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Conference USA/UTEP vs. Houston Open Gamethread

Considering its tourney time, its probably best just to have an open thread all day, so that's exactly what we'll do. The Conference USA tournament opens up with East Carolina vs. Rice at 11:00 a.m. MT, so don't be late. Of course, if you can't make it for the early games, the Miners will tip somewhere around 5:30 MT, so make sure you don't miss that one. Anyway, here's a preview for the day.

(10) East Carolina Pirates (14-15, 5-11) vs. (7) Rice Owls (17-14, 8-8) - Tip slated for 11:00 a.m. MT

The Pirates enter the contest with a 2-5 mark in their last 7, but they have won their last two including games against Marshall and Tulane. Junior G Miguel Paul sets the pace for ECU, averaging 15 points and 5.8 assists per game. The Owls come in alternating wins and losses over their last six, and they also lost at home to Houston 76-75 most recently. Junior F Arsalan Kazemi leads the way for Rice, averaging 12.5 points and 10.2 rebounds a game. I wouldn't expect an "upset", but the Pirates have already beat Rice once this season, by 14.

(11) SMU Mustangs (13-18, 4-12) vs. (6) Marshall Thundering Herd (18-12, 9-7) - Tip slated for 1:30 p.m. MT

The Mustangs come into the game losing 10 times in their last 13 attempts, but they are fresh off a home win versus UTEP. Senior F Robert Nyakundi is the leader for the Mustangs, going for 15 points and 4.7 rebounds a game. The Herd enter losing 2 of their last 3, but did finish the regular season with a much needed win over Southern Miss. Sophomore G DeAndre Kane is Marshall's leading scorer with 15.8 points a game, and also averages 5.5 rebounds, and 3.4 assists a contest. If the Herd have any life left in them, now's the time to show it.

(9) Houston Cougars (15-14, 7-9) vs. (8) UTEP Miners (14-16, 7-9) - Tip slated for 5:30 p.m. MT

The Cougars acted as the Conference USA doormat for much of the season, but they gained some momentum down the stretch, winning four of their last 5 games. Junior F Jonathan Simmons is the top player for the Cougars, averaging 14.9 points and 5 rebounds a game. The Miners season was quite different from that of the Cougars. While they never truly got things going, they were competitive in just about every game they played. They were finally able to get the ball rolling, winning four in a row from February 8th through February 22nd, but the face plant began from there.

The Miners fell in their final three contests, and really didn't put up much of an effort in any of those contests. Four Miners average in double figure scoring, but they are led by All Freshman G/F Julian Washburn who averages 11.5 points and 3.3 rebounds a game. He is also coming off his best game of the year, scoring a career high 21 points at SMU last Saturday. In the two games this season, the Miners won by 20, and had a 15 point lead in Houston before folding down the stretch to lose in overtime. This team that they will face tomorrow though, will be much improved from the last time they saw them, and if the Miners aren't careful it could be an early end to the season.

(12) Tulane Green Wave (15-15, 3-13) vs. (5) UAB Blazers (14-15, 9-7) - Tip slated for 8:00 p.m. MT

The Green Wave had a rough go at things this year, losing their star player after a 9-0 start. Since then, C-USA freshman of the year and All C-USA first teamer Ricky Tarrant stepped up and averaged 15.2 points and 3.3 assists on the season. The Blazers were quite the opposite, starting 1-6 before finally getting things going. They turned it around quite nicely to wind up the five seed in the C-USA tourney. The Blazers are led by star F Cameron Moore who averaged 16.2 points and 10.4 rebounds a game. Considering the two directions these teams have gone in, I'd be extremely surprised to see Tulane find the win here.

All games will be televised on CSS, but unfortunately not all cable packages will carry the CSS channel. Thursday and Friday games will be carried nationally by CBS Sports Network, and Saturday's championship game will be aired on CBS Network. Also, (1) Memphis, (2) Southern Miss, (3) Tulsa, and (4) UCF all received first round byes, and will await winners in the quarterfinal round.