Conference USA Tournament: Thursday Preview/Thread

Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports

Its time for the shared league title holders to take the floor on Thursday. The Madness truly starts this afternoon in the C-USA tournament quarterfinals.

Game One: 7. Tulane Green Wave (17-15, 8-8) vs. 2. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (18-12, 13-3)

Tulane got 21 points from Freshman Jonathan Stark, and shot 53 percent in the second half to fight back from a first half deficit to earn the right face two seeded Tulsa.

Tulane dominated the boards 36-25, and led by Jay Hook, Cameron Reynolds, and the afore mentioned Stark, Tulane buried huge threes to set up this matchup.

Reynolds was key in his effort, going 3/3 from long range for all of his nine points, although Tulane did have 14 turnovers that lead to 17 points of turnovers for North Texas.

Trey Drye added 9 points and 11 rebounds, though Tulane did have trouble guarding the perimeter against North Texas who is usually a drive first team.

Tulsa enters their first game of the as the hottest team in the league.

The Golden Hurricane have reeled off eight straight wins, holding four of those opponents under 60 poin

Danny Manning is stacked with talented guards in James Woodard, Shaquille Harrison, and Tim Peete.

Rashad Smith is a future all-conference performer at forward, averaging 12 points, and 5 rebounds a game. Thirty six percent of Tulsa's points come off the bench, in total, they get 26.3 points per game off the bench, scoring 30 points or more off the pine nine times this season.

Tulane will be lucky to touch 50 in this one, Tulsa is that good defensively.

The two squared off back on January 9th with Tulsa dominating 97-71 at home, Tulsa leads the all-time series 11-5.

Game Two: 6. Old Dominion Monarchs (16-16, 9-7) vs. 3. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (23-8, 13-3)

Aaron Bacote scored 25 points for Old Dominion who shot 48 percent from the field, and after a only leading by two at the half, ODU ran away from Marshall 73-58.

They will face third seeded Middle Tennessee who jumped up six spots in their RPI ranking this past week.

The Blue Raiders feature conference player of the year Shawn Jones, who does it all on both ends.

Jones leads Middle with 2.5 blocks a game during conference play, the Blue Raiders swatted 73 attempts away during conference play, also averaging 14.5 points game adding 8.5 rebounds.

Middle Tennessee is one of the top rebounding teams in C-USA, and rank 46th in the nation in rebounding margin, also ranking them third in conference in the margin department.

Four players average more than 3 rebounds a game, including Neiko Hunter who can also score at a high rate.

The Blue Raiders have also been dominate overall in conference play with a 46-6 record in league games over the last three seasons.

Back on February 1st, Middle Tennessee beat ODU 64-48, both teams shot under 40 percent, Middle had two key second half runs that put the Monarchs away.

Old Dominion has struggled against the better defensive teams this season despite having a balanced scoring attack.

They will have to shoot better than 40 percent to be able to hang with the senior laden Blue Raiders.

Game Three: 4. Southern Miss. Golden Eagles (26-5, 13-3) vs 5. UTEP Miners (23-9, 12-4)

UTEP will try to snap its three game losing skid against Southern Miss. in Thursday's 6:00 PM mountain time quarterfinal.

Last time UTEP beat Southern Miss. was here in the Don in overtime a couple of years ago.

The Miners played one their better defensive games last night, limiting ECU and their leading scorer Akeem Richmond with UTEP's size and length. The Miners also got off to a tremendous start on offense, something that has not happened in the Don this year, patiently, and physically breaking down ECU's zone.

Countering that size is the guard depth of the Golden Eagles, along with their patented full court trap.

Once Donnie Tyndall went to it in the second half, the Miners could not handle the heat from Neil Watson, and Jerrold Brooks coughing up the first half lead they had built.

UTEP will be sure to keep a body on Aaron Brown who went off for 24 points on 5/9 shooting from deep back in on February 20th.

The Miners also held Jerrold Brooks in check, and frustrated Neil Watson, forcing him into five turnovers in the previous meeting.

Matchups are key for the Miners.

Team defense will have to be at its highest level for UTEP, Southern Miss. has plenty of capable scorers that can take over, though Julian Washburn can only defend one guy at a time.

Michael Craig was very limited physically with an ankle injury in the last outing, and will try to put his head down, and get the rack in attempt to get UTEP in foul trouble, he is also very active on the offensive boards.

Southern Miss. got to the foul line more than any other C-USA team in the regular season, and I can see them trying to make the Miners adjust their lineups to create mis-matches by creating a foul situation.

UTEP can absolutely not have 15 turnovers like they did in the first match-up, C.J. Cooper again is the wildcard for UTEP. Nor afford a lapse stretch of time during spell periods for Julian Washburn or C.J. Cooper, although both will definitely see 40 minutes tonight.

While the Golden Eagles are a very good defensive team, they don't bother very many shots, and their opponents shoot 42 percent from field.  So if UTEP can get it across the timeline in a timely manner, I like the patience and ball movement that was shown last night to get some looks at the rim like first half of the last meeting.

I would expect to see the press from Tyndall very early, but the Miners also have to rebound, and not allow second chance tip ins off volleys.

Southern Miss. has out rebounded 24 of its 31 opponents, boasting a 6.4 rebounding margin on the year. The Miners need to crash the defensive boards, even it means giving up an easy transition bucket.

Craig is their main rebounder, though it was Aaron Brown who hauled in nine in the last meeting. The Golden Eagles were only plus three on the boards in the first meeting, though had 14 offensive boards, most coming on hustle plays.

Floyd v Tyndall, should be fun.

Game Four: 9. Charlotte 49ers (17-13, 7-9) vs 1. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (25-6, 13-3)

When Charlotte gets the offensive production they got last night, they are going be a tough out in this tournament.

The 49ers fired 8/16 from the downtown El Paso ballpark, had four in double figures, cruising by UAB 80-70.

Pierria Henry against Kenneth Smith is going to have my full attention.

Two of the best defenders in the league will be going at it, though one can afford to have an off night, and the other simply can't.

LA Tech as discussed in our Rush Spotlight from yesterday, has the depth to wear down anyone in America.

But when Charlotte's front line of guards is on, their lack of depth goes out the window.

Charlotte will have to shoot for the 80's again to even hang in with the Bulldogs.

Ben Cherry will be a liability against the way quicker LA Tech guards, if I was Alan Major I would try to pack the paint with a zone and make LA Tech beat me with the trey.

No knock on LA Tech's three point shooting at all because the Bulldogs can knock it down, but for Charlotte giving up easy buckets at the rim is something I wouldn't want to give the Bulldogs.

Chris Anderson has scored 20 and 17 points in the Bulldogs last two outings.

Charlotte has the bodies to give LA Tech fits, but for how long will be the question.

LA Tech beat Charlotte back in late January, LA Tech used a strong close to the first half, to go on a tide changing run in the second that lead to the 20-point win.

The Bulldogs abused the rim, and scored 80 points on only 4/19 shooting from three in the last game, trust me Mr. Major, zone them.

Make sure to stay tuned to MinerRush for in depth coverage of the Conference USA tournament, as well as all things UTEP sports. Also, make sure to on Twitter for live updates from the Tournament, and as always don't forget to like our Facebook Page. Picks Up, and Go Miners!

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