Last week was a tough week for Conference USA. UAB didn't exactly put up a fight against no. 1 Duke, Memphis got blown out of the water against unranked Tennessee, and UCF lost its first game of the season to 9-6 Houston, the same team that dropped a contest three weeks ago to Texas A & M Corpus Christi. We're quickly passing the midway point of the season, and Conference USA play is in full swing. Every game gains more and more importance as the season progresses, and its time for C-USA to step up to the plate. Here are this week's games of the week.
5.) CBB: Tulsa (8-7) @ Arizona State (8-7) 8:30 p.m. et, Wednesday January 12th
Tulsa is 8-7 on the year, but are a much better team than their record suggests. They are led by senior G Justin Hurtt who averages over 21 ppg, and junior F Steven Idlet who averages nearly 14 ppg. In the opening week of conference play Tulsa dropped a road game at UTEP, and won at home over Rice. Arizona State also comes into the contest at 8-7 behind sophomore G Trent Lockett (13.8 ppg). The Sundevils are 1-3 in conference and are coming off losses against Stanford and Cal. This is one of only two remaining games against power 6 opponents for C-USA. A win could go a long way.
OUTLOOK: Tulsa sneaks out of Tempe with a win, 71-66.
4.) CBB: Alabama-Birmingham (11-3) @ East Carolina (8-7) 7:00 p.m. et, Wednesday January 12th
Needless to say here on the rush, UAB is coming off a huge triple overtime win over the UTEP Miners. They boast an 11-3 mark, and are led by a trio of talented players in senior G Jamaar Sanders (17.6 ppg), junior F Cameron Moore (17.5 ppg), and senior PG Aaron Johnson (10.9 ppg, 8.6 apg). All three of the Blazer's losses have come on the road vs. power 6 opponents. ECU is 8-7, but is coming off a near upset of then no. 22 Memphis. They are led by senior G Jontae Sherrod who averages 13.4 ppg, and they have two other players averaging in double figures.
OUTLOOK: ECU can put up a fight, but UAB is WAYYY too talented, UAB 78-65.
3.) CBB: Marshall (11-4) @ Memphis (12-3) 12:00 p.m. et, Saturday January 15th
Marshall is 11-4 on the season, and opened up C-USA play nearly upsetting then undefeated UCF. They dropped that decision 65-58, but went on to destroy a talented So. Miss team 95-65 on Saturday. Marshall has one more tuneup against Savannah State before heading to Memphis to take on the Tigers on Saturday. Memphis has been somewhat disappointing thus far this season. They came in with one of the top recruiting classes in the country, and extremely high expectations, but they have not lived up to them yet. The Tigers are 12-3, but have had plenty of scares vs. lesser opponents, and have dropped their three meaningful games including a 104-84 drubbing last week at Tennesse. For Conference USA's sake Memphis needs to get the ball rolling. Quick.
OUTLOOK: Memphis will find a way to win, 73-71.
2.) CBB: UTEP (13-4) @ Tulane (12-3) 8:00 p.m. et, Wednesday January 12th
Again not that it needs to be said here, but UTEP is coming off a heartbreaking triple overtime loss at the hands of UAB. Historically (other than last season), UTEP isn't a great road team, but they really need to find a way to win this one. They can't afford to drop another big game. Tulane comes in at 12-3, and is currently the leader in Conference USA at 2-0 after dropping Rice and SMU last week. The Green Wave are a perfect 8-0 at home, but UTEP should prove to be a much tougher opponent than any other they've seen at home thus far.
OUTLOOK: UTEP needs this one more than Tulane, UTEP wins 75-67.
1.) CBB: No. 22 Central Florida (14-1) @ Southern Mississippi (12-3) 5:00 p.m. et, Saturday January 15th
UCF was rolling at 14-0 until they hit the Houston roadblock on Saturday. They were dropped 76-71 in H-Town, and the Knights fell from the realm of the unbeaten. Sophomores Marcus Jordan and Keith Clanton lead the way for the Knights as they look to get back on track. So. Miss was turning into a team to lookout for on the national scene until they apparently missed their plane to Huntington, WV Saturday. Gary Flowers is a star, and even though they had a giant hiccup over the weekend this team should be one contending for the C-USA crown. Its a classic case of who wants it more. There is no doubt both teams need it, it just a matter of who is gonna go out and take it.
OUTLOOK: Southern Miss needs it more, Golden Eagles 81-76.
Not only was last week a tough one for C-USA, this one could be even worse. Memphis and UCF dropped their games to Tennessee and Houston at the complete worst times, as they both turnaround and face stiff competition again this week. For Conference USA's sake both Memphis and UCF need to win their games this week to keep us relevant in the national conversation. Losses by these two teams here would be devastating as the critics would undoubtedly come out of the woodworks. Here we are, mid-January, no more time for excuses, no more time for mistakes, the games are becoming more and more valuable, and every win means so much. Its time to rack up as many of them as you can.