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The Daily Dig: 2.22.10

Let's take a look around the C-USA landscape (and a glance at our neighbors up 1-10).

UTEP Miners

The Miners clinched a first round bye in the C-USA Basketball Tournament after beating Tulsa 78-70 on Saturday. Rival.com's Jason King gives a shout-out to Randy Culpepper.

Randy Culpepper – The UTEP standout – who is easily one of the nation’s most-unheralded players – scored 29 points to lead the Miners to a 78-70 win at Tulsa. The victory gave Tony Barbee’s team an 11-1 record in Conference USA and kept the Miners ahead of Memphis in the race for the league title.

King also mentions former Chapin High standout Cliff Tucker who had a killer buzzer beater to sink Georgia Tech and get his Maryland team the win.  (Link to video of Tucker's shot).

That "kid" was Maryland junior Cliff Tucker, whose catch-and-shoot 3-pointer from the left wing beat the buzzer and catapulted the Terrapins to a 76-74 victory. If Tucker’s shot ends up being the most-famous in school history, it will rank only slightly ahead of the one uncorked by teammate Greivis Vasquez moments earlier.

What's the Point?   Scout.com ranks C-USA's football teams for next season.  UTEP comes in at #105 in the country and 9th in the league.

105. UTEP
2009 Final CFN Ranking: 103
Is this going to be the year that UTEP finds its footing, catches a break or two, and returns to the postseason? If so, it’ll need QB Trevor Vittatoe to recapture his sophomore form, RB Donald Buckram to repeat his tremendous 2009 performance, and the defense to make a stop from time to time. Mike Price desperately needs a turnaround to stem the tide of the last four years and get the locals excited again about Miner football.

Turn up the Orange's Pablo Villa laments UTEP's meteoric rise and Tulsa's equally disappointing slide.

UTEP's success the past several weeks has been stunning. But so has Tulsa's downward spiral. The Golden Hurricane is reeling, losing four of its last five games. Two of those were to UTEP. This was further evidenced by the numerous empty seats in the Reynolds Center on Saturday. You would think a visit by the Conference USA leader and the home team's desperate need for a win would yield nothing less than a sellout.

Memphis Tigers

Dan Wolken follows the Memphis Tigers for the Commercial Appeal and he discussed the depth the league has now that Southern Miss has won five of their last six.

Take note, in particular, of Marshall and Southern Miss.  Both teams are playing well at the moment and have very favorable schedules down the stretch.  If Marshall can take care of its remaining home games against Tulsa and UTEP, not only would it help the Tigers but the Herd could very well catch either Tulsa or UAB for one of the top-four seeds.  Southern Miss got off to a horrible start, but they've won 5 of 6 and now get three straight home games.  Those two teams aren't going to win the league, but they're going to have a lot to say about who wins it and who gets the four first-round byes.

Southern Miss Golden Eagles

The Golden Eagles managed to hold off UCF in a dramatic game behind sophomore Angelo Johnson's career high day.  It was in incredible game.

Southern Miss erased a 16-point deficit in the final 10:32 to defeat UCF, 68-58. Sophomore Angelo Johnson led the Golden Eagles with a career-high 24 points, including four three-pointers, also a career-high. Junior Gary Flowers finished with 18 points and a game-high seven rebounds. With the win, Southern Miss broke out of a four-way tie to stand alone in sixth place.

The Golden Eagles outscored UCF 36-10 in the last 10:32.  Coach Larry Eustachy discussed how he felt when UCF got up big on his Eagles.

"I thought we were dead in the water," USM coach Larry Eustachy said. "I’m sitting there going, ‘This might be the lowest point since I’ve been here.’ In my old days, I probably would have been kicked out or I probably would have emptied the bench and gave us no chance.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Slow starts?  The Tulsa World''s John Klein discusses the team's offensive struggles to begin games.

These are tough times for the Golden Hurricane because it continues to play poorly at the start of games. It has now trailed at halftime in six straight games. Four of those turned out to be losses, and it took an especially furious rally to win one of the two victories (at home with Marshall).

Tulane Green Wave

I beg to differ;  Tulane Coach Dave Dickerson things Marshall has the best front-court in C-USA.

"They are the best inside team in our conference, " Tulane Coach Dave Dickerson said. "Their two inside players are their leading scorers. Their staff did the right thing by getting the ball inside. But I think if we make our free throws -- we were 15-of-29 from the free throw line -- to the tune of 75, 80 percent, we win the game."

Outside the C-USA, but marginally important nonetheless....

Rice Owls

If at first you don't succeed;  If you are shooting 13% from the three point line, would you shoot 23 of the?  Rice is really, really struggling, and ECU was able to grab a road win in Houston.

Defensively, the Pirates held the Owls to just 37.3 percent shooting, including 13.0 percent from behind the arc (3-23). ECU also won the rebounding battle, 40-35.

New Mexico State

Will the Aggies dance?  Since UTEP played NMSU twice, their success boosts our at-large profile.   NMSU won their Bracket Buster victory over Pacific.  NMSU is sitting at 9-3 in the WAC standings which is good enough to only be a game behind Utah State for first place.

"It was a great offensive performance on the road in the second half," said Aggies coach Marvin Menzies, who saw his team improve to 5-0 in BracketBuster play. "I was very pleased with this performance."