The 2010 GMC Sierra Conference USA Championship kicks off Wednesday at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The stage is set for some good basketball this weekend. Let's kick-off Championship Week with a preview of the C-USA Tournament.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010. Note: None of the Wednesday games will be televised and all times are in Mountain Standard Time. A printable PDF of the full bracket is available here.
|#7 Houston||#10 East Carolina||11:00 am|
|#6 Southern Miss||#11 Tulane||1:30 pm|
|#5 Tulsa||#12 Rice||5:00 pm|
|#8 SMU||#9 UCF||7:30 pm|
Thursday, March 11, 2010:
|#2 Memphis||Houston/ECU Winner||11:00 am||CBS College Sports|
|#3 UAB||USM/Tulane Winner||1:30 pm||CBS College Sports|
|#4 Marshall||Tulsa/Rice Winner||5:30 pm||CBS College Sports|
|#1 UTEP||SMU/UCF Winner||8:00 pm||CBS College Sports|
Friday, March 12, 2010:
|Semi-Final #1||Semi-Final Order Determined by Seeds||2:00 pm||CBS College Sports|
|Semi-Final #2||(Highest Seed Left Plays First)||4:30 pm||CBS College Sports|
Saturday, March 13, 2010:
The Championship Game will be played at 9:30 a.m. MST. Yes, it's going to be early, but it will be televised nationally on CBS.
The UTEP Miners: Tony Barbee's squad enter the C-USA Tournament on a school record 14 game winning streak. Along the way, the Miners have accumulated a 6-0 record against the leagues other four elite teams: Tulsa, Memphis, UAB and Marshall. Memphis has been impressive in late-season wins against Tulsa and UAB, but right now, UTEP is undoubtedly the team to beat. UTEP has a solid inside-outside game going with Randy Culpepper and Derrick Caracter. The Miners have incredible depth. On any given night, someone new can step up and become the teams primary scoring option (see Jeremy Williams against Rice, Myron Strong against UAB). The Miners are getting 7/4 odds in Vegas.
The Marshall Thundering Herd: The boys from Huntington have won eight of their last nine games. Their only loss, as we remember, was an 80-76 battle with UTEP. Marshall has two elite players in the front court: Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Wilkinson. They have an elite three point scorer in Chris Lutz (43%). Wilkerson is Marshall's leader, but what really makes the Herd scary is Whiteside. The seven-footer leads the NCAA in triple doubles and is currently shattering the C-USA single season record for blocks. Against UTEP, Derrick Caracter got the better of Whiteside down the stretch. You can be sure he wants another crack at the Miner center.
WORST FIRST ROUND GAME
Houston vs. East Carolina. Is there anything about these two teams playing that excites you? Obviously, any game involving Rice should probably be the worst first round game, but at least in that one, you get to see Ben Uzoh and Jerome Jordan play in front of people. This game is at noon on a Wednesday. Expect the BOK center to have more ticket takers than fans in the stands. It's going to be an absolute dead zone. As for the matchup, Houston beat ECU at their place by 21. Aubrey Coleman is fun to watch, but this game gets the "worst" designation based solely on the fact that nobody will ever see it anyway. Really, the teams could decide to flip a coin or play Gears of War for the right to decide who is going to advance and nobody would ever know it. (For the record, I intended to name this the "Best First Round Game" category, but just couldn't in good conscience call any of the first round games good)
BEST POSSIBLE SECOND ROUND GAME
Marshall vs. Tulsa: This should be an absolute battle between two of the nation's best centers. Jerome Jordan looks like a late first round NBA draft pick. Whiteside could sneak into the Top 5. Tulsa, of course, will be playing in front of a home crowd. These teams each beat each other once already this season, with both teams winning at home. Both games were close in the final minutes and neither team beat the other by more than six points. Expect Tulsa to get past Rice and set this game up for Thursday.
THE 5 BEST PLAYERS TO WATCH (Non-Miners)
1. Hassan Whiteside (Marshall): What's more fun to watch than a ridiculous Dikembe Mutombo like block in a game? Whiteside has 4-5 of those in every contest. I don't know if he's going to prosper in the NBA, but he is a lock to get his chance to show what he's got. Whiteside was just named a Freshman All-American.
2. Aubrey Coleman (H-Town): The guard from H-Town leads the nation in scoring. A few weeks ago he shredded Memphis almost by himself. He's coming off a 38 point game against Tulane, which is nothing new to him. He's gone over thirty points nine different times this season. If ever there is a player in the tournament who is capable of having one of those ridiculous 40+ games that everybody reads about but nobody actually ever sees any video footage of, it's Aubrey Coleman. Also, Coleman is fun to watch because you never know when he's going to kick somebody in the face. Really.
3. Elijah Millsap (UAB): Millsap ranks in the top 10 in the C-USA in: scoring (2nd), field goal % (10th), rebounds per game (1st), steals per game (8th), and double-doubles (1st). Millsap does it all for the Blazers.
4. Elliot WIlliams (Memphis): The sophomore guard is second in the league in scoring (18.5 ppg), fifth in field goal percentage (47.5%), and ninth in assists (3.8 apg). He's tailor made for the dribble-drive weave. The former Duke signee and McDonald's All-American might be the best dunker in the league not named Randy Culpepper.
5. Derek Williams (SMU): His name may not be as cool as teammate Papa Dia's, but the senior from Jamaica is 4th in C-USA in scoring. It hasn't been a great year for the Mustangs, but Williams has been a bright spot. The guy is a workhorse. He has played a full forty minutes nine times this year.
MOST OVERRATED TEAM
Tulsa Golden Hurricane: With UAB losing their last two games of the year, it might have been easier to knock them just as most every media outlet has over the last few days. However, Tulsa has been too much of a disappointment to not garner this spot. The preseason favorites to win the league, Tulsa has struggled immensely over the last month. The Hurricane have lost four of their last six, and have been all but incapable of beating any of the other elite C-USA teams. They are 1-6 against Marshall, UAB, Memphis, and UTEP. Many people see the seven foot center, and solid scorer (Ben Uzoh), and think Tulsa could easily make a run for the title. I know they are playing in Tulsa, and that makes for some good articles on how they will play inspired, but I can't see the Hurricane cutting down the nets. Especially since they will likely have to beat Marshall, UTEP, and Memphis or UAB to do it.