We have some great match-ups on the schedule today. I;m taking Memphis, Southern Miss, and Marshall to advance. Who do you got? (All games will be televised on CBS College Sports.)
GAME 1: #2 Memphis vs. #7 Houston (11:00 am)
The Storyline: Memphis is no doubt looking to avenge the 92-75 blowout that Aubrey Coleman & Co, put on them on February 24, 2010. Coleman was ridiculous against the Tigers. The nation's leading scorer finished with 34 points on 50% shooting. Coleman did it on both ends of the court. He helped shut down Elliot Williams who finished with only six points in a game that was really never close.
The Stakes: For Houston, none. The Cougars are 16-15 overall and I can't imagine a scenario where they play in the post-season. Southern Miss, Tulsa, and UAB or Memphis (maybe both) will be ahead of the Cougars when it comes NIT bidding. For the Tigers, it's a whole other story. The Tigers are either in the "Last Four In" or the "Last Four Out" category by most of the Bracketologists right now. Houston is sitting at #161 in the RPI. A second loss the Cougars would knock the Tigers out of the at-large discussion. End of Story.
The Pick: Josh Pastner's club has too much on the line to let the Cougars get past them again. Since the Houston loss, the Tigers have looked impressive in wins against Tulsa and UAB. Expect Coleman to keep it close, but Memphis should run away with it at the end.
GAME 2: #3 UAB vs. #6 Southern Miss (1:30 pm)
The Storyline: Can UAB shake off their tough losses from last week? Just 10 days ago, UAB was looking solid for an NCAA At-Large Birth. Many said the Blazers had a better overall resume than league-champion UTEP. Then, they Blazers lost to both Memphis and UTEP in tough contests. Now, the Blazers have slipped to third in the C-USA at-large discussion. Mike Davis inherited a team that went to three straight NCAA Tournaments. In three years since he's been the head coach there, the Blazers have not made it once.
The Stakes: The Eagles (RPI #119) are chasing down an NIT bid (and should be a CBI team at the very least). For the Blazers, I could copy and paste exactly what I wrote for Memphis. A loss today dooms UAB to the NIT. A win gives them a likely chance at redemption against the Tigers.
The Pick: Every conference tournament has at least one upset. Southern Miss has been a tough out for everyone over the last six weeks They have lost to the Blazer twice this season but by a total of six points. Consider this: In conference play, USM has only lost to Tulsa, UTEP, Memphis, UAB, and Marshall. They are clearly next in line after you get past cream of the conference. Don't forget how well the Eagles played UTEP in Hattiesburg (59-56). I think that Mike Davis and UAB are so concentrated on Memphis that the Eagles will finally get over the hump and knock the Blazers out of the tournament.
GAME 3: #4 Marshall vs. #5 Tulsa (5:30 pm)
The Storyline: Can Tulsa feed off the home crowd and salvage a disappointing season? The Hurricane have struggled immensely against the best teams in the league. The preseason favorite to win the league, Tulsa has lost five of their last eight games. Tulsa is 1-6 against the other top C-USA teams (UTEP, UAB, Memphis, and Marshall). But, they did manage to beat Marshall in their only meeting 60-52.
The Stakes: These teams are playing for the right to be the designated league Spoiler. Both teams have the talent to cut down the nets, but they both have to win the league tournament to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. I think both teams are safe for the NIT.
The Pick: Outside El Paso, Marshall has been the hottest team in the league over the last month. The Herd have won eight of their last nine. Hassan Whiteside is like Jerome Jordan 2.0. After watching Tulsa sleepwalk in the first 30 minutes against Rice last night, I can't see a scenario where the Hurricane beat the Herd.