Game one: 15. Rice Owls (7-22, 2-14) vs 10. North Texas Mean Green (15-15,6-10)
North Texas looks to avenge the 75-70 loss to the Rice Owls back on February 6th, Rice had as much as an 18-point lead, but closed out the Mean Green in the final minute with free throws for an "upset".
Rice has a tough season to say the least, though has found a monster down low in Sean Obi who will be a force for the future. Obi and Austin Ramljak both lead in scoring at 11.4 per game, Obi also averages 9.3 rebounds a game.
Max Guercy, and Keith Washington have also had nice seasons, and could give North Texas trouble again on defense.
Defense has been something North Texas has been struggling with this season, but have a nice scoring duo in Alzee Williams, and Jordan Williams.
Both Williams' do a great job of getting to the free throw line, Rice will probably zone them early to slow down the constant North Texas dribble drive, in what could be another close game.
The winner will face seven seed Tulane at noon on Wednesday.
The old cliché will kick in on day one, new season new opportunities.
Justin Raffington scored a career high 19 points, as FAU beat Marshall 65-57 back on the first of February.
While both teams have had horrible records, FAU’s offensive production, and well lets face, luck from three, could be their ticket for a Cinderella like run.
Pablo Bertone is by far the conference’s best all-around scorer, and even before Marquan Botley shocked the Don with his banking buzzer beater, Botley had put a nice string of games together, and continued playing well thereafter.
FAU is decently talented in their frontline, when they are on from deep, as UTEP fans know, they are hard to beat with their ability to score when they are on.
I really like Raffington’s defensive presence, and overall ability in the middle, he ranks in the top five in the league in rebounding, Marshall fans sure are going miss Elijah Pittman, especially in this one.
Marshall has two nice pieces to build around for the future, Kareem Canty, and Ryan Taylor both made it on our MinerRush All-Freshman team, and will certainly be a nice duo.
Canty is a high volume scorer who averages 16.4 points per game, and will only get better over the summer. Chris Thomas also provides production chipping in 12.7 points per game.
Though I love the game of Ryan Taylor, he is a nice, strong physical presence, plus he has a finesse part on the offensive end that helps him score at a high level. Was really impressed with Taylor when they came down to play UTEP, those two kids will be studs in this league, if they stick around at Marshall.
This game could very well be played in the 80’s, and will be a fun one to watch if you don’t like defense, both teams give up over 42 percent from the field, whoever can get a stop down the stretch should pull this one out.
The one who gets the stop will face Old Dominion on Wednesday at 2:30 in the house that Don built.
Game three: 15. UTSA Roadrunners (8-21, 4-12) vs 12. East Carolina Pirates (16-15, 5-11)
Teams that can score points are scary this time of year the way I look at things, and East Carolina could be one of those teams.
Akeem Richmond dropped 30-points on the Runners back on February 13th, helping ECU holding off UTSA 81-71.
Richmond is the second leading scorer in the conference, and garnered second team All-C-USA honors. He is also second in the nation with 4.4 3-pointers a game, shooting 38.7 percent from deep.
Overall, ECU is second in the C-USA in points scored per game with 73.3, and allow 70.5 points per contest on the defensive end.
Keon Lewis lead four Runner in double figures in that road loss to ECU, though the Runners have been reeling all year since the loss of Jeromie Hill.
They have had a couple of players emerge like Devon Agusi and Edrico McGregor who leads the conference in field goal percentage.
But just do not have enough scoring power, nor the depth to make a serious tournament run, or keep up with ECU. The effort will certianly be there for UTSA make no doubt.
McGregor has been on a very nice streak of games, scoring in double figures in six of his last twelve games, after only reaching double figures three times in UTSA’s first sixteen games.
McGregor has averaged 10.4 points, and 6.1 rebounds per game, while shooting 60.9 percent during that stretch.
If UTSA can slow down ECU with a zone, and ECU misses looks from deep, the Runner have a chance, though I think ECU’s ability to score will wear down UTSA.
UTSA will need production from Jordan Sims from the downtown ballpark if ECU turns this one into a shootout with their ability to put the ball through the hole.
The winner gets to play in front 11,000 plus Wednesday against UTEP at 6:00 PM Mountain Time.
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