G, 7.6 ppg, 3.7 reb

Top Newcomers:

Shawn Lester, So, G, 6'3 175 lbs

Ben Cherry, Sr, G, 6'2 180 lbs

Marcus Bryan, Fr, F, 6'7 215 lbs

Outlook: The combo of Henry and Lester can be a deadly duo but the depth outside of those two is a question. The 49ers are hoping for breakout year from the 6'8 forward Willie Clayton who has the potential to lead the conference in rebounding as they also return four players. C-USA fans will remember Ben Cherry who transferred from Tulane. and will help provide depth and production in 3-point shooting. A good chance to really measure up this team will be at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, the 49ers will be a top-5 contender once conference play starts.

6. UAB Blazers

2012-13 Record: 16-17, 7-9
2012-13 Postseason: None
Coach: Jerod Haase
Coaching Record: 16-17 at UAB, 16-17 overall

Top Returning Players:

Rod Rucker, Sr, F, 14.4 ppg, 8.2 rpg

Jordan Swing, Sr, G/F, 10.0 ppg

Fahro Alihodzic, Sr, C, 9.7 ppg 4.5 rpg

Top Newcomers:

C.J. Washington, Jr, F, 6-8 219 lbs

Tosin Mehinti, Fr, F 6-10 213 lbs

Outlook: The Blazers showed great improvement in Head Coach Jerod Haase's first season in 2012-13, as they won six out of their last nine C-USA games and beat SMU in the first round of the C-USA tourney. The Blazers return conference player of the year candidate Rod Rucker who will have a long pro career overseas or maybe in the NBA. UTEP killer Jordan Swing also returns and will provide leadership for a team with six newcomers apart of a highly regarded recruiting class that will contribute right away starting with C.J. Washington. UAB will be the dark horse of the C-USA and will also be one of the top defensive teams. The Blazers have a tough non-conference schedule with the likes of New Mexico and North Carolina. They will be another battle tested team once conference starts and will be a fun team to watch this season.

7. Tulsa Golden Hurricane

2012-13 Record: 17-16, 8-8
2012-13 Postseason: CBI
Coach: Danny Manning
Coaching Record: 17-16 at Tulsa, 17-16 overall

Top Returning Players:

James Woodard, So, G, 12.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg

Shaquille Harrison, So, G 6.8 ppg 3.8 rpg 2.8 apg

D’Andre Wright , So, F, 8.5 ppg 5.1 rpg

Top Newcomers:

Emmanuel Ezechinonso, Fr, F 6'11 275 lbs

Outlook: The Golden Hurricane lost one of the best shooters in C-USA from last year in Scottie Haralson, and are going to be very young in the front court. Though they do return starters Shaq Harrison and Tim Peete, they also have high hopes for Rashard Smith who missed all of last year with an injury. The 6'7 forward will be relied up on as a scoring threat and can really be a factor if he comes back healthy and back to his improved form, he averaged 14.5 points in four games dropping 23 in one of them. If Smith can get it going, and they find another big man to help Wright they will not be easy to beat. Though Shaq Harrison will have play more consistent and have a break out year for them to be at the top. Tulsa should remain towards the middle of the pack, but does have the talent to compete at the top.

8. East Carolina Pirates

2012-13 Record: 23-12, 9-7
2012-13 Postseason: CIT
Coach: Jeff Lebo
Coaching Record: 56-44 at ECU, 267-200 overall

Top Returning Players:

Akeem Richmond, Sr, G, 10.9 ppg, 83.7 FT%

Paris Roberts-Campbell, Jr, G, 5.6 ppg. 35 starts

Top Newcomers:

Antonio Robinson, Jr, PG, 6'4 175

Brandon Stith, Fr, F, 6-7 215

Outlook: The Pirates lost four starters in total from last years 23 win team, Maurice Kemp and Miguel Paul both finally graduated after solid careers, while Robert Sampson and Ty Armstrong both left the team. They lose nine rebounds a game with Sampson gone, they will need the freshman Stith to step up in rebounding or it could be rebuilding year with three talented transfers sitting out waiting for 2014-15. Guys like Prince Williams, Marshall Guilmette, and Michael Zangari will asked to play minutes and will answer how good this team will really be.

9. Marshall Thundering Herd

2012-13 Record: 13-19, 6-10
2012-13 Postseason: None
Coach: Tom Herron
Coaching Record: 56-45 at Marshall, 136-83 overall

Top Returning Players:

Elijah Pittman, Sr, F, 16.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg

J.P. Kambola, Jr, F, 6-9 240

Top Newcomers:

Kareem Canty, Fr, PG, 6'1 180 lbs

Justin Edmonds, Jr, G, 6'4 205 lbs

TyQuane Goard, So, F, 6'7 205

Outlook: The Herd lost all of their front court stars leaving just Pittman with a host of new talent to man the frontcourt. The biggest loss to me was DeAndre Kane who is now at Iowa State. Kareem Canty should make the most immediate impact though Marshall has a couple of nice JUCO players they signed and they all have been fighting for minutes though pre-season practice. Chris Thomas was the 9th overall JUCO player from a year ago and will help out with scoring. Though who will help Pittman rebound is the question and something that could hurt them this season, though they will not be an easy win for anybody.

10. FIU Golden Panthers

2012-13 Record: 18-14, 11-9
2012-13 Postseason: None
Coach: Anthony Evans
Coaching Record: First season at FIU, 99-94 overall

Top Returning Players:

Tymell Murphy, Sr, F, 14.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg,

Jerome Fink, So, F, 10.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg

Marco Porcher Jimenez, Jr, G, 5.1 ppg, seven games scoring in double figures

Top Newcomers:

Raymond Taylor, Sr, PG, 5'6 145 lbs

Dominique Williams, Fr, G, 6'6 205 lbs

Outlook: Mike Evans inheirts two very talented players in Fink and Murphy in his first season at FIU, those two will carry the load and could be a very dangerous tadem. Outside of those two will be the question as far as who can produce. Raymond Taylor a transfer from FAU, will bring some senior leadership at the point guard, but majority of the depth brought it to replace three starters are transfers who are sitting out. FIU cannot play in the post season due to NCAA sanctions, though with Fink and Murphy will be able to keep thenm hanging with some top teams but depth is clearly a huge issue and will hurt a team that will struggle to stay above .500.

11. North Texas Mean Green

2012-13 Record: 12-20, 7-13
2012-13 Postseason: None
Coach: Tony Benford
Coaching Record: 12-20 at North Texas, 12-20 overall

Top Returning Players:

Jordan Williams, Jr, G, 14.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg

Alzee Williams, Sr, G, 11.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg

Chris Jones, Jr, G, 9.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg

Top Newcomers:

Vertail Vaughns, Sr, PG, 6'2 180 lbs

Maurice, Aniefiok, So, F, 6'5 205 lbs

Outlook: The Mean Green lost their top player Tony Mitchell to the NBA Draft, though the duo of Jordan and Azlee Williams is something very nice to have. Vertail Vaughns is a transfer from George Mason and has a nice three point shot. Coach Tony Benford is from the Doc Sadler coaching tree and should have the Mean Green competing this season and in the next couple of years as well. The program is in good hands with him expect the Mean Green to beat a couple of teams their not suppose to.

12. Florida Atlantic Owls

2012-13 Record: 14-18, 9-11
2012-13 Postseason: None
Coach: Mike Jarvis
Coaching Record: 66-91 at FAU, 385-292 overall

Top Returning Players:

Pablo Bertone, Sr, G, 9.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg

Jackson Trapp, So, G, 5.0 ppg, 62 assists

Top Newcomers:

Dragen Sekelja, Sr, C 7'0 250 lbs

Justin Raffington, Jr, F, 6'9 245

Outlook: The Owls are just two seasons removed from winning 21 games under Jarivs. This season the Owls only return two starters and have six newcomers. Sekelja is a transfer from Baylor that should make a huge impact and be their best player. Depth is the question and will be tested against two ACC teams including Duke. Jarvis could be on the hot-seat as the drop off from last season may linger into this one.

13. Tulane Green Wave

2012-13 Record: 20-15, 6-10
2012-13 Postseason: CIT
Coach: Ed Conroy
Coaching Record: 48-48 at Tulane, 138-130 overall

Top Returning Players:

Trevante Drye, Jr, F, 4.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg

Louis Dabney, So, G.

Top Newcomers:

Ryan Smith, Fr, C, 6'10 240 lbs

Jonathan Stark, Fr, G, 6'0 160 lbs

Cole Currie, Fr, G, 6'3 185 lbs

Outlook: Somehow someway Tulane lost nine players whom all contributed heavily in some aspect from last season, including three who averaged double figures. Give Ed Conroy some credit, he did not panic instead signed eight true freshman whom most should see action this year and is building a solid foundation for the future. Without all those transfers, Tulane would have been somewhere in the top-5 of the conference, though it is now a re-loading year as they head to AAC next season. The Green Wave added some size that they lacked in the past, including 7'0 center Ray Barreno who is from El Paso.

14. Rice Owls

2012-13 Record: 5-26, 1-15
2012-13 Postseason: None
Coach: Ben Braun
Coaching Record: 56-105 at Rice, 680-494 overall

Top Returning Players:

Seth Gearhart, Jr, F, 7.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg

Max Guercy, So, G, 9.5 ppg, 2.5 apg

Ross Willson, So, F

Top Newcomers:

Drew Bender, G, 6'5, 196 lbs

Andrew Drone, Fr, C, 6'10 290 lbs

Outlook: The transfer of Julian DeBose must have sank any ray of hope for Rice basketball fans. He moved on to Florida Gulf Coast, as the Owls welcome seven new players. Ross Wilson is a nice player, though there is no one really proven outside of him and the other two mentioned returners. Can Ben Braun save the Owls after it appeared they had things going before the transfer bug hit Houston?

15. Old Dominion Monarchs

2012-13 Record: 5-25, 3-15
2012-13 Postseason: None
Coach: Jeff Jones
Coaching Record: first season at Old Dominion, 355-286 overall

Top Returning Players:

Keenan Palmore, So, G, 8.2 ppg, 3.0 apg

Aaron Bacote, So, G, 7.8 ppg,

Richard Ross, Jr, F, 7.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg

Top Newcomers:

Denzell Taylore, Fr, F, 6'9 210

Nik Biberaj, Jr, F, 6'8 235 lbs

Outlook: Jeff Jones takes over as the head man, as ODU is just two years removed an NCAA bid that they are still rebuilding from. Though they return six of their top seven scorers, ODU maybe a team to suprise some people and could compete at a high level, though I think they are still a year or two away. Ross and Bacote are the leaders but is their enough depth to help them through a top heavy C-USA?

16. UTSA Roadrunners

2012-13 Record: 10-22, 3-14
2012-13 Postseason: None
Coach: Brooks Thompson
Coaching Record: 103-111 at UTSA, 162-128 overall

Top Returning Players:

Jeromie Hill, Sr, F, 13.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg

Jordan Sims, Sr, G/F, 6.5 ppg, 3.7 rph

Top Newcomers:

Larry Lewis, Fr, G, 6'2 175 lbs

George Matthews, So, G, 6'5 220

Outlook:

Outside of Hill, not much is known about the Runners with eleven newcomers on the roster making it the most newcomers on a C-USA roster. They adjusted very well to the C-USA in football, but basketball will be a different story. They need to start with a new arena and facilities to compete in basketball as they are light years behind. They have a good fanbase that will follow if they can put a string of solid seasons together so that is something encouraging for the future. Hill is a player, and don't be surprised if they knock off a top-dog this season, but overall it will be tough for the Runners to win five conference games.

MinerRush Pre-Season Awards

MVP: Elijah Pittman, Marshall

Breakout Player: Jerome Fink, FIU

Defensive MVP: Julian Washburn, UTEP

C-USA Impact Freshman: Vince Hunter, UTEP

The Rush All-C-USA Teams

1st Team

Player Pos School
Rod Rucker G/F UAB
Raheem Appleby G LA Tech
Neil Watson G So. Miss
Julian Washburn F UTEP
Elijah Pittman F Marshall

2nd Team

Player Pos School
Pierria Henry G Charlotte
Jerrold Brooks G So. Miss
Jordan Swing G/F UAB
Jeromie Hill F UTSA
John Bohannon C UTEP

Honorable Mention:

Akeem Richmond, ECU

Tymell, Murphy, FIU

James Woodard, Tulsa

Shawn Jones, MTSU

Jordan Williams, North Texas

In This Article

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