Conference USA Tournament Preview: Opening Round

Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE

The Conference USA tournament kicks off tomorrow afternoon in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the BOK Center.

The Conference USA tournament will be under way starting tomorrow at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Five teams have already secured byes for the first round: 1. Memphis, 2. Southern Mississippi, 3. UTEP, 4. East Carolina, and 5. Tulsa. Conference USA usually only gives the byes to the teams that finish 1st-4th, but this season UCF is on a post season ban and cannot play in any post season tournament (including CUSA). There are three games on par for the opening round that we will take a look at today.

The first game of the night will be the 7-10 match-up between UAB and SMU at 4:30 pm ET. UAB finished with a 15-16 overall record and a 7-9 mark in Conference USA play. SMU finished with a 15-16 overall record as well, but was only able to go 5-11 in Conference USA play. Head to head this season, UAB had the upper hand in the only game they played. UAB defeated the Mustangs by a final by 74 to 69. Rod Rucker led the Blazers with 21 points and 11 rebounds. UAB also saw double digit efforts from Robert Williams and Jordan Swing who both had 11 points. SMU was lead by Ryan Manuel who had 15 points and 4 rebounds. The Blazers are currently ranked 65th in the nation in scoring at 72.2 points per game. UAB ranks 62nd in the nation in rebounding at 37.2 and 12th in assists at 16.3 per game. The Blazers are currently ranked 174th in the nation in field goal percentage at 43.5 percent per game. The Mustangs are currently ranked 240th in the nation in scoring at 64.9 points per game. SMU ranks 221st in the nation in rebounding at 33.7 and 228th in assists at 12.1 per game. The Mustangs are currently ranked 174th in the nation in field goal percentage at 43.5 percent per game. MinerRush Prediction: I see UAB winning this match up vs. SMU by a final of 68-62.

The second game of the night will be the 6-11 match-up between cross city rivals Houston and Rice at 7:00 pm ET. This season, both teams split the season series by winning one a piece at each team's respective home court. Houston finished 18-11 on the season with a 7-9 mark in Conference USA play. Rice on the other hand would probably like to forget this season. The Owls finished 5-25 this season and posted a 1-15 record in Conference USA play. Rice's lone conference win this season came against the Cougars back on January 30th of this year when the Owls defeated the Cougars by a final of 79 to 69. Max Guercy led the Owls in scoring that night with 21 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. The Cougars were led by Joseph Young's 17 points and 6 rebounds. The second game took place on March 6th when the Cougars got their well deserved revenge against the Owl, defeating them by a final of 84 to 62. Joseph Young led the Cougars with 20 points and 6 rebounds. The Owls were led by Tamir Jackson's 25 points and 7 rebounds. The Cougars are currently ranked 7th in the nation in scoring at 78.6 points per game. Houston ranks 29thin the nation in rebounding at 38.4 and 35th in assists at 15.1 per game. The Cougars are currently ranked 38th in the nation in field goal percentage at 46.6 percent per game. The Owls are currently ranked 317th in the nation in scoring at 60.3 points per game. Rice ranks 346th in the nation in rebounding at 25.5 and 282nd in assists at 11.3 per game. The Owls are currently ranked 316th in the nation in field goal percentage at 39.8 percent per game. MinerRush Prediction: I believe that Houston's sharp shooting will take this match-up by a final of 79-53 over the Owls.

The final match-up of the first night is the 8-9 game between Tulane and Marshall at 930 pm ET. Tulane defeated the Thundering Herd in the only game between the two squads this season. Tulane finished 18-13 overall while posting a 6-10 record in Conference USA play. Marshall finished 13-18 this season with a 6-10 record in Conference USA play. The lone game was played in New Orleans this season where Tulane lost only 4 times (UTEP, UCF, UAB and Houston). Josh Davis led the Green Wave 23 points and 12 rebounds (7 offensive). Ricky Tarrant (19) and Kendall Timmons (16) both scored double digit points for Tulane while pulling down a combined 8 rebounds (7-Timmons). Elijah Pittman scored 23 points for the Thundering Herd while dishing out 3 assists with 2 steals. Joining Pittman in double digit scoring was DeAndre Kane with 14 and Dennis Tinnon with 13. The Green Wave are currently ranked 128th in the nation in scoring at 69.2 points per game. Tulane ranks 137th in the nation in rebounding at 35.4 and 270th in assists at 11.5 per game. The Green Wave are currently ranked 252nd in the nation in field goal percentage at 41.8 percent per game. The Thundering Herd are currently ranked 131st in the nation in scoring at 69.2 points per game. Marshall ranks 34th in the nation in rebounding at 38.1 and 94th in assists at 14.1 per game. The Thundering Herd are currently ranked 212th in the nation in field goal percentage at 42.6 percent per game. MinerRush Prediction: I see the Thundering Herd getting their revenge against the Green Wave defeating them by a final of 72-59.

The winner of the UAB-SMU game will go on to face the # 2 seed Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles. Southern Miss went 2-0 against UAB and 1-0 against SMU. The winner of the Houston-Rice game will face the # 3 seed UTEP Miners. UTEP went 1-1 vs. Houston this season and 2-0 vs. Rice. The winner of the Tulane-Marshall game will face the # 1 seed Memphis Tigers. Memphis was 1-0 this season vs. Tulane and 2-0 this season against Marshall. The only game that has a time for Thursday as of right now is the 4-5 match-up between East Carolina Pirates and the host school Tulsa Golden Hurricane. The Pirates and the Hurricane will tip off at 9:30 pm ET. The bracket below is in CDT time.

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