UAB Blazer Bloggin’ will take an in depth look at every Conference USA Men’s Basketball game in week 10 leading up to the Conference USA Tournament next week.
Thursday 3/3 Games
*Rankings are current CUSA tournament seeds*
Marshall (4th) at La Tech (2nd)
Marshall went in to week 9 in 2nd place only to drop games to UAB and Middle Tennessee on the road and fall to the 4th seed position. Currently the Herd is tied in the standings at 11-5 with La Tech and Middle Tennessee. The three teams each have two games remaining.
- How far can the Herd fall? If Marshall were to lose to La Tech and Southern Miss at home they’d fall no further than the 5th seed. UTEP holds the current 6th position at 9-8 with only one game remaining. With two losses Marshall would finish 11-7.
- How far can the Herd move up? With two home wins Marshall would finish with at least a share of 2nd in the standings. The Herd would get the number 2 seed in the CUSA tournament with tie breakers over La Tech (head-to-head) and Middle Tennessee (win over La Tech breaks the tie). It’s worth noting Marshall has never won more than 11 games as a member of the Conference USA.
- How will the Herd match up with La Tech? I had the pleasure of seeing Coach Dan D’Antoni’s team first hand in Birmingham last Thursday. I’ve been to Ruston, Murfreesboro, and have seen Virginia Tech, Iowa St., and Illinois in person in Destin, Fla. None of these teams are as well coached as the Herd. With just seven players, Coach D’Antoni took the CUSA regular season champion UAB to the brink. James Kelly was hindered with foul trouble for most of the night and provided only 12 of the Herd’s 91 points. The Herd will need a full team effort once again this week when La Tech comes to Huntington on Thursday. The Bulldog’s senior guard Alex Hamilton is coming off of a triple-double and La Tech is CUSA’s second best road team (6-6). Both teams feature stellar guard play, which will likely yield 90-plus points from each. The key for the Herd will be guarding Hamilton. Elmore and Browning are undersized and Kelly and Taylor will be a step slower.
La Tech swept their most recent two game home series with an overtime win over North Texas and a 19 point shellacking over Rice. Guard Alex Hamilton finished senior night with a triple-double, which will likely keep him in the conversation for CUSA player of the year.
- How far can the Bulldogs fall? If La Tech were to lose to Marshall and Western Kentucky they’d fall no further than the 5th seed. UTEP holds the current 6th position at 9-8 with only one game remaining. With two losses La Tech would finish 11-7.
- How far can the Bulldogs move up? La Tech will need to win at Marshall and Western Kentucky to lock up the two seed. If Middle Tennessee and La Tech are tied the Bulldogs would own the tie breaker (head-to-head).
- How will the Bulldogs match up with the Herd? La Tech’s already uphill battle will become even steeper if junior forward Alex McCree isn’t close to 100 percent. He has missed three of the last four games. If he’s healthy, Tech will have the advantage, but this game will be a virtual toss up given that it’s in Huntington. La Tech will have the advantage at point guard and neither teams will have an answer for McCree or Kelly. The Bulldogs will need to consistently hit shots from behind the arc to keep pace with the Herd. It took 12 three-pointers and 90-plus points from UAB to beat Marshall in Birmingham last week.
Charlotte (7th) at Rice (8th)
Charlotte is in one of the coveted positions on the opposite end of the bracket from UAB. After combining for 202 points in a 2-game home sweep last week, the 49ers are positioning themselves to make a run in the tournament if they can stay in the bottom half of the bracket.
- How far can the 49ers fall? With two losses the 49ers could fall as far back as the 10th seed. There is no scenario where Charlotte could fall to the 12th seed, which would require them to play on Tuesday in the CUSA tournament.
- How far can the 49ers move up? With two wins the 49ers could move up as high as the 6th seed. Old Dominion (5th) would remain in front of Charlotte in the case of a tie given that the Monarchs own the head-to-head tie breaker of the 49ers.
- How will the 49ers match up with the Owls? Charlotte thumped the Owls at home 102-73 on February 11th. There’s a pretty good chance Charlotte won’t hit 17 threes against Rice again like they did at home. Despite what happened in Charlotte, the game Thursday in Houston will be a toss up.These two teams are evenly matched and both will be dark horses in the CUSA tournament. Uchebo will need to control the boards as he usually does to keep Rice from getting second chance opportunities.
Rice had their 4-game win streak snapped in Ruston in a 88-69 blowout at at the hands of La Tech. You can attribute the lop sided loss to the Bulldogs celebrating senior Alex Hamilton and their home atmosphere. The Owls ran into a team that night that wasn’t going to be stopped.
- How far can the Owls fall? With two losses the Owls could fall as far back as the 11th seed. If Rice and FAU are tied at 7-11 the Owls would own the tie breaker.
- How far cant he Owls move up? With two home wins this week the Owls could potential move up one spot to the 7th seed. If UTEP and and Rice both finish 9-9 the Miners would hold the tie breaker.
- How will the Owls match up with the 49ers? Rice is capable of beating anyone in the conference at home. The hoop seems to be twice as big for Marcus Evans in Houston. The Owls will likely have to outscore the 49ers who can put up 90-plus at home or on the road. Guercy and Evans will have to run Charlotte off the three-point line all night to have a chance. If the Owls can score 85 or more and make the 49ers one dimensional, they’ll win.
Old Dominion (5th) at North Texas (11th)
Old Dominion swept their two game home series last week with suffocating wins over UTEP and UTSA in which neither team scored more than 56. The Monarchs will finish the season on the road at North Texas and Rice. Two weeks ago ODU beat North Texas by 20 and were upset by Rice 75-66 in Norfolk.
- How far can the Monarchs fall? ODU cannot fall further than 5th. They hold tie breakers over UTEP and Charlotte who are the only two teams who can match them at 10-8 if they lost the next two.
- How far can the Monarchs move up? There is a scenario where ODU can move up the two seed, though it’s highly improbable. La Tech will need to beat Marshall but lose to Western Kentucky to finish 12-6. Middle Tennessee and Marshall will need to ose their final two games to finish 11-7. La Tech and ODU would be tied for 2nd in the standings at 12-6 with the Monarchs holding the tie breaker, thus securing the two seed in the CUSA tournament.
- How will the Monarchs match up with the Mean Green? Despite beating North Texas by 20 two weeks ago, the Mean Green have the pieces to give the Monarchs trouble in Denton. ODU isn’t particularly deep and North Texas shoots more free throws than any team in the conference. In wins over FIU and La Tech at home, they shot 29 and 40 free throws respectively. The Monarchs will need to find some consistency from behind the arc, which North Texas has been able to shoot well from at home.
North Texas has been consistently winning all their home games and losing all their road games for over a month now. The Mean Green will welcome ODU and Charlotte to Denton this week in what will likely be their toughest home stand of the year.
- How far can the Mean Green fall? If North Texas loses both home games they could fall to the 12th seed. To fall to the 12th seed would require Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss to win their final two games because the Mean Green are a game ahead of both and they own the tie breaker over both.
- How far can the Mean Green move up? With two home wins this week, North Texas could potentially climb as high as the 7th seed. If Charlotte, Rice, FIU, and WKU all finish 0-2 this week North Texas would be tied with Charlotte at 8-10 and the Mean Green would own the tie breaker.
- How will the Mean Green match up with the Monarchs? North Texas must stick to their game of driving to the basket and creating fouls. As mentioned before, ODU is deep and can be exposed when Stith and Talley get in to foul trouble. Deckie Johnson will be key for North Texas. If he can get hot from behind the arc the Mean Green will have a chance.
UAB (1st) at Florida International (9th)
UAB locked up the one seed and won their first CUSA regular season title since 2011 with a home sweep of Marshall and WKU last week. The Blazers finish the season at FIU and FAU where they’ve lost both of the last two seasons.
Florida International finishes the season with two games at home after going 1-2 in their most recent three-game road swing. The Golden Panthers beat both the Blazers and the Blue Raiders at home to finish the season last year.
- How far can the Golden Panthers fall? With two losses at home the Golden Panthers could fall as low at the 11th seed. If FIU and FAU both finish 7-11, FIU would hold the tie breaker.
- How far can the Golden Panthers move up? With two wins at home the Golden Panthers could climb as high as the 6th seed. If FIU and UTEP both finish 9-9 the Golden Panthers would hold the tie breaker.
- How will the Golden Panthers match up with the Blazers? FIU has given UAB trouble every year that Adrian Diaz has been on the team. The Golden Panthers have beat the Blazers by a combined 8 points the past two years in Miami. UAB will likely be the road favorite, but they’ll need to bring 100 percent because FIU has a lot more to play for. Expect Draper and Diaz to put pressure on UAB’s interior defense all night. If the Golden Panthers can hit some timely three-pointers and get the Blazers in foul trouble, it will be a close game.
Southern Miss (N/A) at Western Kentucky (10th)
Western Kentucky split their road swing with a win at Middle Tennessee and a loss at UAB. The Hilltoppers are proving they have one of the best – if not the best – interior defenses in CUSA. The held the conference leader UAB to 71 points in Birmingham on senior night.
- How far can the Hilltoppers fall? With two home losses WKU could fall as low as the 12th seed. To fall to 12th seed would require Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss to win their final two games.
- How far can the Hilltoppers move up? If WKU and Charlotte both finish 8-10 the Hilltoppers would own the tie breaker. Head-to-head both teams have a win, which would move the tie breaker to each team’s best win versus the rest of CUSA. WKU’s win over UAB would break the tie and the Hilltoppers would secure the 7th seed.
- How will the Hilltoppers match up with the Golden Eagles? WKU finds themselves in a unique situation. Southern Miss’ season will end this Saturday. Doc Sadler’s team has shown they are capable of beating teams on the road. It would not be a surprise to see the two teams battle it out until the final few possessions in a low scoring game. Southern Miss will likely avoid the paint given their smaller size and WKU’s defense. The Hilltoppers’ guards and forwards will all be larger and a step slower than Southern Miss’ guard-heavy line up. If WKU can limit their threes they should be able to control the game.