There's some good stuff in this Dig. Billy Gillispie makes a cameo and Doug Wojcik has excuses. Let's take a look around the C-U-S- of A!
THE UTEP MINERS
Good Company: Yahoo! Sports Jason King has compiled his "All Coaches Team." Tony Barbee is third string.
Tony Barbee, UTEP – The former Memphis assistant is in the process of guiding the Miners to a Conference USA title, which was is no easy feat considering the presence of schools such as Memphis, UAB and Tulsa.
UTEP's Bubble Profile: Sports Illustrated's Andy Glockner discusses UTEP's at large profile.
UTEP (23-5, 14-1, RPI: 44, SOS: 129): The Miners doubled their pleasure this week, getting an important road win at Marshall and then seeing UAB drop a home game to Memphis, critically weakening the Blazers' at-large hopes ahead of their trip to El Paso on Saturday. UTEP could end up at 15-1 in the conference and with a decisive C-USA regular-season title. One potential problem: The Miners could draw Tulsa on the Golden Hurricane's home court in the C-USA semis. It's still unclear whether they could survive a loss there, but they're better positioned to.
Good Coachspeak: Tony Barbee discussed the important of Saturday's game against UAB.
"It's a joyride," UTEP coach Tony Barbee said Wednesday. "But, like I tell my guys, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. We've still got some work to do. It would go a long way (toward getting into the NCAA tournament) if we can get that one Saturday."
Not So Fast My Friend: Jared Eborn, of the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, compares Utah State and UTEP's at large profiles. He may have forgotton that the WAC is a two-deep league. He's not trashing UTEP by any means; he's really just upset that Utah State is one loss in the WAC tourney away from the N.I.T.
UTEP has a solid RPI, Utah State's is better. UTEP has a 1-1 record against teams in the top 50 of the RPI and 6-4 against the top 100. Utah State, on the other hand, is 2-1 against top 50 and 8-4 against the top 100 with No. 64 New Mexico State coming to the Spectrum on Saturday. With no disrespect to UTEP, which deserves to be in the field of 65, Utah State's resume is deeper and more complete.
What makes it a tough matchup? "You got Howard Crawford sometimes trying to guard (Wesley) Witherspoon," Davis said. "You got Elliot Williams and (Aaron Johnson) has got to guard him. (Williams is) 6-5 or 6-6, jumps out of the gym and makes plays. It’s just a tough matchup for us and it’s all about the matchups."
THE SORRY STATE OF THE HOUSTON COUGARS
The Heat is On: Steve Campbell of the Houston Chronicle discusses how former UTEP Associate AD Mack Rhoades has alumni putting the pressure on him to make a run for good ole' Billy G.
Penders scoffs at the notion the end of his run at UH could be near, dismissing the subject as talk show and message board chatter. He is 116-75 (.607) at UH, and he has a $450,000-a-year contract that runs through 2012, and he notes that school president Dr. Renu Khator and athletic director Mack Rhoades have been "supportive and enthusiastic." How hard a year has it been, given the Cougars’ up-and-down play and the persistent chatter from some boosters to make a run at former Kentucky, Texas A&M and UTEP coach Billy Gillispie?
Cold Shower: The same Campbell article discusses the sorry state of UH facilities. Did you know the showers in the locker room haven't worked in years? Yes, I said years.
Of course, Penders and Maggard came to those terms knowing full well UH has among the worst basketball facilities in C-USA. For the better part of the past six years, players haven’t been able to shower in the Hofheinz locker room because of plumbing issues.
"I’ve never used the shower since I’ve been here," junior guard Zamal Nixon said. "I’ve been here and gotten to see other schools’ locker rooms on the road, I was like, `Wow.’ You can’t worry about what other people have. Just be thankful for the things that you have."
Or a Good Meal at Cattleman's: Even sadder than the lack of showers for a Division I basketball team, Campbell notes that Houston's marketing budget for the basketball game is $400 per year. No free burritos. No foam fingers. No commercials. No television ads. What can $400 buy you?
Penders’ salary is barely half what first-year Memphis coach Josh Pastner commands annually ($880,000). The 2009 financial report that UH filed with the NCAA revealed a basketball marketing budget of $400, making the team the tree falling in the forest with nobody around to hear it. The average attendance of 3,178 this season is the lowest since 2003-04.
Dead Man Walking: Hate to keep piling on Penders, but despite his team's woes this year, he is quite proud of the job he's done at the helm of the Houston program.
Penders, 64, said he's not worried about job speculation and the specter of Billy Gillispie, even with new athletic director Mack Rhoades on boarcd. "I believe I'm a better coach and I'm more patient than I was 15 years ago," Penders told the Chronicle. "I'm one of the lucky ones. How many thousands of guys started out coaching, hoping to make a career out of it, and never got to 10 years, 15 years? These kids believe they're going to win every game they play. I'd rather coach a bunch of kids like that than a bunch of prima donnas or guys who are getting arrested.
Is it Even a Start? At least Houston managed to beat the worst team in the league, Rice.
Aubrey Coleman had a game-high 18 points, including a key three with just under two minutes remaining. Sean Coleman had hada career-high 12 pointsworth of senior moments. The Cougars, who will be seeded anywhere from sixth to eighth in next week’s C-USA Tournament in Tulsa, have defeated Rice eight consecutive times.
TULSA GOLDEN HURRICANE
Did Izzo Teach Excuses? Tulsa head coach Doug Wojcik has some very good excuses to explain why his team, the C-USA favorite, likely won't even finish in the league's top 4 despite having a veteran squad anchored by a seven foot center.
Wojcik said. "We've had the most difficult schedule in the league. No one has had to play at UTEP, at UAB, at Memphis, at Marshall, at Houston ... the only top team we haven't played at is Southern Miss. We've really had to grind it."
SOUTHERN MISS GOLDEN EAGLES
17 is the Magic Number?: USM coach Larry Eustachy explained that 17 wins is the magic number needed to declare you're team has a "heck of a year." The logic is fantastic.
"One of my favorite coaches told me ‘Any time you get 17 wins, you’ve had a heck of a year,’" Eustachy said. "So we’ve had a heck of a year. We need a couple of more to get into one of these postseason tournaments. The urgency is there."
MARSHALL THUNDERING HERD
One More Year? The Marshall Daily Mail says that Hassan Whiteside could use some more time in college to prepare for the NBA. Then, they listed a series of quotes by coaches who said that Whiteside is more than ready for the NBA
UTEP Coach Tony Barbee became the latest to compare Whiteside to former Massachusetts star Marcus Camby. Barbee was a graduate assistant with the Minutemen when UMass advanced to the Final Four behind Camby in 1996 (The school later had to vacate the Final Four appearance after the NCAA determined Camby had accepted cash from sports agents trying to lure him to the NBA after his sophomore season)..
AROUND THE LEAGUE:
Castaway: ESPN's Graham Watson identifies what quarterback transfers will have the most impact on college rosters this coming year. Rice, Marshall, and Memphis all have key transfers coming to town.
Taylor Cook, Rice: The Owls will actually have two transfers vying for the starting quarterback position this year. Cook came over from Miami last year and sat out, and Nick Fanuzzi, who started eight games last season, transferred from Alabama after the 2007 season. Fanuzzi put up nice numbers last year, but didn’t have a lot of help. Cook enters the spring with a nice pedigree but doesn’t have any collegiate experience. Cook actually entered Miami’s 2009 spring practices as the No. 2 quarterback before opting to transfer.
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