UAB Blazer Bloggin’ will take an in depth look at every Conference USA Men’s Basketball game over the next three weeks leading up to the Conference USA Tournament.
Thursday 2/18 Games
Charlotte (7th) at Marshall (3rd)
- Last Meeting (1/21): The 49ers reached the century mark in points for the second time this season defeating the Thundering Herd 103-95 in Charlotte. Four 49ers scored more than 18 points including career highs for Andrien White and Joseph Uchebo. “Big Joe” Uchebo also brought down a career-high 21 rebounds.
- What’s at stake for the Herd? A win would keep them in the hunt for the regular season Conference USA title. They are a game and a half behind UAB with a chance to face the Blazers again on February 25 in Birmingham, Ala. Marshall lost to UAB 81-78 in Huntington on January 30 due to what many believe was a controversial late call in favor of the Blazers. A loss to Charlotte would put the Herd on the fringe of retaining a top 4 seed in the conference tournament. Marshall would fall back to ODU and La Tech’s position in the standings with games against both left on the schedule.
- What’s at stake for the 49ers? A road win for Charlotte would mark their third victory in a row and a season sweep of the Herd. The 49ers are arguably one of the hottest teams in the conference right now. In home wins over Rice and North Texas last week Charlotte scored 102 and 103 points respectively. “Big Joe” Uchebo is one of only two Conference USA players averaging a double-double (Jeremy Combs, UNT). In conference play, he is averaging an astounding 16.3 rebounds per game. Mark Price’s squad will be one team many won’t want to face come the conference tournament.
Florida Atlantic (9th) at Rice (11th)
- What’s at stake for the FAU Owls? With five wins and five games left to play, it’s nearly impossible for FAU to sneak into the top four of the conference. However, the Owls could position themselves in the top half of the conference with three of their last five games coming against teams in the bottom half of the conference. FAU has shown some promise this season with wins over La Tech and Charlotte at home. There’s no question sophomore center C.J. Turman’s mid-season transfer could have turned some of their losses to wins.
- What’s at stake for the Rice Owls? Rice is a team to watch these next three weeks. Despite having only four conference wins, the Owls have the pieces to beat most of the teams in Conference USA. Rice is coming off their most impressive conference win thus far in a 75-66 victory over ODU in Norfolk. Freshman guard Marcus Evans, who scored 20 points in the win over ODU, has all but locked up the Conference USA Freshman of the Year award averaging 19.8 points per game. Senior point guard Max Geurcy is second in the conference in assists per game with 5.5. Rice lost one of their key pieces in junior guard Marcus Jackson before the season began. The Owls could be a sleeper pick in Conference USA next year when their youthful team who ranks 337 out of 351 is a year older and healthier.
Florida International (8th) at North Texas (11th)
- What’s at stake for the Golden Panthers? Expect senior center Adrian Diaz to step up in their last five games. The ‘Hialeah Hammer‘ has averaged nearly 4 blocks and 15 points over their last six games despite losing five of them. FIU will need some help to reach the fourth position in the standings being two and half games out. The Golden Panthers will have a shot at both UAB and Middle Tennessee at home who they lost to by a combined six points on the road. With three of their last five games coming on the road, the Golden Panthers will need big games from Donte McGill and Daviyon Draper who have combined to score in double figures in every Conference USA game but two this season.
- What’s at stake for the Mean Green? North Texas is 1-6 in Conference USA road games this season. Fortunately for the Mean Green, four of their last six games will be at home. The Mean Green will have a chance to move up in the standings with all six teams left on their schedule ahead of them. Forward Jeremy Combs has eight double-doubles in 12 conference games, which is even more impressive when you consider he’s a 6-foot-7 sophomore.
Old Dominion (5th) at Western Kentucky (10th)
- Last Meeting (1/21): The Monarchs defeated the Hilltoppers at home in the third game of a four game home stand. The week before, ODU’s 32-game home win streak was snapped by UAB. The loss to the Blazers was followed by another at the hands of Middle Tennessee two days later. WKU had three double-digit scorers from the bench and none from the starting five. ODU’s Trey Freeman scored 28 points for the third game in a row.
- What’s at stake for the Monarchs? This is the last chance for seniors Trey Freeman and Aaron Bacote to win a regular season Conference USA title. The task will be tall for ODU with four of their last six games coming on the road. Complementing the guard duo has been sophomore forward Brandan Stitch who has a double-doubled in three of the last five games. Coach Jeff Jones has been playing nine players deep into his lineup lately with Bacote coming off the bench. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him shorten the depth chart and insert Bacote back into the starting lineup to close out the regular season.
- What’s at stake for the Hilltoppers? WKU has been on the losing end of back-to-back overtime losses. Since suspending junior guard Chris Harrison-Docks, the Hilltoppers have gone 2-3. Despite the record, WKU has visibly looked more cohesive and more competitive. Sophomore forward Fredrick Edmond has cemented himself as the Hilltoppers main offensive weapon averaging nearly 18 points over the last seven games. It’s highly improbable that WKU could sneak into the top four of the standings sitting at 10th with six games remaining. Fortunately for the Hilltoppers, four of their last six games are in Bowling Green.
Louisiana Tech (4th) at UTSA (14th)
- Last Meeting (1/28): The Bulldogs defeated the Roadrunners 85-75 in a game that featured 10 La Tech blocks. The 10 blocks are even more remarkable when you consider the Bulldogs didn’t play anyone over 6-foot-7 in the game. All five starters for the Coach Konkol’s squad scored in double figures.
- What’s at stake for the Bulldogs? Despite starting conference play 3-3, La Tech is in position to contend for their third consecutive Conference USA regular season championship. Junior forward Erik McCree scored a career-high 33 points in the Bulldogs last game in a win over first place UAB. The Bulldogs may not be the best team top to bottom in Conference USA, but they are remarkably tough to beat when they are playing with confidence. Senior guard Alex Hamilton has double-doubled with points and assists twice in conference play, and has scored double-digits in all but one game this season.
- What’s at stake for the Roadrunners? Little has gone right for UTSA of late. They’ve lost eight in a row since defeating in-state foe UTEP at home in mid-January. Three of the Roadrunner’s last five games are on the road. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see a coaching change in San Antonio at the end of the season.
Southern Mississippi (13th) at UTEP (6th)
- Last Meeting (1/28): Southern Miss shocked the Miners in Hattiesburg 71-58. UTEP led by double figures in the first half but was overcome by a long scoring drought to start the second half. Five different Golden Eagles hit more than two three-pointers.
- What’s at stake for the Golden Eagles? Southern Miss is not eligible to play in the Conference USA tournament for the second season in a row. Despite the self imposed postseason ban, the Golden Eagles have shocked many with wins over UTEP, FIU, and ODU. Coach Sadler has done a remarkable job keeping Southern Miss motivated and getting the most out of a roster that is typically inferior in skill night in and night out.
- What’s at stake for the Miners? UTEP has won four games in a row, which is the longest current streak in Conference USA. Junior guard Lee More has been outstanding for the Miners averaging nearly 20 points during the win streak. Offensively, UTEP seems to have hit it’s stride having scored more than 80 point over the last four games. With three of their final five remaining games being played in El Paso, it’s not unthinkable that the Miners could flirt with a top four finish in the standings.